I've been thinking a lot about love and freedom lately and I've concluded two things:
1) Nobody really knows anything about either of these things, but...
2) Everyone has an opinion that they're more than willing to share, especially about love.
Before my ill-fated adventures in the land of the married, I purchased a poster with an interesting story printed on it (which I guess I should have read a little more closely). It told of a sleeping woman who was approached by a vision. The vision extended its hands, one containing love and the other freedom, and told the woman to choose one or the other. The woman thought a moment and then chose freedom. The vision told her that she had chosen wisely for, had she chosen love, the vision would have given her love and then left. But by choosing freedom, the woman was ensured both freedom and love.
I really like this idea. But I don't think it's endorsed by any of the major religious institutions currently in business in this country. The concepts of individual freedom, diversity, and autonomy just don't fit in well with the linear, black-and-white, stable universe theory so many of us have tried to squeeze ourselves into and failed... sort of the "one-size-fits-all" of emotions.
I'm not the only person who's discovered that real life doesn't always turn out as neat and clean as claimed in romance novels and bridal magazines. Sometimes girls like girls, boys like boys, or either likes both. Sometimes two's company but three's a love-nest. Sometimes the flame of love burns so hot it can't be contained, and sometimes it cools and, phoenix-like, emerges as something else. Sometimes it just needs a vacation.
Monogamy and "standard" definitions of love work great if you're part of a bureaucratic institution and want to keep track of everyone, but they just don't factor in individuals, which is probably why individualism is frowned on by so many... even in a country supposedly established by "rugged individualists."
Paying attention to our genuine emotional needs can be confusing, and doing it responsibly can be downright agonizing. It requires honest and open lines of communication and tons of trust, neither of which are easy to come by and both of which require a lot of maturity and self-knowledge. My experiences have revealed that pursuing self-knowledge is one of the most feared and reviled things a person can do... but also one of the most rewarding. Self-knowledge is often translated into "selfishness" by those who want to profit from our unnatural emotional contortions.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that polyamory, episodic monogamy, bisexuality, or other "non-traditional" loving styles are for everyone. I actually do know people who have well-adjusted, emotionally balanced relationships, some of which are monogamous. However, I know so many people who are destroying themselves by striving to fit their size 24 lovestyle into a size 10 relationship that doesn't make either partner happy.
A friend whose opinions I respect recently shared with me that it has been his experience that it's easier to find someone you can love than it is to find someone you can live with, and I think there is truth in this. We're mammals, which means we have a natural tendency to seek out the company of other mammals. How we do that best is, however, very individualized. This is where the art of compromise comes in. This is also where we should remember that we are ultimately free, and as free creatures, have a right to (mutually consensually) choose how we will best be healthy, and what kind of love will contribute to that health. It seems to me that only love freely given and received can be healthy for those involved.