When I was young enough for storybooks, I used to think that love lasted a lifetime. That once you found the person meant for you, nothing could sever your bond. That marriage meant breakfast in bed and tender kisses and adventures every day.
But then I grew into a teenager and that fantasy fell apart. I watched my parents scream. I watched my aunts divorce. I watched my friends cry into cupped hands. And I changed my definition of love.
I thought that love meant screaming matches at 2 AM. Yelling out the worst possible thing that you could say to each other in the moment and scrambling to make up for it in the morning. Crying your eyes out in the middle of an apology because you know you took things too far — but only because the love was too strong, only because you cared that much.
I thought that love went hand-in-hand with jealousy. That being told what to wear and who to talk to was part of the package. That it was a compliment when you wanted someone all to yourself, when you wanted someone to be yours completely and to keep their hands off of everyone else. That controlling each other was normal, natural, a habit that happened in every relationship.
I thought that love meant telling white lies to make the other person feel better. Dancing around the truth when you knew it would sting. Picking and choosing the most comfortable topics to talk about to avoid arguments. Only venting your true feelings about the relationship to friends, to family, to anyone except the actual other person involved.
I thought that love dissolved the longer you stayed together. That it eventually meant coming home late or not at all. Taking phone calls outside so the other person couldn’t hear. Spending as much time as possible at work because home stopped feeling like home.
I thought that love meant growing apart. Growing to resent each other. Growing to hate each other.
And now, after firsthand experience, my definition of love has changed again.
Because now, I see love as something fragile. A plant that needs to be watered every single day, that needs constant nourishment, or else it will wilt.
Now, I see love as something that only lasts if two people are both willing to put in the effort. Something that could easily come apart at the seams if it gets neglected for long enough. Something that takes hard work and dedication.
Love is about choices. Choosing to keep your tone light when all you want to do is scream. Choosing to watch their favorite show with them when you have no interest in it. Choosing to have dinner with their family when you would rather stay home.
Love is about choosing to set aside time for them. Choosing to go out of your way for them. Choosing to stay loyal to them. Choosing to tell them the truth. Choosing to stay together through it all.