How do I love thee? Let me count the strands of love

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways… (from Sonnet 43 by Elizabeth Barret Browning)

This little essay is my personal spin on the components of loving relationships. I worked on this idea as a means to understand the elements of love rather than try to create an authoritative work of non-fiction. It is not a comprehensive approach, For example I haven’t thought through the complex connections that happen in BDSM relationships. I have only experienced  heteronormative relationships.  It may not work for you even if it works fine for me. I’m not trying to sell this as a methodology. When I shared my spin with some of my poly friends they liked it and have asked me to write it down: so here it is.

The strands of love

I have come across the question in many discussions of Polyamory: “Is it about sex or about love?” There have been opinions expressed that if we have a non-sexual relationship then it’s just a form of friendship. I also know people in a relationship not having sex and they feel they are totally in love with each other.  Part of the difficulty of language is that “Love” is a very nebulous thing and subject to wide interpretation. While we have scientifically examined the  parts of the body we haven’t done so well with the metaphysical aspects of life.

Every love connection that we make is a little bit different from the others. We can’t easily describe what makes them so in terms of colours,  sounds, tastes, or other sensual measures, but we certainly know they feel and behave differently.

In the world of non-monogamy we have more freedom to explore the possibilities of such connections  No single partner has to fulfil all one’s possible needs nor should try to. Maybe it is healthier that there is no such burden of responsibility on a single soul to have to provide you everything you need in the metaphysical department. What makes Polyamory so useful in our personal study of love is having the freedom to love. There is an acceptance that one can go beyond a single love provider to explore what makes up these intimate human connections.

I think that what people mean when they use the term “Love” is a collection of conscious feelings and subconscious urgings. This collection I think of as the strands of love, that get intertwined to create the invisible bond between humans we call Love. There are a lot of strands and every intimate relationship has a different look and feel for each of the strands.

Making sense of the senses

What is love? Is the love for a child the same as the love for a partner, or a pet, or humankind, or one’s god?  Is it physical, is it emotional, is it more than that?

Love is the poetry of the senses.  ~ Quote by Honoré de Balzac

This quotation is one that resonates with me.

I had Reiki training way back in 1997 and from that moment I began to accept some less conventional ideas that fell into that category of things called New Age.  Now one of those ideas is that the body consists of energy centres called Chakras and each Chakra represents an aspect of our incarnation. I have found this view very useful in my understanding of the strands of love.  My interpretations here in this essay do not exactly align with the purpose of the Chakras in Reiki teachings, but it’s a close fit. Perhaps this depiction of love is the poetry of the Chakras.

The physiology of our metaphysics

He who knows others is learned;
He who knows himself is wise.
~ attributed to Lao-tzu, Tao te Ching

The first strand is at the root of things: the base Chakra. It’s also where the sexual organs happen to be.

I can have feelings of lust. I can get excited by thought alone of sexual activity with someone. I lust for them. I can crave them. It is extremely joyful to lust and to satisfy those lusts. This primal desire has helped the species carry on. It is natural and beautiful. It is one of the strands of love that forms part of our connection to another person.

The second strand is the lower belly, the Sacral Chakra. It is where procreation happens.

Sometimes you have a regular sexual partner and what comes along is an overwhelming desire to make a child with them. Making that conscious or unconscious decision to procreate is a different sort of manifestation of love than the mere lust for them. It is a desire to create a copy of yourselves.

There are ways to enjoy sex without creating babies.  But the creation of a new life is usually a much deeper decision today than being simply a risky outcome of the act of sexual  intercourse.  An intended child is also intended to be here on this planet for at least your own lifetime.   The nurturing and raising of child continues for many years and the bond between the adults who take on this task is a strand of love that is different to lust, and to the others that I’ll go on to describe.

I lost my wife and the mother of our children in 1989 but I feel such a powerful connection over 25 years later, it is something very wonderful. The mother of your children holds a dear and special place in your heart like no other.

