Tuesday, August 20, 2013

that's love

Photo via: Toma EvsuVdo // Everything's magic)

Love isn't the wispy, now-I-love-you-now-I-don't that everyone seems to think.

I have been in love. I still am. He has the bluest eyes you have ever seen and he kisses my forehead and tells me he loves me and I can never get enough of curling up with him in the mornings when we wake up. I hate going an entire day without talking to him. Our lunches together, when we both come home from work, are the highlight of my afternoon. I love watching him move, and the way he asks how I am, to check that I'm really okay.

Oh, yeah. Also we've been married for two years and I'm pregnant with our first baby.

Love doesn't always look like two people drifting in and out of one another's lives. It doesn't look like fuckbuddies and hookups and friend-zones and continual heartbreak. Actually, I don't really think that's love.

Love is absolutely intentional.

I fell head-over-heels for the man who married me. Our parents were friends way back in the day, and he struck up conversation over FB. We had a long-distance relationship for two years of beautifully innocent friendship before we decided that he should visit, to see if this was going anywhere.

In April he visited for four glorious days. He was a perfect gentleman, and asked my parents for permission to court me. He even asked my permission to kiss me, he was being so careful - it was charming and archaic and showed just how much he cared about respecting me and I loved it. When he took my hand in the car my heart melted, because I had just been wishing that he would. Just before he got on the plane, he kissed me for the first time. I couldn't stop smiling for the rest of the day, the imprint of his light beard on my lips, wishing the feeling of his hand on the small of my back pulling me close would never fade.

Four days after he left, I finally got up the courage to tell him I loved him over text message. He said he knew before he left that I did, and sent me a video response telling me that he loved me, too. I have long since lost track of how many times I have watched that video.

When the 4th of July came around we finally arranged for another visit. He had to work, but he flew in over the weekend, to ask my parents for permission to marry me, and to propose. The proposal was a surprise - he had shipped the ring to my house ahead of time to make sure he had it.

He proposed halfway up a cliff on a rocky beach, no one in sight. If you have never been in love, I can never describe to you the feeling of your heart in your throat and the rock in your stomach: it is the most intense joy, the most amazing discomfort, and you can't stop from kissing him, because nothing else matters but this huge love you feel between you, and it's like a gift from God that he loves you back.

After I graduated with my degree, it was my turn to visit him and meet his parents. I visited for two sunny, warm, beautiful weeks, and met his friends, and made out with him on the couch in the evenings... it was bliss. I boarded the plane back and couldn't figure out why I was going back.

We were married one month later. It was a stunning wedding. We honeymooned for a week on the Oregon coast, then he took me back with him halfway across the country to the cute little one-bedroom apartment he had rented for us.

It was during our honeymoon, and shortly afterwards, that I realized just how much I didn't actually know him.

Our long-distance relationship, paired with his short in-person visits, didn't allow for me to experience his moods, his facial expressions, his highs and lows and food preferences and insecurities and frustrations. It all came as a total shock, on top of culture shock (moving from the north to the south is a huge difference in culture) and the loneliness of no friends and no family and suddenly realizing you are in love, and have just married, a stranger.

There were several long nights of misery, of loneliness, of having to learn one another entirely anew and understand how to live together, of learning what the other person needed. It broke me, too many times and for too long.

I chose to love him anyway. Just as he chose to love me. There were lots of personality changes, lots of unmet expectations, lots of surprises about one another, in those first six months. There was even, "No, I had no idea when I married you that you were like this".

But we didn't let that change anything. We chose to keep loving one another, to keep returning to the table, refusing to give up or to let the other person go. We were in it for the long haul. I know lots of people who would have thrown in their cards and walked away.

What we have now is so much stronger for all of that. I love him more than ever, and he is still my best friend. We still have our fights, and after two years it's become "We always fight about this... so what is it that's still not working?" and we keep pursuing the answers.

That's love.

That's why I read some love letters, some breakup letters, some forlorn and "poetic" accounts between lovers of their heartbreak and misery and I think, "What makes you think that's all love is?"

What if love is far more than that? What if it's not just physical attraction, or sex, or strength of emotion, or a really nice guy that makes you feel not-lonely?

What if love is a lifestyle?

What if "love" is a fight to be patient, a choice to remain kind, a refusal to hold grudges or get so easily angered? What if it isn't about pride, but about compassion? What if love can't stand for anything but truth, even when it hurts, and despite the hurt, insists on continuing?

What if love doesn't fade, because you believe that love is so much more than the emotions you feel?

My husband and I have tattooed our wedding rings. Love is not an option, and marriage is a sacrifice to hold it. We are in this together, and, by the grace of God, we will grow old together.

That's love.
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