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I have been romantically seeing a man for more than five years. We have known

I have been romantically seeing a man for more than five years. We have known each other for a long time and I know he is an extraordinary man who will be there for me through anything, no matter what. However, I feel that his future is not nearly as bright as mine. The only reason he decided to study hard to get into a good college was because I urged him to. However, I admire him for his social skills and his ability to judge situations accurately and quickly (which means good social skills.) On the other hand, after going on a break with this man due to the long distance, I have met another man who I have been seeing for a while. This second man is not nearly as great a person as the first. His family is well-off, but this has led him to be somewhat spoiled and I find that I do not respect or admire him as I do the first. However, he is with me physically where I study and he had provided me with comfort and company when I needed/wanted it. Furthermore, he seems a bit more intellectual than the first...

For these questions, you would probably be better off asking an older person whose wisdom you respect, than someone with a philosophy degree. However, since they are questions I also have wondered about, I will attempt an answer. The beginnings of love happen when you find that you are not just concerned with what the other person can do for you, but find yourself concerned with their good. When love grows, you find that your concern for their good is equal to and inseparable from your concern for your own. This stretching beyond concern with your own good is one of the main things valuable about marriage. It will more likely happen with someone you admire and who has strengths that complement your weaknesses. Intellectual and social similarities do not seem to me to be as important, even though dissimilarities can be a source of tension sometimes. Which of these men do you feel this loving way about and feels this way about you? One way to tell is to observe if you are kind to each other and willing to make some sacrifices for each other and to respect each others point of view even when you disagree. The person you love and who loves you will surely lack some things you want, but these can be found in friends and family. One person cannot be everything for you, but can still be the one for you.

If, due to unforeseen circumstances, you find love, outside of your committed

If, due to unforeseen circumstances, you find love, outside of your committed relationship, what do you do? (This said, obviously you've already gone outside of your "commitment" and remember, things are always more complex than they appear.) The question is this: is your obligation to the commitment or to find your own happiness?

My Loving Friend,

Man, do I wish I head that back-story that is "more complex"! It seems to me that there are several possible scenarios that have brought you to this point, and the details of those scenarios might make a difference in what I am about to say. But lacking the details...I press onward!

First, let's take it as a given that your partner in the committed relationship does not know you have found extra-curricular love, and will be hurt to discover this, and you are anxious to avoid this hurt.

Nonetheless, I believe it is your duty to tell this person right away what has transpired. A list of reasons why you should disclose this information:

the physical: if this love with the other person has been consummated, you are introducing a third person's sexual history into your relationship. This might have health consequences for everyone.

the historical: you forged a responsibility to him/her when that commitment was made. The fact that you cannot uphold it "forever" may be disappointing or liberating, but it is still a commitment. You have a responsibility to see the commitment through to its proper end, even if that end isn't exactly the "'til death" sort of end you both may have had in mind at the time you made it.

the empathetic: even though you have found love with another, I take it from your question that you don't want to hurt your current partner. You think you can avoid hurting him/her by keeping mum about your true love. But this necessarily will involve some sort of lying - or at least misrepresenting your feelings about the relationship. I think it was Kant who said that a lie is worse than outright violence, because with lies the victim doesn't even understand he is being victimized. This plays your partner for a fool, who then is doubly hurtful when she or he eventually learns the truth - and the truth always surfaces. It is most sensitive and respectful to just come out with it now.

the self-interested: It seems unlikely to me that you will find any sort of personal happiness until this situation with the committed partner is finally resolved.

You have an obligation to the commitment. Fulfilling this obligation means treating your partner with empathy and respect and honesty. If you do this, I think you have a chance at finding happiness

If you do tell you partner in the committed relationship that you have found love elsewhere, you might still be surprised with how it all ends. Your partner might feel a weight has been lifted off of him, glad to finally be free of you! Or else your partner might be devastated and angry. Or perhaps this person will be eager to go to counseling to fix the problem. If there is some shared family life between you (children, relatives, friends, pets, property) I expect your revelation will cause deep pain for both of you. However, I think it would be dishonorable to not take your partner's feelings seriously, no matter what they are. Good luck in the days ahead!

