Jeff Brokaw has decided that Stephen Stills’ “Love the One You’re With” doesn’t suck as much as he thought it did:
I used to despise the lyrics to this song too — and it is kind of a mess musically, too. But on closer listening, I decided it is not about cheating while your girlfriend is away, it is about a guy who’d been dumped, and so he figures, correctly, that pining for a former love (or “bitch” as the case may be) that dumped you is a poor choice when there is another young lady right next to you.
I believe this interpretation to be correct, though it would be interesting to find out the state of Stills’ on-again-off-again relationship with Judy Collins at the time he wrote it. And anyway, he didn’t make up the conditional in the chorus: that was a Billy Preston concoction.