I recently read a blog post on Whiny Baby where the author had recently traveled abroad, come home and decided that she was going to divorce her husband and reboot her life. (please read her WHOLE blog to get the backstory) She shares some very sensitive and controversial emotions about commitment, choice and authenticity. This got me thinking about love, relationships and happiness.
Love is a loaded gun word. It is said too often, practiced too little and misunderstood by most. It attempts and fails at capturing the wide range of experiences that we say are “love.” Currently, I love my family, which is different from how I love my friends, which is different from my love of my fellow human, which all pale in comparison to the love I experience with my partner Heather.
I asked Heather to marry me, because out of all the women I had dated she was the first one I trusted completely. I WANTED to be vulnerable with her; something I had never experienced before. She knew about the women I’ve slept with, she knew me when I was fat and not so fat, she waited until I was ready to love her. I decided that if that wasn’t love, nothing would be. We’ve been married now for almost 7 years and our love is completely different from when we made our vows.
We no longer have crazy bunny sex (something I need to rekindle). We no longer go out to fancy restaurants, then dancing and boozing every weekend. We now fart in front of each other and no longer dress to impress. We’ve slowly settled into early nights, dinner in front of the TV, and tender rather than passionate kisses. I want need to be more romantic and sexy for Heather to rekindle some lost courtsmanship. At the same time, the insane romantic love has grown into a deep friendship which gives support, understanding and commitment. Our love has matured.
It was stupid of me to think it could be any other way. The expectation that love will never change is probably why so many relationships end. Over the last seven years, Heather and I have lived in a foreign country, moved four times, adopted a dog, bought a house, started new jobs and grew seven years older. I am not the same man she married and she is not the same woman I fell for. As people, we are now very different.
What I feel I have done right is allowed my love to change along with our relationship. Full disclosure; our relationship is HARD work. It requires daily communication, which sometimes feels like a chore. It needs to be nourished with affection and attention; challenging as I get up at 6:00am and sometimes come home around 7:00pm only to have community council meetings and selfish distractions like wanting to watch the latest episode of Supernatural. There have been times where we needed forgiveness, compromise and conflict resolution. When I’m angry, it is hard to love her. When I’m feeling stagnant it is hard to be committed.
It has required my putting my own happiness on the backburner for the good of the relationship. This is where I believe the making or breaking point of love and relationship exists. Heather and my marriage has accrued a net gain of happiness. This is a miracle and blessing, because it’s not something every relationship can claim.
Sometimes, a hard decision has to be made to end a relationship. I once dated a girl who I loved more than life itself. But she made me so miserable (jealousy, emotional blackmail, unpredictability) that I’m glad she ended the relationship; something I didn’t have the courage to do. It saved my identity and self. Plenty of people would just say that I wasn’t really in love, just infatuated. I say bullshit. The problem with this girl wasn’t love; I had plenty for the both of us. It was happiness.
Intimate relationships are messy and exhausting. It’s the long term happiness they give us that makes them worth the investment. Nobody can truly say they will love somebody forever. Who knows what will happen 20 years down the road. People change; sometimes they become bitter assholes. Many times people just grow in different directions. All I know is the only way Heather and I will be together forever is by making sure our love and relationship matures and evolves along with our selves. It’s the key to the happiness in our marriage.