If we consider the norm to be defined as what the majority of people do, can

If we consider the norm to be defined as what the majority of people do, can homosexuality be considered normal since it defines behavior that is clearly not what most people indulge in? And would that make homosexuality abnormal? And if it were abnormal, would it be wrong to validate gay marriage?

The statistical norm might be defined by what is true of the majority. But why on earth would we want to define the moral norm solely in terms of what the majority of people do? That would mean that, by definition, vegetarianism, atheism, and marriage between different races was wrong. It would mean that you were morally wrong if you were an abolitionist in the South or fought for equality for women in America in the early 20th century (I'm not sure when that became the majority position) or fight for equality for women in many countries today. For that matter, it would make it wrong to be a Jew or a man who goes to college or a firefighter.

Perhaps what you mean is that homosexuality could be considered biologically "non-normal" (it's not clear exactly what that might mean, since whatever we do is allowed by our biology). That may not be true, depending on what one means by biologically normal. But even if it were, it would not make it morally wrong, since lots of biologically "non-normal" behaviors may be moral, including, for instance, monogamy and vegetarianism.

If you show all signs of loving someone, how can you figure out why you love

If you show all signs of loving someone, how can you figure out why you love someone? How do you know if it's just in your head, how they make you feel, their looks, how their hair is, or personality? And what justifies the right reasons of loving someone?

I'm tempted to say that when it comes to love, all is mystery, and leave it at that. But that would be a little too quick, perhaps.

You ask several questions, so I will try to reply to them one-by-one.

(1) If you show all signs of loving someone, you probably do. However, we make a distinction between infatuation and real love, and so the real test of which of these it is will be a matter of time. Infatuation dies pretty quickly, whereas love is more durable.

(2) A good part of love probably really is "just in your head," or, more likely, in your biochemistry more broadly. When we are engaged in this way, there are very significant differences in cognition, sensation, emotion, and all of the neurological and endocrinological systems towhich these are related. It certainly isn't love if it doesn't change you in lots of ways!

(3) You also want to know what it is about your beloved that brings out these reactions in you. The answer seems to be that it is lots of things. But there is a risk of cart-before-the-horse here. It is probably true that how someone looks sometimes plays an important original role in the process of falling in love. But it is also true that falling in love plays an important role in how someone looks to you. Here's an autobiographical example from my own past. When I was in high school, I started dating a very nice girl who had a very large chip our of one of her inciser teeth. At first, I found this unfortunate--the only obvious flaw in my fair beloved! But then an oddd thing happened--I came to love that chipped tooth, and when she told me her parents were taking her in to have it capped, I was very dissappointed! I was going to miss that little irregularity!

(4) The same can be said (cart-and-horse) about peersonality traits. In some cases, these serve as initial attractants, wwhereas in other cases, these are matters for reassessment after the relationship has already gotten going.

(5) The right reasons for loving someone have to do with the sorts of things that create the possibility for personal growth--both at the sexual level and also at the emotional and intellectual levels. The wrong reasons, very roughly, are those that create the possibility of personal deterioration. We tend to look for those who share our same values, but this, too, can be a cart-and-horse matter: Those we love can help us to change our values. Those we should love would help us to change our values for the better; and those we should not love would help us change our values for the worse.

(6) Apart from the issue of values, we do well to love those with whom we are compatible, sexually, emotionally, and intellectually. The most dangerous kinds of love-affairs are those with toxic inconsistencies here: for example, falling in love with someone wwith whom we feel deeply sexually compatible, but with whom we are deeply emotionally or intellectually incompatible. Again, because love can change us profoundly, it may be that such incompatibilities ccan be worked out between the people in love. But strong initial incompatibilities are very serious negative indicators, to be sure, especially because lovers are notoriously wishful thinkers--the experience of strong attraction always somehow seduces us into thinking that what isn't really right will somehow become right if we are just patient and supportive. Well, sometimes that works, but...

How do you know when you are in love?

How do you know when you are in love?

