You’ve probably heard it in the form of drunken advice from a serial monogamous friend, or seen it immortalized through one of your grandmother’s two-dozen faux-crochet fridge magnets.
It’s the saying that love is a journey, not a destination.
It’s an easy enough notion to get your head around, really, particularly when positioned beneath a woollen rainbow or posted online as a #dailyinspiration meme. We understand it, we gladly seek comfort in the idea of it, but do we actually believe it?
Love, like change, is one of life’s few constants.
It runs parallel to our respective timelines, bubbling along quietly and settling as it pleases, be it on the smile of a stranger, the page of an old book, the pixels of a photograph, or the foam of our Sunday morning coffee.
It exists beyond our physical being, always moving, twisting, and turning — forever adopting form over function.
To view love as a destination would be to sell ourselves drastically short. It would be solidifying that which is inherently fluid; unnecessarily allowing it to be held, lost, bent, or broken. Just imagine the recurring heartache which could be so easily avoided if only we celebrated love as the river, not the vessel — the body which moves us, unwaveringly from beneath, not that with which we immediately travel.
We continue to engrave our unique perceptions of love on the various milestones we pursue — be them particular people, places, or career achievements. As we move forward, as we progress — both socially and professionally — so, too, do these milestones.
They lie just up ahead, always a little further away than we’re able to reach.
Destinations connote both physical and emotional disembarking, some kind of stagnancy — the end of whichever road we’re traveling at any given time. When we view our heightened ideals of love as points at which to reach, we run the risk of actually reaching them. Our existing relationships falling gently into routine; our love, set to repeat.
It becomes a thirst quenched, a craving satisfied, a passion subsided.
For it be kept alive, we must first ensure that there’s room to grow, places to go, and exciting new territory to discover. The feeling must remain conscious. We must choose to fall in love again each morning — find new creases in the same page, new freckles on the same back, new algorithms to the same familiar smile.
We must ensure that our love remains a journey.
You see, on the subject of love, as with most things, time can be binding, and when our minds or bodies feel constricted, our first instinct is to quite simply break free.
A dear cousin of mine was recently left utterly flawed and broken-hearted after her partner of seven years unceremoniously ended their relationship two weeks after moving into their long-dreamt-of apartment together.
Their love, while both genuine and reciprocated, had gradually accumulated in the common plan of setting up house. That, they both agreed, was their destination. But then, as would inevitably be the case, they reached it. Once the cardboard boxes were unpacked and broken down, the cutlery washed and placed in the top drawer, the clothes folded and tucked away — they were left with the quiet realization of stillness.
And, though it satisfied her, it didn’t satisfy him.
No, his eyes wandered critically forward to a new destination — one he felt they no longer shared.
It’s not easy when these things happen, when we suddenly realize we want and need to move again. And, to be honest, it’s not really our fault. The religious/social construct of marriage and resulting expectation to start a family inevitably mounts some level of pressure. And as we grow so reluctantly older, our relationships have little choice but to either strengthen or buckle under the weight.
In fact, I’d argue that the very implication of marriage offers up a subconscious bookend — a blazing red marking point which quietly condescends monogamous contentment — reminding us so prematurely of our own mortality.
It’s quietly confronting. We do, after all, prefer to feel immortal. We prefer to think of our love as timeless.
Perhaps this is why in recent history, society’s median age for marriage has hovered consistently around the seven year mark. Much like my cousin and her partner, we set our goals, our destinations, reach them — and then naturally feel the urge to move on.
People are, after all, inherently wired to progress.
This is why love, if it’s to last, must lie in the journey, not in the destination; in the moving of two people towards common goals, not in the goals themselves. It’s not a competition to be won, nor a mark to be achieved. It doesn’t exist in the check points of a to-do list; nor the dotted line of a lease form.
It runs parallel to all that, bubbling along quietly and settling as it pleases. And all we can do is hope that where it settles is with us, ad long enough for us to really appreciate it for what it is.