If there’s one thing that my toggled relationship status has taught me, it’s that love takes incredible effort.
Maybe it was naivety. Maybe it was wishful thinking. But that fairy-tale seemed so real. Every Disney princess movie, romantic comedy, and steamy novel– Someday a man will rescue me. He’ll whisk me away to a new life, one where flowers are pinker, worries vanish, and it all just works. Love alone will change everything.
And no. I’m not a love cynic. I believe in crazy, consuming, I-can’t-live-without-you love. I believe magic is real, that love is worth every puncture to the heart, tear shed, and enduring an occasional psycho.
But no matter how fluffy the initial bliss, the bubble-gum scented sticker fades. The pink haze and firefly radiance dissipate. While we sit in post-buzz and see each other in the harsh light of the morning, every fault and flaw is apparent, and every open wound is seen.
The little things we ignored while in honeymoon love start to build into daily annoyances. Once a slap on the wrist now becomes a full-fledged argument. More likely, we begin to let our standards with each other slip.
The day comes where she didn’t get enough sleep or he had a rough day at the office, and explosive words emerge… Words that are hard to take back or be forgotten. The foundational rock that once stood beneath suffers from erosion.
Relationships disintegrate because we don’t speak up when we should. We let things go. Carelessness becomes neglect. Instead of the healthy conversation when we’re in the right head-space to express constructively, we avoid. Resentment, irritation, and eventually anger build. Compressed feelings bubble until we have no choice but to explode.
“Why do you always?”
“Why didn’t you?”
While watching the movie This is 40, I found myself wincing as callous, cutting words were recklessly thrown between two people who must have once been madly in love. It felt too real. So often have I seen this scene replay itself in my life and others. How do we get here?
As beautiful as life is, it is woven with hardships, traumas, and tragedies. Most of these trials aren’t easily seen nor can they be predicted. Once the rose-colored lenses lose their tint, the realization sets in that stating our vows in front of our friends doesn’t make us immune from the inevitable woes life delivers to us.
Regardless of life’s curve-balls and strike-outs, what allows a relationship to survive and even flourish is keeping each other sacred. Taking care with the words we express while holding each other to a higher standard. Even in our weakest, most vulnerable moments, the delicate way in which we interact with our partner should always upheld and revered.
In jobs, we put effort in. We study, put extra hours, sacrifice. We turn ourselves inside out, give the best of our energy, and strive… For a paycheck or recognition, something so easily replaceable. Yet, we forget the gift that is love requires as much or more of this attention. It deserves it.
Love takes effort.
White-gloved tenderness. Diligent nurturing. Intentional preservation.
It takes the little things and deliberately holding them as standards. Even when we’re tired.
Holding hands (even when it’s hot), biting your tongue when he’s watching that show he loves and you hate, flowers, napkin notes, taking her to that place she’s never been, locking eyes in a crowded room, thanking him for unloading dishes, dancing in the street, reminding her she’s beautiful, spontaneous Hollywood kissing, rooting for her college team, doing the extra without keeping tallies.
Humoring her oddball love of zebras.
Sharing. Surprises. Love-festing.
Love is winning each other daily.
To love is to fight our natural instincts of the “game”, the need to be right, the tests to determine proof, the unnecessary punishments. This is looking at another human, and wholeheartedly desiring their happiness, their joy, and their fulfillment. I liken it to looking at a newborn baby and thinking how much you want the world for them. When I look at my love I think “How can I continually make your world better?”
It’s desiring to make another’s life abundant and complete. It’s wanting to be better and bring your whole self to each moment. Love requires continual cultivation.
This is not an intent to spoil the party or be harshly realist, but I believe if we’re prepared; if we accept the challenges; if we are aware of what the journey entails and take it on with all its potholes and detours…Rather than anger and criticize one another, we can lean on and walk through the fire together.
This is the love story you live. Yes, you will cry. There may be unsettling moments where the sound of their breathing makes you want to scream. There will disappointments and failed expectations.
But I don’t want the old fairytale anymore.
I want the occasional fight, the jealous pang, the misunderstanding. Not in a masochistic way, but through these confrontations and subsequent pillow-talks, we’re pushed to discover ourselves more deeply. What is the root that causes this action or reaction? And how can we help our partner to heal from something in their past? What can we do to understand and love each other more fully? To accept ourselves better and grow? But this is not cupcakes and fairy sprinkles. It’s not knights with horses or white fence-posts or a man flying across the world to profess his undying love.
This comes from working through obstacles as a team. This stems from opening difficult conversations and asking tough questions. This grows from knowing someone so completely, and loving their inner being so unconditionally that you yearn to cherish and nurture their soul, because of what you know (not in spite of it).
When you really let someone into the depths of who you are:
-When the facade of “I’m always strong” or “That doesn’t bother me” can be real conversation that reveals our insecurities, our sadness, the story that got us to today…
-When another soul loves, accepts, and wants to soothe that hurt…
-When the comfort another creates by holding your hand in knowingness, and you gain energetic power through their support…
This type of love sets you free. This love gives you strength to face the absurdities, the failures that have held you back, and the difficult steps you have to take forward.
When you care deeply for another being, your vow to them includes the effort to speak when it’s hard, to try when you’re tired, and to always hold tenderness around the fragility that love goes through at times.
I believe we each can write our own love story. I believe in happily ever after…
We just can’t stop trying.