Member Rara Avis
I think Sandra touched on my feelings when she tried to exclude familial love, and Karen more so when she insisted on including it. Mankind has spent thousands of years, I think, trying to separate the inseparable.
The Greeks had different words for what they felt were three kinds love. Eros is the intense, passionate, sexual feelings we normally associate with romance. Philia is the love of good friends, perhaps best explained in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. Agape is typically described as "unconditional love," and is often associated with its use in the New Testament to describe God's love for humanity, though I suspect the original Greek meaning was a little less unconditional and a bit more encompassing.
We have the love between husband and wife, the love between parent and child, the love between siblings, the love between close friends, the love between comrades (soldiers or others who have shared an important life experience), the love for symbolic figures of virtue (your rabbi, preacher, or maybe JFK), the love for neighbors or countrymen or alumni, and of course, our love for God.
So many kinds of love. And yet, I think it's clear that each overlaps many others, often blending from one to the other. Comrades build a common experience into a deep friendship that eventually blossoms into love. Did they stop being comrades? Friends? Is one kind of love stronger than another? Longer lasting? More desirable?
I think we love in different ways, to different degrees, and for many, many different reasons. But I think love is love. It's not like a salad where you can pick out the various ingredients, but rather like a broth where the blend defines the taste and the ingredients are inseparable.
Relationships, I think, suffer when they become salads. Eros alone makes a lousy romaine, and Philia is a pretty sad slice of tomato. Even doused generously with an agape dressing, the salad is often doomed. Why? Because if the eros is removed, you get a bowl of soggy tomatoes, or if the philia is lost, boredom soon takes its place. Forget the agape and everything is dry and tasteless. Individual ingredients, I think, inevitably lead only to hunger.
Give me a hearty, hot soup any day.
But, uh, not too hot. A good relationship, I think, includes sex, but it can't be based on sex. Certainly not wholly (which I suspect we all agree), but I think not even initially in most instances. Love is blind because our hormones blatantly lie to us, and if a relationship starts with lust and ends up with more, we just plain got lucky. Good cooks know that you don't add soup ingredients to boiling water. Mix first, heat later, and the flavor is trapped in the soup rather than boiled away in the rapidly escaping vapors. You need the heat. You need the passion. But not too soon.
You might find chunks in a good soup, you might even be able to identify those chunks, but their flavor can't possibly be removed because it has been cooked into the mix and become a part of the whole. A lasting relationship needs passion, it needs friendship, it needs the camaraderie that comes only through time and from sharing life, it very much needs the respect we glean as virtue (a little love blindness can be a good thing, too), and I think it even needs familial love, that bonding between parent and child, between siblings, that sense of belonging that IS and can never be arbitrarily removed. But these things aren't separate in a good soup, and sex can as often erupt in friendly laughter as in passion, and can end with intimate hugs instead of the sound of snoring. With each spoonful of soup, you can never be quite sure which flavor will surface, but you can be sure none will dominate.
Yes, I believe you can have "more than one true love." But you can ultimately give your loyalty to only one, a decision that should be made with both head and heart. And, it should be irrevocable, lest the loyalty be conditional and the trust destroyed. You can love more than one. But rarely for long.
Finally (I know, I know!), amidst the many kinds of love, there's one upon which all others depend. I believe that your "need" for another can approach infinity, but you can never love someone any more than you love yourself. Self-love defines the shape and breadth and depth of the human heart, stretching it so that others may find their place within. Paradoxically, true self-love removes that relentless need for another. And perhaps only then can love really grow beyond mere need.