“Love possesses not nor would it be possessed.” -- Khalil GibranI am pretty certain there are several kinds of love. What I am not always certain about is whether some kinds of love are naturally possessive.
The question is complicated to me in part because possessiveness seems such a widespread phenomenon. I suspect that, in our culture, you can find possessiveness to some significant degree in most, but not all, relationships. And I wonder if it's possible to find a culture in which people do not typically, or at least quite often, feel possessive of their partners. Because it is so widespread, I think it is a little bit exceptional to find instances of love -- any kind of love -- that are not overlaid with some measure of possessiveness. And that can make it difficult to guess whether some kinds of love are naturally possessive.
A friend of mine used to swear that love and possessiveness fit together like a bat and a cave, and so you were not really in love unless you felt some measure of possessiveness. However, I have never shared her certainty about that. Indeed, I sometimes think that, of the several things we call "love", few or none of them are naturally possessive -- except possessiveness itself (that is, I recognize that at least a few people call possessiveness itself "love"). But that's only sometimes.
What kind of love do you suppose Khalil Gibran was talking about when he said, “Love possesses not nor would it be possessed"?
My hunch is he was talking about a kind of love so rare that some of us doubt it exists. It is sometimes called "agape" or "altruistic love" -- to distinguish it from other kinds of love. But some people, like Jiddu Krishnamurti, simply call it "love", as if there is no other kind.
By all accounts, the love that "possesses not, nor would be possessed", is immensely liberating and life affirming. It seems to be altruistic in the sense that it gives of itself without expectation or calculation of reciprocity or reward. That is, no strings attached. And, as Krishnamurti somewhere puts it, "The moment you have in your heart this extraordinary thing called love and feel the depth, the delight, the ecstasy of it, you will discover that for you the world is transformed." Transformed, one might add, in a way that is radically life affirming.
Of all the various kinds of love, the only kind of love that I am fairly certain is actually incompatible with possessiveness is the kind that Gibran and Krishnamurti talk about. Where there is possessiveness, there is not that kind of love, and where there is that kind of love, there is not possessiveness. At least, that's how it seems to me. I think, too, that the lack of possessiveness at least partly accounts for the tendency people have of finding that kind of love liberating.
I also believe the kind of love Gibran and Krishnamurti talk about is most often fleeting. With some people, it may endure longer than with others, but I think that for most people it is fleeting. It can no more be controlled than can a breeze. Like a breeze, it does not long endure, and yet, like a breeze it may return again and again.
Now those are my impressions, and -- of course -- I could be wrong about whether any or all kinds of love are naturally possessive. But what do you think? Are any of the things that people call "love" naturally possessive? And perhaps more importantly, is there anything you or others would call "love" that is incompatible with possessiveness?