I recently wrote an article about my relationship with my best friend and boyfriend, Garrett. We were both straight men who fell in love and found a way to make it work. The article sparked a passionate conversation across the Internet about love, sexuality, and identity.
Since then, my email inbox has been busting at the seams with heartwarming stories, important arguments, and wise perspectives on the subject.
In the wake of this dialogue, I want to sum up everything I’ve learned from my own story and from thousands of emails, comments, and messages I’ve received about what love is, and what it isn’t:
1. Love is lawless.
There are no rules. The only rules are the ones that the two (or more) people in the relationship make up. Today, many couples share long-distance, or virtual, or polyamorous, or sexless relationships. As long as the people in the relationship are comfortable, love can have infinite faces. And the challenge is to find the rules that work for you.
2. Love isn’t sex.
That’s just one expression of it. Hugging is another expression. So is sharing an intimate conversation. There are many kinds of relationships and many kinds of love. All relationships — from family members to best friends to intimate lovers — have to find an expression of love that best suits that relationship. And that expression is really nobody else’s business.
3. Love is unconditional.
When you love someone, you love who that person is, not what that person is. Your love is not based on looks, intelligence, actions, or any one attribute. You would never reduce him or her to just one attribute. You love that person as a whole. Nothing your partner could do would make you stop loving him, even if the relationship has to end. Love is much deeper than conditions.
4. Love isn’t dramatic.
It doesn’t need to be analyzed and obsessed over and shared with all of your friends. It’s easy. It’s boring, in fact. It’s only interesting to the people involved. Because those are the only people who really understand what’s happening in the relationship.
5. Love is a container for growth.
It’s two (or more) people who are trying to grow on different but aligned tracks. It’s supportive and encouraging and honest. It’s a safe place where you try new things and expose your pains and grow in ways you never thought possible. It’s a place where you feel safe to be your true self.
6. Love isn’t transactional.
It’s not give-and-take. It’s not full of power dynamics or competition. There’s not a winner and a loser in love. You don’t keep score. You don’t compare. You want to boost each other up every chance you get. You recognize that either you both win, or you both lose. And love is worth that gamble.
7. Love is adventurous.
It’s your great adventure of life. There are high highs and low lows. There are moments where you doubt yourself. There are moments where you don’t know if you can face the next battle. It stretches you and expands you and forces you to dig up parts of yourself that you didn’t even know were in there. It’s the wildest ride you could ever imagine.
8. Love isn’t dependent.
Love isn’t about needing somebody because you're incomplete. Love is about recognizing that you're whole and complete on your own, but that another person makes the journey much more fun. Love isn’t about filling a hole in yourself; it’s about partnering up with somebody else to create something that’s never existed before.
9. Love is worth fighting for.
You have to get up and fight for your love every single day. There’s enough in this world trying to hold us back from love. You have to fight to love yourself as you are. You have to fight to love your partner. You even (or especially) have to fight to love your family. Some days love will come easy. Some days it won’t. Some days you’ll be scared or frustrated or upset. But you just have to keep getting up and fighting. Because it’s worth it.
10. Love isn’t a choice.
Love isn’t conscious. It’s not something you can will into your life whenever you please. It will hardly ever come when you expect it to. It will hardly ever look like you thought it would. But you’ll know it when you feel it. It’s a feeling deep inside you that you don’t want to let go of. It’s a deeper, internal yearning that supersedes all reasoning. And, against all logic, you plunge full-force into this crazy little thing called love.