On the nuances of love, ownership, and care

Photo by @createdbyjarrod from nappy.co

A topic that’s been on my mind a lot recently is love, and more specifically our language around it and what it encompasses and entails. I’m relatively quick and unabashed in telling people I love them, which often comes as a shock to people not used to displays of love that are neither romantic nor familial. I especially notice this with cis men. Having been raised and socialized as a cis man for ~20 years, I’ve noticed how toxic masculinity suppresses this level of open affection (but that’s a conversation for another day).

In Western colonial society, we’re taught to primarily say “I love you” to only [blood] family and people we’re in love with, but there’s so much more to love than just that. Internalizing the many different types of love has really helped me become more vulnerable in openly holding people in my heart — recognizing the nuances of love can make the concept and practice of love far more expansive, bountiful, and restorative.

I think a lot of fear around using the word ‘love’ in a non-romantic, non-familial manner is because in Western colonial society we’re raised to liken love to proprietorship & ownership. “I love you” becomes “You’re my one” becomes “You’re mine.” For a plethora of reasons the sense of ownership attached to love is tragically unhealthy and hinders exploring all that love is and can be.

This complexity also has a lot to say about the concept of ownership and relationships in Western colonial society — it’s far more based in authority and ‘rights’ than responsibility. As I interrogate this skewed conflation between love and ownership, my concept of ‘possession’ is becoming much more about being a relationship based on care and stewardship. This is true with the friendships I ‘possess’, any lands I occupy, and so on. The number of relationships we hold and interact with every day is incredibly vast, much more so than we usually consider.

Within my concept of love, if I’m able to claim that something or someone is ‘mine’ (e.g. my friend, my family, my home, etc.), that means I have the responsibility to care for it and help it thrive. And that’s largely how I think about love — deeply caring for someone and wanting to support them in their growth and fulfillment. Reflecting on how I want love to manifest in my own life and the relationships I hold has been incredibly liberating, especially as I work towards unlearning various toxic/colonial mindsets I was raised with.

Boricua/Taíno via LBC | PhD student in NREM, UH Manoa | B.S. & M.S. in Earth Systems, Stanford ’17 | financially support at https://cash.me/$Fisky

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