In the Name of Love

A philosopher looks at our deepest emotions

Love: The More You Use, The More You Save?

Capacities are best saved by using them.
This post is a response to Sex: The More You Have - The More You Want? by Pamela Madsen

“Save the best for last, Sometimes the very thing you're looking for, Is the one thing you can't see.” Vanessa Williams

 “Save your love, my love save it just for me
Save it up, every drop till you're here with me
Save it all, don't you fall for somebody new
'Cause I'm saving my love for you.” Tracie Spencer

 “Save a boyfriend for a rainy day. And another, in case it doesn't rain.” Mae West

In many popular songs, lovers ask their beloveds to save their love for them. However, there are many cases in which the more you use, the more you have. Is love one such experience?

Two models of saving

When people speak about saving something, two major models prevail: the container model and the capacity model. In the container model, at any given time there is a limited amount of the saved object (e.g., energy, food, or money) and the best way to save it is to freeze it in its original situation. The container basically does not change the situation of the save object, as its major task is to keep it for future purposes. Once you take the object out of the container, it is likely to reduce in quality or in quantity.

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Saving ice-cream is done according to the container model. We freeze the ice-cream in order to keep it so that we can enjoy it in the future; the moment we use it, we lose it. We can also save money by freezing its usage and put it in a safe or a bank, receiving a minimal interest rate that maintains, and even increases, its value.

In the capacity model, the very use of a capacity saves and enhances it. Many capacities, such as playing the piano, dancing, and swimming, are saved, and even enhanced, only by using them. We can also save money if we use it to invest in something that could considerably increase its value. This is in line with the notion of “Use it or lose it.”

Memory, which is the mental ability to save past experiences, can also be described in terms of the above two models. In the mechanistic model, our mind is a huge container that stores our memories. In the dynamic model, memory is the capacity to re-experience past states. According to the first model, we do not need to use our memories in order not forget them. In fact, if the "container" is functioning properly, the item of memory will remain for a long time while using these stored experiences might distort their validity. According to the second model, the more we use our remembering capacity by recalling our memories, the stronger those memories become.  There is hardly any doubt that the second model is more applicable to memory.

 Can sex be saved?

Which model applies better to sex and love? In accordance with the capacity model, there are indications that participation in sexual activities actually increases one’s sexual energy (or appetite). In her post, “Sex: The More You Have, The More You Want?” Pamela Madsen writes that having sex is like the saying about eating Chinese food: "You can have a delicious meal and twenty minutes later you are hungry again!" Madsen employs further metaphors to argue that “if you do not stir the pot of your sexual being - you can become dormant just like a hibernating bear… Just like the bear - once you wake up and begin to feed yourself - you can find that your hunger is extraordinary.” 

No doubt, there are many circumstances in which the more you participate in sexual activities, the more you want and need it. However, these circumstances do not exhaust all cases. Sexual ability of both females and males is limited at any given time. Although women can have multiple orgasms, not all women can have them and those who do, do not always experience them. The case for men is even worse: fewer men than women can achieve multiple orgasms. Hence, if a person extends his sexual energy to many partners, the intensity for each may be reduced. Thus, a 45-year-old man, who spent a lot of time masturbating while viewing nude pictures online, wrote: “My sexual energy was ‘saved’ for the Internet. I lost interest in sex with my wife because I knew there were an unlimited number of photos on the Net that could ‘get me off’ any time I preferred.”

It is then reasonable to ask your partner to save his sexual energy for you and not to extend it all over town. On the other hand, some believe in the maxim of “Whetting your appetite outside while eating at home.” As one married man notes: “It does not really matter where you get your appetite from as long as you eat at home.” (see here) Indeed, some people testify that their cybersex actually increases sexual activity with their primary partner. But here again, the amount that one can consume is limited (not all meals are like Chinese food).

 Can love be saved?

The verb “to save” has various meanings; those that are most relevant to this discussion are: (a) to keep something so that you can use it in the future and (b) to keep something from being lost to another person. All those love songs that ask the beloved to save his or her love refer to the first meaning, that of conserving love for a better future; some also refer to the second meaning, that of stopping love from being shared and so lost to another person. The song by Tracie Spencer quoted above and the following song of Bad Boys Blue combine both these two requests:

“Save your love until I will return
Let the flames of fire burn
In your heart, forever
Save your love
Don't give it to someone new.” Bad Boy Blue

In other songs, the lover “allows” the beloved “to have fun with the crowd,” or to “dance with the guy who gives you the eye,” as long as at the end of the day the beloved’s love is saved for the lover. It seems that love can be saved over a long period of time even if it is used during this period time for someone else. However, can love be saved while loving more than one person?

 Most people assume that when a resource is used, it decreases. This is particularly true when the use is in the form of sharing with someone else. Sharing means that what you are left with is a portion of what you had originally. Neither of these assumptions is necessarily true. We have seen that using a capacity typically enhances that capacity. There are also cases in which sharing increases your share. Thus, sharing a life with another person can add a great deal to the couple when they both complement each other. When two independent people complement each other, this enhances each one's strength. It is more complex for a romantic threesome to complement all the participants in this way, although it is possible. Thus, a widespread attitude within polyamorous communities assumes the presence of compersion, which is a state of empathetic happiness experienced when an individual's romantic partner experiences happiness with another romantic partner.

Love is a kind of capacity—it is not something that is stored in a container, nor is it always limited in terms of its energy. Sometimes the more you love, the more you feel better about it and the more you want more of it. Those who have loved two people at the same time seldom complain about a lack of energy or an inability to love them both (see here). The problem is not with the giving side (which supposedly has to save the person's entire love for one beloved), but with the receiving side—the one who knows the she or he is not exclusive in this love. The receiving side may derive a lot, even more than with one partner, but it will not be an exclusive experience. Yet many people are prepared to get less in order to ensure this exclusivity.

Conclusion

To sum up, love is not an entity with limited energy, but a capacity that when used, generates more and more positive energy. Hence, there is no point in asking someone to save her love by not using it. A lover can ask his beloved to save her love in the sense of leaving her heart open for circumstances that will allow their great love to be implemented once again. Like memory, which is vividly generated when we confront circumstances similar to the ones prevailing during the original experience, love can easily be regenerated when the original circumstances return.

The above considerations can be encapsulated in the following statement that a lover might express: "Darling, save your love for summer nights with moon and stars above, when we can see more clearly how profound our love is.”

Aaron Ben-Zeév, Ph.D., former President of the University of Haifa, is Professor of Philosophy. His books include: In the Name of Love: Romantic Ideology and its Victims.

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