When I was married, I kind of took it for granted that I was in love, since that's usually the reason one gets married. But for much of that time, I was miserable. I didn't feel desired much at all, let alone appreciated. It felt more like I was someone to be tolerated so that the bills would get paid. Needless to say, I'm much happier now that it's done.
But now that I'm in a place where I sometimes do feel appreciated and desired, I'm reassessing what I think love is. It's definitely nothing to do with monogamy for me. I used to entertain all kinds of notions about "the one", and now I realize that's just bullshit. People are complicated with all kinds of needs, and it's ridiculous to expect one person to fill them all.
Now that I'm exploring polyamory and open relationships, I'm realizing just how many cultural assumptions about love simply don't apply to me. I definitely have no desire for exclusivity, and am dating someone with two other ongoing relationships, which doesn't bug me at all. I am rarely possessive, it's never been my thing, and especially after the paranoia and lack of trust that I experienced as a result of my ex-wife's possessiveness, I shy away from that like the plague.
In the past, sex and love have always been linked for me. I did tend to form emotional bonds quickly with those I've been with, but as my experience post-marriage develops, it's less of an automatic thing. I am quite fond of those I've been with, but there is less pressure in my head now to jump into such things. Being older probably helps this a lot, too.
Another thing I've noticed lately is that I'm a lot more open to feeling and expressing love to people even if I am not in a relationship with them. There are some people in this category that I'd like to be in a relationship with, but that's not the majority. In the past, I think I had more expectations from those who I declared my love for, like the fact that I experienced a particular emotion made them obliged to me in some way. Now I realize how self-sabotaging that attitude was. My take now is that if I feel love for someone and choose to tell them, whether I'm romantically involved with them or not, it's just me expressing my appreciation for the joy they bring to my life. Somehow, by knowing them, they have made my experience of life better. There is no longer any sense that they are obliged to love me back. It's more of a "credit where credit's due" thing. I want them in my life, definitely, but as a free entity, not as property.
Letting go of the obligatory actually makes it better in my opinion, because I'd much rather only hear expressions of love from those for whom I have made their life better somehow, I don't want anyone to say it because they feel like they have to. It wouldn't be love then, obviously, and I'm done with pretending. My marriage lasted twice as long as it should have because both of us were too afraid to come right out and deal with our issues, all for the sake of staying married. All it did was prolong our misery. I'm no longer afraid of coming at problems head on. If a problem in a relationship is insurmountable, I'd rather find it out now and make a clean break than torture myself and my partner chasing a delusion.
I'm living a lot more honestly these days, both with myself and others, and I'm much happier because of it, and experiencing much more joy. I may have more thoughts along these lines in a future post, but this is fine for now.