Tuesday, 14 January 2014

What is love? (Baby don't hurt me.)

My latest post was about self-love.
This one is about loving someone else. 

Love, in the romantic sense, must be the most talked about subject in the world. 
Some of us spend years looking for that perfect person to spend our life with. Then we spend years over-thinking, over-analysing and effectively destroying our own happiness worrying about whether it's right. 
I've asked myself many questions about what it means to be in love. I often wonder, as I'm sure many do, what it really is.
Is there such a thing as "the one?" What is the secret to a lasting relationship? Is there one at all?
What is "real" love and how do you know if you've found it? 

Our relationship started out (pretty much) like any other. The passion, magic and excitement of something new and all that comes with that. Looking your absolute best, quaint little dates, charming the pants off of each other (oo-er), trying to be your most appealing, charismatic self every fucking hour of the day. 
Falling in love is lovely, it is beautiful and one of the best things in the world. However, I feel that that initial stage can often fool us.

At that time, I didn't exactly know it, but I guess I thought that butterflies and romance was what love was. I'm sure most of us do to begin with. I had never gone past that point with anyone and didn't know anything else. Unknowingly, I expected that that would be what a relationship would need to hold together. I couldn't imagine that there'd be a time with this person where it wouldn't be that way. In fact, I think I was under the impression that once the "woo-ing" dies down, a relationship is on its way to failure.

I am not the first, and will not be the last person to discover that long-term relationships do not work in this way.

Long-lasting love is not like the fairy tales. No matter how much you want it to be. We all learn this the hard way. (In fact, we'd probably all get on a bit better if we dropped that notion entirely.) (I blame Disney.)

So what is real love?
When we think of love, we think hearts, flowers and chocolates, when in fact to many of us it is something different entirely. 
I think our idea of love and what it means, needs a bit of a reboot actually. 
I'm no expert but it's possible that long-lasting love is much more about perseverance. (Now, I know that that word doesn't conjure up the most romantic idea but bear with me.)

Being with, and especially living with, the same person for many years takes a lot of perseverance. Sometimes more than we knew we could muster.
I use the word perseverance because it sums up a lot. 
Life in general is testing, sometimes you'd rather curl up in a ball under the covers than live like a functioning human, never mind try to keep someone else happy too. Just having the strength to cling on together is enough of a feat some days.
It also illustrates the dedication, patience and tolerance required to live with someone, even someone you adore, every day for years. You can think that they are the best thing since sliced bread, and still find them irritating after a while.
Without Jake's admirable tolerance, even when I have made it hardest, I doubt we'd still be together. As with any relationship, there have been times where it would have been quite easy to give up. Each of us have persevered, even when we didn't feel like we even liked each other anymore. 
That is what love is to me.

After 5 years with the same person, it isn't always about charm and romance anymore. (Don't get me wrong, that is still there. You absolutely do have to make time for romance.)
It's something different. There aren't constant butterflies, you aren't worried about keeping up an appearance. You know them now, and they know you, warts and all. 
It is different, but it is beautiful. It is teamwork, it is dedication, appreciation. It is giving each other space. It is learning to adapt, to share. It is being honest. It is being a best friend, being family. It is hating them one minute, then absolutely adoring them the next. It is playfully insulting them, but never letting anyone else. It is being supportive. It is expecting ups and downs, frustrations, disagreements, and trying to get through them. It is never figuring it out, or getting it right, but always trying. It is unconditional care and kindness.

Maybe in another 5 or 10 years time, I will think differently, I cannot say, but my experiences so far have taught me these things.
There is no such thing as happily ever after. Loving someone does not make everything else fall into place, but with the right person it does make hard times easier.
It is less about butterflies and more about commitment and teamwork. 
If you think that that person is worth it, then your commitment to them will be what keeps you together. 
You may have to change, not lower, your expectation of love, but it will be worth it.

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