I just began watching the season of Once Upon a Time where Elsa is introduced. There’s a ridiculous love triangle building between Robin Hood, Marion, and Regina. Robin and Regina are clearly in love, but when Robin’s “dead” wife comes back, he feels compelled to return to her and hold true to his marriage vow. However, when Marion falls under a freezing spell, Robin is unable to save her with “true love’s kiss” because he is in love with Regina.
The whole situation was such a blatant illustration of the scarcity myth of love. Love triangles are annoying even as it is, but it’s even more infuriating when the love triangle involves a supposedky dead loved one come back to life simply because it implies that in order to love someone else after losing a spouse or partner that you have to stop loving the one who is presumed dead.
Regina lives out a fear that I’m sure many people feel—that as the “second,” they are not loved as much as the first. If the first were to return, the love they experience now would be taken away.
But why would Robin’s love for Marion necessarily have to cancel out his love for Regina?
One of the most important ideas that I’ve picked up as a sex-positive bi-feminist is the concept that love is not finite. We aren’t all equipped with a limited supply that we have to dole out in rationed doses or give entirely to one single person.
The poly community espouses the motto that it’s possible to love more than one person.
What often gets left out of the conversation is that everyone already loves more than one person, even monogamous people.
But we don’t think about it as being polyamorous because society has conditioned us to view romantic love as “real love”…or at least the most important kind.
Whether it’s the continued love for a lost (or not lost) partner that doesn’t diminish the love for a current partner or the love for one friend that doesn’t cancel out the love for another friend or family member, we all can look to various relationships where we love multiple people, sometimes in similar ways, sometimes in different ways.
Ironically, the whole point of Frozen, from which Once Upon a Time is drawing its curse, was that an act of true love didn’t have to be strictly limited to romantic love.
Love was love, regardless of whether it was coming from a romantic interest or a sister.
Are there clear differences between love for friends, partners, or family?
In my experience, no.
There are differences in boundaries, commitment, sexual attraction, and other things that can be tied up with love, but none of those is love itself.
Perhaps thanks to hook-up culture, more and more people are realizing that love and attraction can be separate.
I’m not sexually attracted to everyone I love…and I don’t love everyone I’m sexually attracted to. Learning to separate the attraction or the ability to act on attraction from care, affection, and concern for someone’s well-being is eye-opening in terms of understanding the depth that love can take.
Learning to recognize that a love that includes attraction isn’t more valuable or valid than a love that doesn’t include attraction is just as eye-opening.
Absolutely it’s possible to have more than one person that one is “in love with” in the sense of true love’s kiss, and maybe one day I’ll live to see a movie or show acknowledge that reality.
But more importantly, love doesn’t need to be confined to the “romantic interest” box in order for it to be valid, true, or magical.
And that is something that I think we should expect to see in our current entertainment.