Here’s what I think is true about love. But what the hell do I know…
- Feelings are the easy part of love. Feelings of love can be great, and can make you feel a lot of warm and squishy things. But in and of themselves they don’t actually mean anything for your person. It’s what you do that matters. It’s the daily grind—the communicating and listening and compromising and forgiving and finding patience and running out for frozen yogurt at 10:00 at night—that’s what’s hard. Feelings only matter to you—it’s making your person believe your feelings are real that’s all the trouble.
- Go to bed angry. Sometimes, there is a point beyond which, nothing good is coming down the pike. You’ve talked and yelled and fought, and there is no progress to make that day. If you haven’t already said things you’ll regret, you’re about to. A good night’s sleep can be your saving grace. (But don’t be an idiot and refuse to sleep in the same bed, if your only alternative is an uncomfortable couch. Not that I’ve ever done that. (Twice.) Just respect that invisible line down the middle of that deliciously comfortable bed.)
- Love does not always conquer all. Sometimes timing does the conquering. Or logistics. Or baggage, or fear or wanting different things out of life, or mental illness or money or kids or sex or lack of sex or too much booze or too many Daddy issues or too much debt. None of those things necessarily negate the very real love that may be at the center of it.
- Love is not a hypothetical. You have all these ideas about who you are but that’s all they are–ideas–until a relationship either confirms or denies them. You learn what you’d actually do in a situation, and sometimes it’s miles from what you thought you’d do. Sometimes you’re kinder than you might have thought, sometimes weaker. Sometimes you surprise yourself because you’re better and stronger and more, sometimes you shock yourself with your smallness. You can’t know until you know. The worst thing you can do is berate yourself for not being “the kind of person” you thought you were. You’re not a “kind of” person, you are just you, just a human being who is fallible and scared, and who made some choices you didn’t think you would.
- Laugh at everything, especially yourselves. The best parts of wading through the muck of a relationship are the funny stories you get to tell.
- Let your person off the hook because you can. Cut slack whenever possible.
- Stay in your own goddamn lane. Don’t consume each other, tempting as it may be. Make sure you’re still your own person, with things that have nothing to do with one another. The best thing that you can do is remain in a place in which you know that you’d be ok without your person. You’d be devastated and lost for a while, but your world would not end. There’s a pressure that your person will feel when you’ve made her your entire world.
- Motives matter except for when they don’t. The trick is figuring out which category any given situation falls into. Ultimately, if someone can make you feel loved then all the other details fade away, and if they can’t then at a certain point the reason why becomes irrelevant.
- Love is not salvation. You cannot save anyone. No one can save you. You cannot be “fixed” by a relationship. You can help bring out the parts of someone that are capable of saving himself—provide the scaffolding for him while he does the actual work–but that’s it. If you try to save him, you’ll fail and you’ll both end up feeling small. And if you’re relying on him to save you, he’ll feel that pressure, and he’ll resent it. And then he’ll come up short.
- Allow for weakness. Hers. Yours. Yours plural. We are all weak and pathetic sometimes. We all have buttons that can be pressed, deep-seated issues that make us especially vulnerable and unable to see the truth. Quiet fears run deep. You have to give your person the space to be her lesser self sometimes, despite how frustrating it can be. Knowing that she can be weak in front of you is called safety.
- It’s not always personal. One of the hardest things to do is accept when someone’s behavior affects you but is not about you. We all have our own baggage, all of that soft underbelly that gets touched randomly on a 4:00 on a Wednesday afternoon when you don’t load the dishwasher correctly or buy the wrong kind of apples at the store. Don’t make it about you when it’s not.
- But your feelings are always personal. Even when her behavior isn’t about you, if you’re hurt by it, you’re allowed to be hurt.
- Surprise! Flowers on a random Tuesday. An “I love you” out of the blue. Making her spinach when she’s off carbs even though everyone else is having rice. Turning her seat warmer on before she gets in the car. Telling her how much you hate all the same people as her. Small surprises go such a long way.