When talking about polystuff, I’ve often heard (or read) that “time is finite; love is not.” When someone has multiple partners, the amount of time they can spend with any particular one is going to have limitations, because there is time they want and should spend with another one.
However, time is not a useful measuring tool for love. My partner does not love me less when he’s loving someone else. He doesn’t love his other partners less when he’s spending time with me. His love for all of us does not diminish when he’s spending time alone on the toilet.
Time is measurable. Love is immeasurable.
Now that I’ve said that three different times at least three different ways, onto the metaphor.
In a recent comment on a FetLife post in response to my post about the Poly Cookbook, I said:
Time is definitely a finite resource in any relationship, and time in a poly relationship is precious. We’re used to applying value to scarcity. Precious metals. Supply and demand.
But you run the risk of inflating the value of time and thinking that it’s indicative of love. Think of the diamond trade, I guess.
I wanted to follow that metaphor through a little more, but to do so I had to go do a little research on why people say diamonds have inflated value, and test if the metaphor holds water like a measuring cup (which time is not).
Ooh. A metaphor within a metaphor. It’s a metametaphor.
I found a blog titled “Diamonds are Bullshit” that did a decent job of explaining the whole thing in plain English, though I can’t speak to its accuracy because there’s a clear bias against the diamond trade right there in the title.
The bottom line is that diamonds are sold at a retail price, but are bought back at a wholesale price far below it. Sold as a premium, bought back as a discount, they are not the investment you think they are – not like gold or silver which has a very calculable market price and can be bought or sold based on that price (that blog makes this comparison very clearly). According to the blog, the “scarcity” of diamonds is manufactured because all the world’s diamond mines are owned and/or controlled by one company.
Kinda like how a person’s time is really owned and controlled by themselves.
Yes, diamonds do have some value, but when the apocalypse comes access to food and water will be a more valuable resource than a shiny rock.
Similarly, in relationships, time does carry some value. Like I said, it’s precious because it’s finite. But how many monogamous relationships do you know where the couple has nothing but time together and they still can’t stand each other? Time does not equal love.
So, what does? What’s the “food and water” of love? I think that’s probably a pretty personal thing. Different people, based on their personal experiences, history, and preferences show and receive love in different ways. You’ve probably also heard about those “love languages” …
But I think the food and water of love is somewhere in the realm of mutual respect, consideration, and (in the case of romantic love) desire (or at least attraction). I haven’t put as much thought into that as I did the diamond thing, so don’t quote me on that.
I think I’ve followed that thought through to the end now.