I’m going to go all Greek on you and cast a wide net over my description of love in this post. I’m including the four kinds of love described by the Greeks: Storge, Philia, Eros and Agape.
Storge refers to natural biological affection like that felt by relationships within the family. It is expressed through “putting up with” situations so it’s probably how most of us feel at Thanksgiving dinners.
Philia is friendship and affection that includes character traits such as loyalty, equality and familiarity. It is philia that is behind the Bro Code.
Eros as you might guess is passionate love with profound desire and longing. It usually refers to a relationship with a sexual component but it doesn’t have to.
Agape refers to what we’d call “true love” in English. It’s the common type of love one would use when referring to one’s spouse although it can also refer to other family members such as children and even the unconditional love of God.
Ironically, falling out of love in many cases has also been awesome or a great relief at worst.
Falling out of Storge
I have 2 out of 7 siblings for whom I no longer feel any sort of affection. I no longer exert any energy in their behalf whether it be emotional or physical.
One, of course, is the brother who sexually abused me although falling out of storge didn’t happen at the moment that the abuse occurred like you would think. The end of storge towards him came as an adult on the day I wrote the letter confronting him and expressing my feelings. I sent it. It has allowed me to set it and him aside and grow up. I moved on finally on that day.
The other is the older sister with whom I was closest growing up. The story deserves a post of its own and I’ve probably mentioned a few incidences of conflict with her in passing a few times. She remains a hard-core Mormon and was the one I initially turned to when my divorce went down. When I later came out, left the LDS faith and moved on with my life it soon became clear that she wasn’t the right person to have confided in. But even that wasn’t the end of storge for her. I still tried to maintain a relationship by visiting and maintaining contact. Falling out of storge came simply enough one day when she told me on the phone that I was not permitted to remain in her home alone during a visit. It sounds trivial, but at the time it was the tipping point for me. Of course, it’s her home and her right to determine her boundaries, but I firmly believe the reasoning she gave was a blatant lie and I cut off all effort on her behalf. The sister I had grown up with and loved died to me that day and any semblance of storge evaporated. We haven’t spoken in over a year so I can only assume the feeling is mutual.
Falling out of Philia
Philia is the emotion I felt towards the Mormon church and my friends in it. I know the exact time and place I lost philia for Mormonism. I relate the story in my series on “Why I Left Mormonism” (See the menu above).
Since that time it has been a gradual loss of many other friends. In each case, the sense of loyalty and familiarity with one another was lost.
Falling out of Eros
This happened to me just the other day and it’s what has inspired me to write my recent posts, The Homo Bro Code, The Newly Gay Study Guide 2012 and this one. I was infatuated with a certain guy for the longest time and just couldn’t shake it. I felt “profound desire and longing.” Initially it was coupled with the romanticized dream that we’d make a couple and become the world’s most admired gay long-term relationship. Even after a few hiccups and his determination that we just didn’t have “chemistry” I still held onto something for him deep inside. Even after deciding to be “just friends” and following through successfully on that, when he walked into the room I still lit up. I could have made a long list of pros and cons and the cons would have filled a page or two. The one pro, however, ruled the day. I felt eros towards him and I liked it.
Then, after a year of our meeting in the course of 72 hours I got over it. Making a long story short, he was the one who informed me that there was no Homo Bro Code. He wasn’t necessarily the one who violated the non-existent understanding, he was still an active participant in more than one Homo Bro Code violation.
I think my initial attraction to him was that I saw something of myself in him and so he represented what my life could have been had I come out at age 20. He’s charming, smart, handsome and easy to talk to and fun to be around.
Falling out of eros was based on the same principle I believe. I see so much of myself in him… yet I don’t want to be him after 20 more years of gayhood. Not even that there’s anything wrong with him except that he is my age and has never had a serious long-term relationship. He’s going to be alone partaking in the gay buffet for the rest of his life. He’s collected a litany of friends and sexual experiences, but appears to have enjoyed a pittance of actual intimacy with others.
I still feel a fondness, perhaps philia towards him but I can honestly say that the eros flew the coop. True to my version of the Homo Bro Code he will be my bro for good. We’re friends… and now finally our feelings are on equal footing.
I’ve only really been in one serious relationship with a guy since my divorce six years ago. I fell out of eros with him on a dime too. The building blocks of his story were similar to mine. He was a father with two teenage sons, but had come out much earlier than I had. We moved in together in spite of my reservations; he swore that having my 4 kids around was no big deal since he’d already done it with his. I argued that having 4 kids, 1 boy and 3 girls in your 40’s, is dramatically different from having 2 boys in your 20’s. He protested and seemed to have developed a good relationship with the kids.
I should have listened to my gut instinct. One Friday evening we were having dinner out on our patio after a stressful work week for both of us. It was the start of my weekend with the kids. They were being themselves, kids, but nothing incredibly uncalled for. In one moment, he lost his patience and blew up at my 7 year old daughter and screamed like an adult should never scream at a child. The kids were visibly shaken. I separated them from the tension, calmed my kids down and returned to inform him that he had crossed a line and could never do that again. In spite of apologies and talking it through, my emotions took a 180 and I never felt the same for him again. It was the beginning of the end for me and we soon went our separate ways.
Serendipity put me in the same room as both of these guys last weekend. It was weird to compare how intense my infatuation had been for both of them at one time and yet how numb I currently felt. Sometimes it’s a relief when you fall out of eros with someone when it had obviously been misplaced. Often we are passionately in love with someone that only really exists in our imagination. When the real human being reveals themselves that longing and desire often dissipate. I guess the key is to find a person whose humanity doesn’t cross any personal boundaries of acceptance for you so that you can still feel that intense desire for them once it happens.
Falling out of Agape
Yes, I loved my ex-wife. In spite of being gay, my expressions of love for her were not fabricated. I think our relationship could best be described as having encompassed all four forms of love at different times in our relationship. Still, I think it best fits here with agape.
I’ve occasionally been asked when I knew that the marriage had been a mistake. That happened about a month into the marriage and it had nothing to do with my being gay. Immediately after our honeymoon, we had packed up and moved to Utah so that she could finish her degree at BYU after recently returning from her mission. I am six years older than she is and so I’d long since graduated and had been working in California. I quit my job and planned to get a job or two in Utah to financially support us in the last 2 years of earning her bachelor degree. She was also planning to rejoin the BYU women’s soccer team. This was in the early 90’s when BYU women’s soccer was just reaching a respectful level of play. My ex wife was a solid player according all reports. I was there when she reconnected with her coach who seemed enthusiastic about her return.
Then one day before the start of the semester my ex-wife sat me down and told me she didn’t want to do it, any of it. She wanted to get started right away on motherhood instead. There were financial reasons thrown around and lots of other excuses but the truth is she didn’t want to finish school, advance her soccer career or do much of anything really. She just wanted to have a baby. I was devastated probably far beyond the situation called for. I’m not sure why but it took the wind out of my sails and I lost respect for her that never returned completely. I encouraged her but she’d already made up her mind. You can’t impose ambition on someone. We immediately moved back to California. I got my old job back and we started a family. Agape was gone although philia still lived on and we spent 10 more years trying to make it work.
In the end I’m grateful for having experienced all these forms of love. I expect to continue to enter into relationships where I feel some or all of these again. Sometimes, though, those relationships run their course and you fall out of love. The circle of life. I wonder when these individuals fell out of love with me. Something tells me their epiphanies came far earlier than mine.