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Love as Imperialism -- Where Domination Can Flourish

Updated: Jul 11

A woman officer expressing a repressed desire.


Within or Away From the Empire of Love: A Philosophy of Independence and Intimacy

When it comes to my philosophy on love, I use the term ‘imperialism’ to refer to foreign or external interference in someone's affairs. I believe that when a person intervenes in something that is beyond their control and not their business, they are necessarily being imperialistic. For example, if someone who does not have authority over you asks you to pick a different hat than what you have chosen to wear, they are showing imperialism towards you because they are exerting control over something that is technically beyond their reach.

This power dynamic of intervention can also be found in love. Romantic relationships in general can be of an imperialistic nature due to the deep intimacy that they include between the couple. This intimacy is so strong that it penetrates the privacy of each partner, and has the power to blur the distinction between them as independent and distinct individuals, with their own independent needs and desires. And by "independent" I refer to any value which has nothing necessarily to do with the other partner; anything that can exist without the partner and without their intervention.

This is because romantic relationships are often based not only on strong emotion, but also on a desire for possessiveness, a desire to claim ownership over your loved one, as if they are your property. The root of possessiveness stems from the fear of abandonment.

There are several causes to the fear of abandonment, but since they are commonplace, (Notably abuse and at least in the U.S), it is no wonder that possessiveness can be a common feature in any relationship -- and not only romantic necessarily.

When you feel inclined to possess someone else, that's not only a form of imperialism but also something that stems from insecurity. When you're too insecure to let someone go, should they desire to, you might desire to claim them as your own, so you won't be alone again.

The irony of this is that this drive for power over others stems not from powerfulness but from weakness. For the quest of love stems to fill voids within us:

By expending our reach into the "territory" of another's company, we have the chance to fill these voids within us, thus improving the overall quality of our lives, as we become less skin depraved, happier, and less lonely. It's similar to empires or countries expending their influence to new territories in the name of getting more resources, AKA, economic.

Therefore, there isn't necesarily anything morally wrong with the imperialistic aspect found in love, as long as it does not hinder people from moving on in their lives like they want to. Be too possessive towards another being, and you will torment them out of your own powerlessness to be able to live your life without them.

To prevent the negative aspect of this imperialism, one that stems from one's own weakness, it's important to maintain a healthy balance between intimacy and independence in a romantic relationship. On the one hand, it is important to be close to your partner and share your thoughts and feelings with them, in order to develop a genuine bond. On the other hand, it is also important to respect your partner's privacy and independence, and to allow them to be their own person.

If you can find a way to strike this balance, you will be more likely to have a healthy and fulfilling romantic relationship, rather than one that stems from a internally-compensating tyranny.

Seperating Emotion From Action In Human Relationships

The problem I find with a common assumption is that it does not separate the relationship between feeling something and creating something. In other words, feeling deep love for someone does not automatically mean that those who feel this emotion would automatically desire to create a romantic relationship with the subject whom they love.

The same logic can apply to any emotion and act; for example, someone that makes me happy won't necessarily be my friend, and someone whom I hate won't necessarily become my enemy. The connection between emotion and act, if seen as necessary, stems from a desire to simplify complex emotions and behaviors.

In this analogy, imagine yourself in a jewelry store finding a most beautiful necklace, dominantly displayed and captivating with its glamour. You find this necklace very beautiful to look at, but you might also feel a strong desire to own it. This is where the line between mere emotion and imperialism is drawn: to exert power over something external to you.

This is the deceptive nature of emotions: implanting the urge to possess just because the power of emotion as you experience it can dominant in your consciousness, but one does not have to oblige the other.

The same can be applied between human beings. Certainly, someone can be very attractive to you, but does it compel you "own them" or "make them yours", as in having a romantic relationship with them? Surely, you can admire them without claiming them as your own, as "claiming them to be your own" isn't necessary for the admiration to resume.

Hence why you can just simply let them be. But when you want them to become a part of you, that is the imperialism of love. Look online, and you'll find many sources on how to make people fall in love with you. We want those whom we admire to be ours, because we might feel that we need them in our lives.

