From the time we're little, we're spoon-fed a myth: Happily Ever After. That we'll meet someone, fall in love, and be swept up in moments that take our breath away. Forever.
Except, forever isn't supposed to snore. Forever isn't supposed to be allergic to your cat, or leave dirty dishes on the couch.
Reality is Happily Ever After's ugly stepsister. And Reality trumps any bodice-ripping notion of what true love is.
Here's the thing I've learned: love is a choice. Unless you are in a destructive relationship, you are not victimized by it - nor are you blameless when it begins to fade. Having been married twice, I can attest to the fact that there are things that I have done wrong. That I still do wrong. It's easy to become frustrated, and lash out at those closest to us. I've been passive-aggressive and petty. I've had to "win."
But, when you really love someone, you learn to bite your tongue. Hard. I have unwittingly wounded my husband with my fierce independence at times. I don't like being vulnerable. Love makes you vulnerable. Becoming intimate means revealing the soft flesh of your underbelly, both literally and figuritively. It means shining light on the shadows that hide in our bank accounts and our medical records. It means becoming humble.
Infatuation is like an over-exposed photograph: in those early days, everything is blown-out and bathed in the light of false perfection. After about the 6-month mark, the flaws start showing. He is a tad too obsessed with football. She has a bad habit of leaving hair on the shower wall. Sometimes these little annoyances become so overwhelming that we break up with someone, chasing an elusive goal of perfect romance. Someone who will agree with us all the time. Someone who's always ready for sex. Someone who knows our needs without having to speak them aloud. Good luck with that.
My husband and I are learning, together. He is learning that while I am (cursed) with an encyclopedic knowledge of mostly useless random facts, that I'm really not trying to be a know-it-all. I'm just an avid reader, and retain a lot.(I also can't remember what I did with my keys or phone half the time!)
I'm learning that when he asks me a question, it doesn't mean he's criticizing me, he's just curious. And that I'm as much of a devil's advocate as he is, so I need to just deal with having a relationship that sometimes resembles a debate tournament. Arguments aren't always personal attacks, and can be fun. Especially if wine is involved!
I'm learning that we don't have to like the same things all the time. That it's fine for him to love Battlestar Galactica more than Ghost Adventures. It's even okay when we fight over the thermostat. Those fleeting moments of romance and alone time are made all the more sweeter, because we've learned that having some opposing tastes, and keeping a few secrets, are part of what keeps things exciting.
I've discovered that choosing to love during the times when I don't really want to be loving is a powerful thing. That it can turn moods and make memories. That saying "I'm sorry" consciously is a whole lot different than just saying it. And that there are some things that are better left unsaid, and communicated with touch.
It's impossible to stay mad at someone who tickles you. Try it.
Love is actually...work. And anyone who tells you it's easy is delusional or lying. In this curated, social-media laden world we live in, it's easy to get the idea that love is breakfast in bed with fresh flowers every day, and cute couples in pigeon-toed poses. But love is laughing at lame jokes, helping the kids with homework, and vacuuming out the car. Love is present in the most mediocre moments. It's what happens after wedding registries, new houses, layoffs, and cancer. It's choosing to be there, even in the hard times, when you may not want to be.
It's choosing to be there...till the end.