We are very, very afraid when it comes to 4 little letters.
On Sunday, I was upset about something and sent a lover/friend of mine an email with a little rant and in it I mentioned that I loved him.
Now, I have never said those words to his face, but I have known him for around four years and I thought it was probably apparent through my actions and other things I have said that I have deep and strong feelings for him. I'd just never used the L word to characterize them. He is not unfamiliar with poly type stuff, so I really didn't think it would be too big of a shock for me to use that word with regard to the way I feel about him.
He ended up calling me to discuss the email. He never mentioned the L word once.
So I'm left wondering if it just didn't faze him at all. Or if it's not reciprocal. Or if he thinks that the L word means that I want to shack up with him and have his babies and that scares the ever living shit out of him.
Well, I can guarantee you I don't mean the latter when I use the L word.
We have tried to take this infinite emotion and squeeze it into a little tiny crack of existence, the narrowest of definitions. If you're in romantic love, then you get married and have babies. That's what the L word means in our society. We toss the word around for friends or family or foods or movies with wild abandon but when it comes to people we have a physical or romantic interest in, suddenly all the doors are slammed shut and it must mean we want a full-on exclusive commitment, til-death-do-us-part kind of thing.
What is the deal with that, anyway?
My first poly boyfriend told me that when he uses the word LOVE it means that he would be very sad if that person was not in his life anymore. It's a feeling he used to express physical and romantic interest plus a certain degree of attachment. That resonates with me. I would add that for me it has an element of selflessness, meaning I would give up some things to make that person happy (what those things are would depend on the level of attachment and commitment.)
So if a poly person uses the L word in your general direction, relax. It's not a proposal. It's a compliment. We're all fairly judicious about who we allow inside our heart, as we should be. But our hearts are big and there is room for more than one person.
We could all use a little more love, right?