The third strand is our solar plexus  – a place to get grounded

When I am with a partner I find there is a lot of activity concerned with taking care of each other in practical ways. Making meals, paying bills, taking out the trash, lighting a fire, making a bed, and many other aspects of Maslov’s pyramid of needs get addressed as a team. The acts themselves are about the sharing of living space, and  “taking care of business.” What comes with this set of behaviours is a nurturing dimension: feelings associated with caring for someone, having ways in which to show you care, and the joy from that experience. It is a giving that gives back. This nurturing element is another of the strands of love that may exist to differing degrees in our relationship.

The fourth strand is from our heart – our emotional centre

The heart is symbolically the place of love. When make an emotional connection with another we usually say “I love you” or  “I am in love with you.” This emotional connection can happen even without physical sex,  as labelled a “platonic relationship.” Our emotional roller coaster in life comes from our relationships with others. We talk about our ups and downs. We think about our feelings for another as being our love. Emotions are certainly a strand of love. Perhaps several.

The fifth strand comes from the throat Chakra – our place of communications

Our knowledge of pre-history tells us people were dependent on others to survive and prosper. The ability to hunt required a team effort. Communications played an essential part. Today there is a different interdependence. Society is very complicated with a massive division of labour to make society work economically, politically and socially. We have become communicators rather than hunters and gatherers.

We like doing things with others, sharing our adventures, relating our experiences, even analysing the play or film we just saw together. The communicating and sharing that we often crave is called friendship, comradeship, sisterhood, and other community-building labels.  This friendship dimension is certainly an element of relationships and without it the quality of a relationship can diminish. Communications also brings in to play the word “trust.” That too is an element of relationship. I think that these feelings of friendship, trust, and confidante  are further strands of love.

The sixth strand is from our Third Eye Chakra – our ability to see the world and to see the big picture

I am continually faced with choices and the person I am today is the outcome of  a very long list of choices we have made in the past. Some choices may not seem very wise when we apply hindsight but without them we wouldn’t be who we are to today, nor have gained that hindsight. Our future is similarly going to be an outcome of the choices we make. One of my very best friends introduced me to a spiritual teacher who talked about making choices that lead you to peace, love and joy. It has resonated ever since. So has that friend.

There are people in our lives that we trust with the issues of finding our path and staying on our path. They are more than friends, and this is not communicating about shared experiences it is simply baring our soul and accepting their witness. Is this what we call a soulmate? There are many definitions of a soulmate and not all are about romantic connections. A soulmate is usually seen as someone with the same attitudes and beliefs. It can also be called  karmic relationship.

We are spiritual beings. Sometimes we talk to the priest, or the angels, or our soulmate, or even complete strangers but we have those that we would talk to about the stuff that affects our choices in life, about our spiritual path. I have a lot of love for my friend that is my karmic friend. It’s not someone I have to see every week or even every month to maintain the friendship. It is though a joy to have him in my life, and an amazing comfort.

To some extent everyone we are involved with is part of our network of karmic relationships. Some are more significant than others. I believe that karmic connection forms one of the strands of love.

The seventh strand comes from the Crown Chakra and our connection to Spirit

This is about our divinity, about our relationship with our God, and about our relationship with ourself. Now we aren’t talking here about self love as in narcissism. While I’m not of a heavily religious disposition, the bible does deal with self love quite clearly.

In Psalms 139:14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.”

Here King David describes his gratitude to God for the being that he was.

Is self love something that forms a part of relationships?  I have heard it said that you have to love yourself before you can love others. I think there is some truth in it. Loving ourself is a different strand to others but it shouldn’t be overlooked. Perhaps our psyche requires love of others to develop self love and self love to be able to love others. What came first the chicken or the egg, or the love of a parent?

How important is our understanding of love

The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread. ~Mother Teresa

Love has been around. It has had its influence on the course of our human history.  It heavily infiltrates our entertainment. It overwhelmingly dictates our adult life experiences. It is intangible, powerful, and touches on the meaning of life.. These things we know, yet we have very little understanding of what the word really means.

I hope you enjoyed my little essay, and that some of it makes sense to you,

much love





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