What is love anyway
I hope this isn't too philosophical or unanswerable a question; it is actually something I've been thinking about a lot lately, particularly in the context of the different stages of relationships. I feel like I have somewhat of a grasp of love in the NRE phase - what it feels like, what we are may find rewarding. I get it with kids too, although maybe a little less. I think I'm particularly curious about how others would describe long term love.
The NRE phase I have the sense that most people at least recognize pretty well. For me it's pretty emotionally volatile - generally very happy in the presence of the love, often happy in the absence as well, feeling an overall new joy in life, sometimes also a lot of anxiety (ie will this relationship work, when will I see him, are we really both invested in this in the same way). The intensity of the emotion can be a bit of a burden, but its also probably a key part of the draw.
I think NRE love ends up being pretty selfish. (Maybe all love is; that's one of the things I'm wondering.) If I ask why I'm in love, I can come up with a bunch of positive features about my new love - intelligence, passion, shared interests - but ultimately I am in love because I am happy in his presence, because I like who he helps me to be, or lets me be.
(That makes me come across as more dependent that I am, I think. I do a lot of things on my own that also make me happy. Still, it is a different sort of happiness.)
So why do I love my kids? Well, they make me happy too (except when they drive me CRAZY). It's harder to say why though. Why do I want to reach out and pet my daughter's hair? Why at some level am I happy when she needs to snuggle in my bed at 4am, even though I'd rather not have been woken up? Is it just circular, ie I love the fact that I love them, and it feeds on itself? I'm sure the fact that they love me helps too, but I don't think it starts the cycle. Loving kids feels less selfish to me, somehow.
I could write about friends as well, I guess, but will skip that for now.
Now long term - that's harder for me. And I'm curious whether that's just the nature of long term love, or more reflective of my particular long term relationship (married 20yr). One of the biggest struggles for me in that relationship has been due to a lack (at least it seems to me) of a really intense emotional connection. My husband is simply not that emotional a person, at least in what he shows to the world. And he's pretty quiet too, not at all a talker most of the time. When he does talk, it's unlikely to be emotional or personal; he's more interested in politics or economics or technical stuff.
So after a long struggle (need to get that intro blog post up) we have in the last year or so become a lot better at communicating. I really feel like I can tell him just about anything; he is incredibly supportive and I have a lot of trust in him. So I have much more opportunity for a deep connection than I felt before, and I think he knows and understands me a lot better. I think the relationship gives me comfort and security. And I very much value our integrity as a family.
But I have to say it bothers me that this is how I describe the relationship. And maybe what bothers me is the sense that I'm not giving enough back. There is not enough intensity of feeling directed towards him, enough happiness or joy, rather than just comfort, in our connection. * And being realistic, it is in part this absence of intensity that has left space over the years for other people in my life, both as lovers and friends. I don't think I'm intrinsically poly; certainly it's not something I thought about for most of my life. Instead it seems likely to be a response to this particular primary relationship; with another primary, I might be very different.
*So I feel like I'm taking a lot more than I'm giving, and also know that there are things he wants that I simply can't give.
I guess I've drifted away from my initial question a lot into my own story. But I am curious as to how others feel about their own long term loves, and what they give to and get from those interactions. And how does selfishness play into all of the stages of love.