As I've noted here before, we should surely distinguish loving someone from being in love with them. I might delight in the "sheer goodness and well being of" my daughter, miss her presence, especially when I'm feeling low -- that's evidence of love, but not of being in love.

It is only too easy to be in love with someone you don't really love in Charles's sense (which is why I don't think his reply will do as an answer to a question about being in love). You can be obsessed, lustful, unable to get the other person out of your mind, your heart leaps at their glance, you are wildly jealous of glances bestowed elsewhere, but for all that you don't really care for the other in the right way, or delight in their well-being etc. ("If you really loved her", we might have to say to the man in love, "you wouldn't treat her like that.")

Being in love, as Romeo memorably says, can be a "madness ... a choking gall and a preserving sweet". Proust is depressingly good on this!

I was talking to a girl about my opinions on love, and on the topic of polygamy

I was talking to a girl about my opinions on love, and on the topic of polygamy I told her that theoretically (it's hard enough falling in love with one person!) I could see myself with two women that I completely loved. She told me that I confused her because she could not square that statement with a previous statement where I spoke of my want for true love. I told her that I didn't see any contradiction between those two sentiments. Maybe if I understood why people are opposed to polygamy I would have an easier time defending my opinion on the subject. So why is it said by so many people that it is impossible to fall in love with more than one person at the same time? When I ask these people why this is so they can not give me a clear answer. Can you provide a clear explanation for why love must (or allegedly must) be exclusive to only one sexual partner?

Without meaning to take a stand on anything, I think it is worth mentioning that, in most actual "polyamorous" relationships, things are not as Eric describes, where one partner "receive[s] 100% of the relational attention from two [others],while they each have to settle for about 50% of" the former's. Rather, people who enter into such relationships are very often bi-sexual and bi-amorous, and so each partner distributes his or her attention to both of the other two. Of course, that probably makes the relationship even more emotionally complicated.

The other remark it may be worth making here echoes one of Allen's. One often hears it asked: If we allow gay marriage, why not polygamous marriage? Partial answer: The laws on marriage really do assume, in ever so many ways, that a marriage is a relationship between two people. There are, for example, no provisions whatsoever for the dissolution of part of a marriage, in which two of the married parties might decide to continue without the other. But, as the Massachusetts Supreme Court observed, there really aren't any such deep assumptions about the gender of the parties. That is why essentially no changes were needed when Massachusetts started allowing same-sex couples to marry. Other, that is, than changing the language on some forms. If one were going to allow polygamy, then lots and lots of laws would need writing and changing. That is not in itself a reason not to allow polygamy, but it is a reason to think the cases are different.

Other Addendum: No doubt Eric is right that polyamory, as usually practiced, probably wasn't what the original questioner had in mind. Or, at least, those to whom he was speaking.

Is it possible to choose the one we fall in love with? It seems to me that the

Is it possible to choose the one we fall in love with? It seems to me that the experience of falling in love is a purely undecided matter. For instance, there have been many cases and personally to me wherein one would just wake up with a feeling that he is in love with someone even though that possibility may not have occurred to him before. He did not deliberately choose the person, so to speak. His emotions seems to have told him that he is indeed in love. Can this really be possible? Or would we call it really love? And thanks to this site. You all are very generous in sharing your knowledge and expertise.

My amorous friend,

I had the good luck recently to spend some time reading the philosopher Robert Solomon. He has written many books on the subject of emotions. About Love is a particularly good one that addresses just the kind of question you raise. His prose is accessible, and you will find both deep wisdom and folksy common sense there. I recommend this book especially for you.

So my answer here is not original in any way, but relies heavily on Solomon's views. What I get out of his work is that we frequently rely on the metaphors (falling in love, struck by Cupid's arrows, thunderbolts) and on the feelings (dumb-struck, possessed, overwhelmed) to understand love, but over reliance on these metaphors and feelings may obscure certain truths about love. Love - like all emotions - is a sort of judgment. We deliberate. We decide. We commit -- to love! How marvelous!

