Love is both knowable and unknowable. It can manifest as sympathy, empathy, longing, affinity. It can happen in an instant and be gone, as when you spot a rare bird in your backyard, or last a lifetime in the form of a child of your own. But when it comes to love among peers or love for a partner, it is often as complex and as much of a minefield as the political world we live in. Love is a series of debates, compromises and, because most relationships end, a series of battles - many of which we lose in our need to be right or better than the other. As much as we like to hope love will be a romantic comedy, it can often more closely resemble a warzone… until the right merging of parties occurs. As we navigate the sometimes treacherous waters, we often ask ourselves the following: How can our two houses be joined? What compromises can we reach that are palatable? What are the non-negotiables? I have loved four men, two of whom I could picture a lifetime with, a future that was bright and beautiful. And though I confess I never consciously compared my love stories to political intrigue, it was always subtly present. As with every relationship, and every political interaction, there is a power play at work and the success of the union depends on how well you manage it. Of course, there has to be mutual interest in this success, but that is often easier said than done. Love A: Innocence I pursued this sweet and caring man with the conviction of a strong and hopeful woman. He was my first love, and discovering how deeply I could feel for another was a revelation. But after I was assaulted by an employer a year into our relationship, and he had no idea how to comfort me, I walked away, not having the energy to show him what I needed. Looking back on that relationship, I realized that in that political union, I had all the control. He had given it to me and I had taken it eagerly, without understanding the implications. Having all the control is like having a government wholly run by one political party: there is no balance of power and the decisions made could very well be to the detriment of all involved. Nevertheless, this was not a union of equals, and I learned by the age of 20 that equality was a non-negotiable when choosing a partner. It was either that or no partnership at all. Love B: Conflict Here was a constant battle for power and, in retrospect, I realize I went from one extreme to the other. Though I had imagined kids, a house, a Great Dane for me and an Irish Wolfhound for him, the dream did not reflect reality. Conflict seemed to be our raison d’être. In our individual need to be in control, we behaved as though we were both running for president, except I was trying to run clean while he ran a smear campaign. He would systematically wear me down with insults, trying to get the upper hand and discredit my name. He was an expert at verbal and emotional abuse, but less successful with the subsequent apologies meant to mitigate the damage. In love and war, there is always a loser, sometimes even two. I eventually conceded, leaving him to wield his power on others. Love C: Confusion Though I’m the product of a mixed union and open to different backgrounds, he came from quite a homogenous culture. There is still the question of whether the conflict between us came from having different backgrounds, like trying to negotiate an environmental policy between native peoples and colonists, or whether it was purely a male/female thing. At that period of my life, I was very protective of my heart. After my relationship with B, I was afraid to love again. Perhaps, I held the power, though it was not a conscious decision. “You don’t need me!” he would tell me, frustration lacing his every word. And I was honest, perhaps too much so. I told him that I didn’t need him, but I wanted to be with him. It was a distinction that was important to me: choosing to be with someone rather than having to be with them. Was my truth too hard for him to accept? Was I not soft enough for his liking? I was never to find out because only a few short weeks after he’d started to pull away, he performed one of the most successful disappearing acts I’ve ever seen. From one day to the next, he was gone, out of my life. I was the victim of his Ponzi scheme and he had stolen my heart. Love D: Deception In this relationship we were spies, loving in secret, each on a mission to decide whether our discoveries were worth the risk. In him, I thought I had found everything I’d ever wanted in a man. A true union where each party brought something useful to the table: love, respect, honesty, truth, and shared beliefs. But of all my love stories, this was the biggest deception of all. Underneath the polished veneer lay secrets, lies, and broken promises. It was as though I had voted for one party, and after the vote was over and the party was in place, everything changed. When looking for compromises and attempting to make adjustments, I was met with sneers and dark laughter; silence and anger. And then he ended it, declaring I was an unworthy opponent. Sifting through the debris was not easy, but I did the work and put the pieces back together. And through it all, I realized that I would choose angry honesty over honey-coated lies any day. Open complaints over the bury-the-head-in-the-sand approach. Because at least in those situations, there is room for compromise and growth. There is still hope for a successful, mutually beneficial union. When I think back now at the battle scars, the humbling moments, the periods of despair, I’ve learned that no one, regardless of their good intentions, can love me more than I can. No one will protect me more than I will. No one can possibly respect my life’s path more than I can. I need not run out and find someone to fulfill me, as I can find fulfillment within. I’ve learned that my political party, my house, is strong. No one has broken me and no one will, unless I let them. I may not be one of the major parties out there, I don’t see life like ‘normal’ people do, but I love my perspective, my vision, and my way of seeing the world. I may be a small party and I may not have many supporters, but I will not give up. There will come a time when my house will join another and we will find that balance together, make those compromises like mature partners, and be stronger for it. In the meantime, I look inside and find within me unconditional love, and that is a power play stronger than any other.