One recent night I said to my husband, “If I die, it won’t be my intellect or even my cooking that you will miss. You’ll miss the little things, like how I sleep with tissues in my pocket and it annoys you when you wake up to find used ones crumpled in the bed.”
He thought on it a minute and then admitted I was probably right. And though he is super smart and gets almost every answer right when we watch Jeopardy, that wouldn’t be what I would miss the most. I would miss how he takes forever and a day to get out of the car (pausing, stretching, and looking around before he closes the door), which simultaneously annoys me and makes me see him as so distinctly himself. I would miss the intimate little quirks that only someone who spends a lot of time with him would notice.
Some people fondly remember the “honeymoon phase” of their relationships, secretly longing to go back to when everything seemed perfect. Not me. Sure, those days were great. Seven years ago, in response to me complaining about our faulty toothpaste, he probably wouldn’t have yelled, “The toothpaste leaks because you never shut it right! It’s like you live in a barn!” But then, I wouldn’t have spent the next 10 minutes chuckling to myself, trying to brush my teeth through my giggles.
For me, these are the moments when a relationship solidifies itself. The moments when a truth about our shortcomings is revealed, but instead of feeling less than we feel safe to embrace them—laugh at them even—and be wholly ourselves.
We’ve been together eight years and I can speak for both of us when I say not only do we love each other more than ever, we like each other more. In fact, the more shortcomings we find in each other and ourselves the more bonded we seem to become, comforted in our mutual acceptance. I could be in a room full of 100 people who think I’m the bee’s knees. They might appreciate my work ethic or my empathy, enjoy my sense of humor. But I feel most like myself when I’m at home with the one person who appreciates all of these traits in addition to the fact that I often don’t change out of my pajamas all weekend long.
If you ask me, this is better than the honeymoon phase. This is where the good stuff is. I’m not saying that a picture perfect relationship can’t exist. The key is redefining perfection so that it broadens enough for inevitable flaws to strengthen our relationships. Instead, we often do the opposite: we redefine ourselves to fit our narrow view of perfection. When we do the latter, we risk missing the real depths of where love can go.
Think about it: a lot of people could love you when you’re at your best, making sure to always close the toothpaste all the way and pretending your nose doesn’t run like a faucet while you sleep. But how long can you really keep up the facade? The trick is finding the person who will love you even when they wake up and see your nose plugged with tissues, your mouth gaping open as you obliviously snooze on. That’s true love in all of its flawed beauty.