You have to love someone in the cracks between the big moments. You have to grab their hand when you’re sitting on the couch watching Shark Tank together and you have to give them a little knowing look that says, “I see you and I love you here in the mundane moments of our life.” You have to understand who you are, to dive deep into the wounds of your past so that you don’t bring those wounds into the present. You need to know when it’s about you or when it’s about them. You have to carry your own pain.
It’s easy to fall in love with someone, to bask in newly-minted intimacy and lose yourself in the romance. It’s easy to start a love. It’s the staying part. The keeping part. The difficulty comes in the life plus love part, when you’re trying to squish two people together to make a unit.
When life enters the picture — bills and payments and jobs and stress and divided attentions — that’s when love starts to feel less like a romance and more like a battle. This is when the best of intentions fall to dust, when two people who used to spend a day in bed with their bodies intertwined are arguing about the dishes — as if the dishes ever matter all that fucking much.
To keep loving someone is an art. The start is the easiest part. To keep loving someone, you have to suspend the present moment in your mind and remember why you decided to love this person in those first glittery months of newness. You have to be in love when you don’t feel any particular tenderness, when bills are late or the trash hasn’t been emptied or you’re feeling underappreciated or when the ugly monsters from your past have convinced you that what happened then — whatever heartbreak exists in your memory — is here and real and will happen again. You have to pretend to be in love when you’re terrified of disappointment, of trusting someone, of believing that the person you’re waking up next to won’t ruin you, because they could. Love is being acutely aware of how quickly someone could ruin you.
To keep loving someone is to know yourself and to know how your past weaves a story in your present. How the relationship you did or did not have with your parents informs the relationship you have with your partner — regardless of whether you want it to or not. To keep loving someone you must examine yourself. You can’t blame again and again and again. You cannot be a victim to your life. Sometimes you have to realize the problem is, in part, you.
To keep loving someone is to be exposed to a mirror image of how fucked up you might be and to have to keep facing that image over and over and over. To keep loving someone is to fight to deny the part of you that will always secretly believe you are unworthy of love, to not let that insidious little worm of a belief make its way into your consciousness and lay flame to your love, to your life.
To keep loving someone deeply and truly is to see your own self nakedly and to — as crazy as it is — show that naked self to another person. To expose that person to who you are, underneath the masks and the defenses and the walls. To so intimately and bravely say, “This is me. Take me as I am.” And then hope they do not walk away from that, from you, from the real you.
To keep loving someone is an act of bravery. While it deals with matters of the heart, it is not for the lighthearted. There is nothing weak about loving someone. Nothing timid about it. It is for the strong, the ones willing to let love ruin them.
Love is for the ones who will risk being rejected in the hope of being seen. These are the warriors, the ones not willing to give up on another person. The ones who will not hold their partner to an impossible standard without analyzing themselves first. The ones who will not blame, but will solve — together. The ones who, despite living in Disposable Culture, will not dispose of a person for some far-off idealization of a perfect person.
The ones who say — you are my person — and who will fight to make it work because love is worth fighting for. The ones who do not put their lofty ideas of happiness onto another person’s shoulders, but vow to make themselves happy first and then share it with a person who does the same. The ones who know the difference between a love worth going all in for and a love that is unnecessarily dampening them, a love that is depleting the both of them. The ones who will know when to walk away and when to stay. Who will walk or stay when it’s needed. The ones who will tell the truth — to themselves, especially, because it starts there.
To keep loving someone is a challenge for the strong-willed, the ones willing to stare down fear and best it every time. It’s a badge of honor — to keep a love alive. It takes all you have, but the beautiful things always do.