A Change of Mind — and Heart.
Posted by Jerry on February 21, 2005
I have always believed in the sanctity of love between people. I don’t have much respect for marriage, either instituted by the society or by some church. Love may or may not exist in both, the married state or the unmarried state. I used to believe that romantic love, the highest form of eros, can only be shared between two people. I believed that in order for love to be at its highest form, only one person by definition could be the object of such intense desire and profound, passionate admiration; one loves another and is immersed in the beauty and passion of that bond. One partakes in the mutual beauty shared by that relationship, and thus they are together called lovers.
However, if one loved more than one person at the same time, or felt some resemblance of love for more than one person, then I suppose that love has not reached its pinnacle in any of the partakers. Love, it seems to me, is in this situation distrubuted among the partakers of the relationship, thus effectively reducing each individual’s capacity to experience romantic love fully. Each person involved in such a relationship, then, is unable to give or receive entirely from their full capacity to love.
I believed that only two people can share entirely from their mutual capacity to love, and be able to love each other to their fullest extent. I believed this was possible and achievable. I believed that one can, and sometimes does, find that one special person who becomes the receptor of their entire capacity to love.
Obviously then, such thinking lent great credence to the concept of monogamous relationships. Again, I have no care for the context within which these monogamous relationships arise, only that they do.
Then, the implications of the nature of love as described above reveals that monogamy can be the only system within which a claim to morality in romance can be made. Since true love, the highest and purest form of love can only be achieved between two individuals, to call anything else that might exist romantically between more than two persons as love would be akin to emotional and intellectual embezzlment. However, a proper moral code does not make room for willful dishonesty or deception. Thus, when an individual claims to experience a deep and profound sense of romantic love for another, it can only be pure and honest love if it is felt exclusively for that one person. In other words, experiencing a kind of romantic interest for more than one person at the same time cannot be seen as an experience of the highest form of love that one can offer another. Similarly, making claims to an experience of profound, romantic love for more than one person is purely dishonest.
Moreover, I believed that maintaining a semblance of a monogamous relationship while engaging in strictly sexual encounters without any emotional involvement is also a breach of committment in the relationship. Romantic love is not only cerebral or emotional; it cannot be divorced from its manifestation in the body. Sex is the proper expression of love just as love is properly and fully expressed in sex. Therefore, romantic love cannot be constrained to the platonic realm. That is a default on the holistic expression of love. The true achievement of passionate love requires, by definition, the amalgamation of the physical, the emotional, and the cerebral. Taking any one of these parts out of the experience of love diminishes the quality of that love, reducing it to nothing more than infatuation, fascination, admiration, or lust.
Having said all of the above, I have now decided that I would like to change my mind.
I realize that my analysis of the concept of monogamy, and it’s moral implications, are logically sound and appear to parallel mainstream thinking in society. However, recently I re-evaluated my ideas and came to realize that I may have accepted some faulty premises while constructing my moral argument for monogamy. Thus, now I believe that humans can and often do indulge in romantic love (whether deliberately or unwittingly) with more than one person at the same time. I now believe that monogamy is purely one of the myriad of relationship choices that humans can choose to engage in. I also believe that like monogamy, all of the other relationship choices involving consenting adults, have fully consistent moral legitimacy.