If we allow love or other emotions to be seen as 'passions' which overwhelm us we give up our responsibility for our emotional lives. It is a very familiar excuse to plead, 'I couldn't help it, I love him!' But of course we can help it. It may be painful to choose to not love someone, but it can be done. (There will be heartache and doubt and regret all along the way.) >
When you wake up one morning and say 'Hey, I really am in love' you might perceive this as a wash of emotion cresting over you, but it is more accurate to see it as reaching a judgment. This shift in concepts is significant because we are reminded that emotions are not opposed to reasoning, but a form of reasoning themselves.

What I am outlining should help us tell lust from love. Physical attraction certainly is part of love, a major part. But we can lust for people we don't love. We sometimes even lust for people we can otherwise hardly stand. Being in love, and maintaining it over time, requires (as poet Nikki Giovanni tells us in her book Bicycles) patience, coordination, balance, faith. These are judgments, not hormones.

Is it possible for two people to love each other without meeting? For example if

Is it possible for two people to love each other without meeting? For example if two people were to meet on the Internet and fall in "love". Scientifically speaking love is based on pheromones and physical attraction so how can one love someone when physical and chemical attraction is taken out of the picture? According to scientists it should not be possible yet people claim that it happens all the time.

As a footnote, I'd perhaps want to press for being more careful with the distinction between loving another person and the state you are in when you fall in love with someone.

After all, you can love someone without being in love with them: that's how most of us -- other than Oedipus -- are with our mothers! And it is only too easy to fall in love with someone you don't really love -- you are obsessed, lustful, can't get them out of your mind, your heart leaps at their glance, but you don't really care for them in the right way. ("If you really loved her", we might have to say to the man obsessively in love, "you wouldn't treat her like that.")

But indeed, it doesn't seem that you have to get up close and personal either for genuine caring or to engender more obsessive states.

Do the members of a married couple with children have a moral obligation, not

Do the members of a married couple with children have a moral obligation, not (just) to each other, but to their children, to not cheat on each other?

I'm guessing what the questioner is wondering is roughly this-- "Considering the way that infidelity tends to increase the probability of divorce and considering the known ill effects of divorce on children, do couples have a duty not just to each other, but also to their children, to be faithful?" My answer to that question is: yes.

Then there's the question whether people should be faithful even if they've redefined marriage so that infidelity is truly a non-issue (if such people exist). And there's also the question whether we have a duty to children not to redefine marriage that way. No, and no, to those two questions. But if the question is about people in ordinary marriages, I'll go for the idea that infidelity puts children in jeopardy, so the obligation to refrain is partly to one's children.

The love shared between two individuals (romantic love) is often thought of as

The love shared between two individuals (romantic love) is often thought of as the most ineffable and sublime of human connections, but I can't help but feel that there is something less than satisfying at its foundations; an element of extreme frivolity. The fact is that love is dependent upon factors and conditions which one may think of as being somewhat superficial. Most conspicuous in my mind is the physical attractiveness of the object of one's love. We consider it to be highly superificial to let our judgement of a person be effected by our estimations of said person's physical appearance, yet this very quality is of extreme importance when it comes to who we fall in love with. Does it in anyway sully the integrity of love that its foundations are so superficial?

"But love is blind and lovers cannot see/The pretty follies that themselves commit", as Jessica says in the Merchant of Venice. "But if thy love were ever like to mine/How many actions most ridiculous/Hast thou been drawn to by thy fantasy?" Silvius remarks in As You Like It. Oh yes, love can make you foolish. It may be sublime, but it can grip us in the most inapposite ways. Even proud Titania falls for Bottom with his head turned into that of an ass (so much for physical appearance!).

Such is the way of it. But does it make romantic love any the less wonderful that it is all rather arbitrary, depends on the happenstance of a meeting and the chemistry of an underlying physical attraction, and makes us a little bit mad? I don't see why! Why shouldn't we place a high value on love -- find it "sublime" though also delightfully human -- even if it is the result of such earthly accidents? After all, an Alpine landscape is thrown up by an underlying clash of tectonic plates and sculpted by the arbitrary happenstance of wind and water: do we find it is less sublime now we know that?

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