As much as I’ve always been independent and always wanted to figure things out for myself, I’ve also always been a lover, a romantic, a little too emotional for my own good. It pains me to say that, but it’s true. In high school, long before I figured out most of the guys I had crushes on were douchebags, nothing made me more excited than the thought of getting their attention. Since I never actually had the guy I wanted, I figured that once I did, everything would be okay.
And I pretty much carried that attitude through college, too. Even as I learned more about myself and what I wanted, I still believed that once you found the right person, your happiness would be pretty much sealed. All you would have to do is meet that person and get together, and the force of your connection would carry you through.
Man was that a load of crap.
I am unbelievably lucky to have found my person when I did. I found someone who I connected with instantly (well, five years and instantly), and we had all those five-hour, me-too! conversations, the sexual tension, the feeling of sureness. It’s an incredible feeling.
But what it took me four more years to realize, what I honestly did not get until I was 27, is that relationships are work. Falling in love, feeling sure is just the beginning of your journey. You will be tested time and time again, only it won’t be about your love or your attraction. It will be about your patience, your selflessness, your communication skills. Your ability to watch “Mythbusters” hours on end. You will have to learn for yourself what is asking for what you need and what is meeting the other person halfway. It’s hard, it’s really hard. I’ve fought myself so many times, wondering if I would be strong enough to give up a job so that Mike could satisfy a dream. Could I not buy something I wanted so that we could save for something important? Could I stop being just me and be us? But still be me?
I didn’t realize I would be tested so quickly and so intensely in our relationship, but I’m grateful for it now. We spent almost a year apart. A year! All those nights we could have been growing apart we chose to grow together, and that means a lot to me. Who knew we’d be looking at a layoff, a major surgery, a rescued dog that needed more that we were prepared to give? Life happens.
At some point, when we’d made it through all of that and could breathe again, I realized that love was never enough to get us here. We got here because we finally decided we’d found someone worth all that trouble, and we stuck around for it.
I wish I could go back and tell high school me that passion is important, but it isn’t what will save you at the end of the day. It’s commitment and faith and maturity and selflessness on top of love that carry you through a relationship. It’s not the person that’s hot for you that matters; it’s the person that will throw himself in front of a bus for you.
When I think about my grandmother shampooing my grandfather’s hair in the sink or riding the bus everyday to be with him at the nursing home, to fight for him when he couldn’t, I understand why they made it through 55 years of marriage. They knew that this love story would not have a fairy tale ending, but that they would get through it anyway.
I don’t know how we will make it through the hardest days, but I know that we are here and we want to try. We are lovers and then some. We will do this thing.