I’m still trying to figure out what it means to love someone. Like real love, not the temporary, silly little connections you make when you’re young and naïve. Not the kind of love that runs when faced with something difficult. Not the kind of relationship that’s merely based on physical attraction, or convenience, or ease.
But the real kind.
The love that is consistent, steady, loyal, forgiving, challenging, motivating, passionate, scary. The kind of love that isn’t perfect, but fights like hell to keep two people together—despite obstacles, change, fear, and sinful hearts.
My definition of love keeps changing. I watch the people around me, my young friends who are making lifelong commitments to one another and I feel tears swell up in my eyes. I love that they are fearless in the pursuit of forever with the people they’ve chosen to give their hearts to. I see my parents and others older than me, who fight to honor their commitments despite all the bullsh*t this life has thrown at them. I see people who are learning to rebuild after broken hearts and marriages. I see women and men alike, who inspire me with their forgiveness and grace, letting people in, letting people go, letting their lives shift and reform after loss.
Love isn’t one set definition, I don’t think. You can’t define love based on one person or one relationship, because it’s honestly different depending on who you’re with and the type of love you have.
Love is messy. Its mistakes and falling short and letting one another down. It’s learning to accept people where they are, in all their imperfection and failure, and finding ways to make things work when you don’t see eye-to-eye. It’s learning to let go of little things. It’s learning to stand your ground on issues that matter. It’s finding ways to compromise when you want to be selfish. It’s becoming a little less stubborn and a little more patient.
Love is persistent. It’s realizing that when you make a commitment to someone, whether a relationship or a marriage, you can’t just walk away. You can’t just run at the first sign of trouble, or focus on what everyone else has that you don’t. Love is fighting. It’s fighting together. It’s fighting to stay when you might not want to. It’s finding ways to make sense of who you are and how you’re incredibly different than the one you’re with. It’s starting over, and starting again.
Love is both quiet and loud. It’s not an outward show; it’s not always proclaiming who you are and what you have to the world. Sometimes it’s passionate and crazy, filling yourselves and the spaces around you. Sometimes it’s delicate, only shared in the quiet moments where no one else is around.
Love is easy and difficult. It’s the moments where you want to give up, but you don’t. It’s the moments when you’re broken, but you chose to believe that you’ll find someone, find something again. It’s the moments when you fall into someone’s arms and everything makes sense. It’s the moments you can be yourself and it’s just so damn simple. It’s the moments you have to work so hard to understand one another. And it’s every beautiful moment in-between.
Love is comfort and chaos. It’s the feeling of peace that covers over you when you fall asleep, reminding you that someone, somewhere values you. It’s the feeling of butterflies, of silliness, of wildness and desire, wanting nothing more than to feel the touch of that person or their kiss on your lips.
Love is a noun and a verb. You become love, you embody love, you are love, when you choose to give your heart to another person. But love is also a verb, an action, a continued choice to do and give and be. Love is the physical, the emotional, the tangible connection between two people. But is also the words shared between, the decisions made to build one another, the conscious choices, day after day, to work for and with one another.
Love is fear and faith. It’s knowing that we are imperfect people and our promises may fail, but that connecting to one another is the most powerful force we have. It’s being scared, terrified even, but believing in a bond more powerful than ourselves. It’s letting go of our inhibitions. It’s not holding back. It’s stepping forward. It’s falling.
There is no set definition for love. No foolproof means of identifying or labeling it, no sure way to know whether what you’re feeling is pounding in your partner’s heart. But it’s beautiful, nonetheless.
It’s beautiful in the young hearts believing in forever. It’s beautiful in the old hearts, still finding ways to make one another smile. It’s beautiful in the way it’s taught me to keep believing, even after a broken heart, even when I’m tired, even when I want to be stubborn and independent and secure in my own skin.
I don’t know how to define love, but maybe it’s one of those things we can’t define. Maybe it’s just something you feel, something you trust, something you know.