But do we really need another someone in our lives, like a country might feel compelled to conquer new territory to make it hers? That, so it seems, is up to the individual to contemplate about. As for myself, I believe that it is important to be able to appreciate beauty and emotions without feeling the need to possess their subjects.

When we can do this, we are free to experience the world in a significantly more profound and liberating way... In a way that does not depend on whether or not "someone is ours".

Romantic love often involves a power dynamic between two people, each seeking a desired level of control over the other. Similar power dynamics can be found towards countless types of human relationships, making the aspect of domination, intristic, and pure egalitarianism, never possible, by the quality of our unique qualities alone.

Thus, while we may be equal in rights and in opportunity, we can never be absolutely equal for we are not the same. And in a world where people are never the same in their qualities/merits, some people will have more power over others, due to their merits. As such there are people who are naturally more dominant than others, and other people, who won't settle for mediocrity.

This dynamic can manifest in various ways in love, regardless of gender roles, making sexism irrelevant to this discourse. The active partner seeks to assert their influence, while the passive partner may find comfort in surrendering some degree of their autonomy. As such, some people prefer to be bossed around.

In psychology, it is understood that humans often unconsciously seek in romantic relationships what they experienced as children from their parents or guardians. For example, a child who was rejected by a parent might continue to pursue love from unavailable partners, while a child who was able to assert their independence might seek a partner whom they can easily control.

Romance, therefore, can be seen as an attempt to relive the sense of security and belonging that we experienced in our early childhood—a desire to return to the protective environment that once shielded us from the world's complexities. In this sense, it can serve as a form of escapism from the existential uncertainty that we face as adults. By securing ourselves the "territory" that is a loved one, we also secure ourselves the ability to be more of ourselves, in a society where masking is normalized and actors are praised for being characters they are not.

Indeed, a person who chooses to embrace the complexities of life, rather than seeking comfort in familiar patterns, demonstrates true maturity. They do not escape from the present by trying to recreate their childhood experiences.

Romance, while often fulfilling, is not the only path to love and connection with other human beings. And while romance is a space that allows us to be our most ourselves the most, I personally have no desire to be either a tyrant or a slave to someone else. I've no desire to either be dominated or dominate others. I just do what needs to be done to contribute to others, better. Absolute egalitarianism is impossible either way.

I am already a master of myself, and as such I have little void to fulfill within me, like those I mentioned earlier in this article. I sometimes wonder if I really need romance in my life.

It is through work that I exert my love and willingness to remain alive, for I am no mercenary. And as a giver I will keep on giving, whether I am to be loved, respected, or disdained by others.

Voids are hard to exploit when one has so little of them. I don't even have a desire to be happy, and endured years of skin deprivation and loneliness. When adversity is normalized, it is far easier to bear.

No. I only desire -- and live -- to contribute. And I will do so regardless of romantic love. For it is through contribution my sweet, sweet meaning comes from.

And no love tyrant will stand in my way. No one needs to stand in my way, because no one needs to suffer unnecessarily. I've detached from my emotions. You are likely not.


Do you want to be loved? Prepare to suffer. Power is essential, for power is everything. Power leads to struggle. Struggle leads to suffering. And since in love we can be the most human, in love we will suffer the most emotionally under the honest, intimate dynamic of power between the deepest of bonds. Love leads to suffering because we need not deny our pains in the company of those who love us the most. In the professional world we must force ourselves to be calm. But never in honest love.

For humans are beings based on the domination of each other. And in love we can allow ourselves and others to dominate us or be dominated ourselves. There is nothing more human than the honest expression of power, found in this synergy. No masks required. No pretenses. No hiding. No. Just two people displaying their emotions honestly and fearlessly, like soldiers charging into battle.

Those who fear the brutality of human truth, of full honesty, are not prepared to love and be loved. For there is no dynamic between humans that isn't based on power. And there is no struggle that doesn't stem from power.

And humans are the best versions of themselves, when they are true to themselves. The world is built out of an endless series of wars and conflicts...

...And so are human relationships. The more emotion invested, the greater the pain might ensue. Show love and emapthy at your own risk.

In a world that encourages cowardice, love will only be more and more of a rarity. Prepare for love like you would prepare for battle, and you might mentally survive, better. For love takes courage.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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