You Shouldn’t Have To Work At Love
If you do, then it isn’t love.
For months, I’ve seen sentiments similar to this one making the rounds on social media. And while proponents of such notions are certainly entitled to their opinions, I gotta say, I think it’s total bull.
Yet at the same time, I get a sense of where these thoughts might originate.
Let’s Consider The Following Scenario
The alarm clock goes off at 5:30 AM.
You feed the dog, let her out to do her business, brew some coffee, and then jump in the shower, all before you’ve even rubbed the sleepies out of your eyes. Once buffed and coiffed, you wake up the kids, cook them breakfast, pack their lunches, and put them on the school bus just in time for you to begin your morning commute to work.
After putting in 10 hours at the office, you speed like a NASCAR driver in order to get to the daycare center before it closes.
From there you burn rubber to a soccer match your kids were supposed to be at 20 minutes earlier. Your spouse, also fresh from work, meets you on the field, and you grunt your hellos before being sucked into conversations with other parents flanking you on the sidelines. Once the game’s over, you pull out your cell phone, order a pizza, pick it up on the way home, and then scarf it down in the car because that clock is tick tick ticking!
When you finally swing into your driveway, you tip your head in acknowledgement of your spouse, who just pulled in behind you and also caught dinner on the fly. Together, you all walk into the house, and the bedtime routine commences.
By the time your kids are tucked in, all snug as bugs in rugs, you’re about ready for a visit from the Sand Man yourself.
But just as you nod off to dreamland, you suddenly snap to attention, quickly shifting into full-on panic mode as you recall your promise to contribute something decadent to the school bake sale. You bolt to the kitchen and proceed to whip up enough double fudge brownies to feed a small army, while your spouse begins the first of two loads of laundry he must finish before his head hits the pillow.
So Where’s The Romance? Where’s The Love?
It’s there. It just needs a little resuscitation.
Allow yourself to think back for a moment. Do you remember that time?
When love was shiny, new, and euphoric?
When you and your partner were consumed by the depths of your feelings for each other?
When a mere kiss would make your head spin?
When your passion was off the charts, all hands and lips and skin on skin?
When everything you saw in each other was beautiful and perfect?
When you shared your dreams and cultivated new ones together?
I sure do. God, those were some good times. I lived in my own utopia. I was free. I was uninhibited. I was energy. I was alive!
So, What Happened?
The daily grind. The passing of time. The monotony of it all.
Things don’t change overnight. The process is so gradual that we usually don’t recognize what’s happening until years later when we swim in feelings of nostalgia, reflecting back on our youth while longing for the spontaneity, creativity, and excitability that used to live inside us. The good thing is that in doing so, we unearth our most precious memories of budding love, endless passion, and life without limits.
And it’s in the remembering that we can begin to do the work to get some of that back.
True love, the kind that lasts forever — it still flourishes in moments of magic, but it also takes work, compromise, respect and understanding to keep its engine running. No ifs, ands or buts about it. This kind of love is not found in the fall. The fall is infatuation. The fall is chemistry. The fall is novelty.
It’s what happens after those initial punch-drunk moments of courtship that determines a relationship’s longevity. Because that’s when we let our guards down and allow our true selves to come to light.
When love is new, we view our partners through rose colored glasses. We overlook their quirks and bad habits. We turn a blind eye when they have food stuck in their teeth. We find charm in their tendency to leave their dirty laundry on the bathroom floor. But as routines take over and life evolves into predictability, the glasses come off and every unsavory detail becomes magnified. As a result, the mere sight of a single unlaundered sock can compel even the most rational person to open up a can of whoop ass.
It’s not a blame game. It’s simply a very normal part of what many of us as couples go through as we navigate this topsy-turvy journey of life and love. Anyone who’s ever been in a relationship for any length of time knows that the demise of the so-called “honeymoon phase” is inevitable.
As we grow older, take on more responsibilities, and experience heightened levels of stress, the passion-induced euphoria we once reveled in goes poof.
So what do we do about it? Throw in the towel? Have an affair? Assume the love is gone?
It’s tempting to subscribe to the ill-conceived notion that love can only be experienced in shades of grandeur and hypnotic wonderment, where the passion fruit grows freely and the nights are filled with shooting stars scribbling sweet nothings across the sky in shimmer dust. But that’s not real life. And if you expect love to feel like that all the time, you’re not only setting yourself for disappointment, you’re robbing yourself of the many gifts that come from stick-to-itiveness, tenderness, and commitment.
We are human beings, and as such, we are imperfect creatures. There are moments of magic, and moments when we lose our way. There are moments of elation, and moments when we unwittingly become byproducts of life in these modern times, where technical advances and round the clock accessibility lump us in with a society of “doers”.
Sometimes we forget that it’s okay to catch our breaths and experience the joy of simply existing.
We never intend to make the ones we love feel like afterthoughts. But it happens. And it doesn’t mean we love them any less. But the truth is that sometimes, we forget to show it.
Daily obligations and even trivial tasks can feel insurmountable at times, replenishing themselves with unfathomable speed. And instead of fueling that fire that used to burn in our bellies — that compulsion to live in the moment and love with every fiber, we bury those impulses under fatigue and depletion, setting our sights on simply making it through the day.
And before we realize it, we’re riding that wave of banality. Sometimes, we ride it for so long that it becomes a strange source of comfort. And that’s a dangerous slipstream to head down because then we risk submerging whole parts of ourselves from the other. And when then happens, we begin to feel suffocated. But you know what? It doesn’t have to be that way.
Love isn’t going to sustain itself if we don’t nourish it. I’ll say it again: Love takes work. And I’m not suggesting adding a gazillion more items to your seemingly endless list of to-dos. But if you’re in a relationship and you find yourself at an impasse, weighted down by the daily routine or stuck in the doldrums of mediocrity, then do yourself a favor.
Open The Lines Of Communication With Your Partner
Now, I’m not talking about staying in an abusive situation or keeping a relationship chugging along that has truly run its course. That’s different. I’m referring to reestablishing that connection with the one person you can’t imagine living your life without.
Once you recognize the ruts you’ve slipped into as a couple, you can begin to make small changes to pull yourselves out, while embarking on a journey of self-discovery together.
Reminisce. Look at old photos. Watch your wedding video. Transport yourselves back to a time when your hearts swelled with fervent love and you were passion personified. Do some soul-searching. Talk things out.
As a result, not only will you begin to experience some of that magic that made you fall in love in the first place, but you’ll love each other on a deeper level than ever before. Because you’ve got history. There is romance within those ancient halls of shared memories. There are abandoned rooms that are just waiting for you to draw the curtains and let in the light.
So, what constitutes true love?
For me, it’s the look he gives me from across the room when he thinks I don’t notice. It’s the “I Love You,” he writes in the steamed-up mirror for me to find when I get out of the shower.
It’s the texts he sends me throughout the day, just to say he’s thinking of me. It’s the way we talk through our problems instead of letting them fester.
It’s getting through arguments with a better understanding of where the other is coming from. It’s making date nights a priority again.
It’s comparing notes about all the funny, silly, amazing things our kids said or did on a particular day. It’s not expecting the other to be flawless.
It’s recognizing when the other needs space. It’s never going to bed angry. It’s admitting when we’re wrong and saying sorry.
I wouldn’t trade what I have now for what I had in the beginning for all the money in the world. The beginning was breaking ground… laying the foundation.
The years that followed saw the walls go up, then the windows, doors, ceilings, and floors. We’ve built a home together. A life. Yes, it was work, and maybe it’s not perfect, but I think that’s the beauty of it. Perfection is overrated anyway.
So do the work and reap the rewards. Relive the magic. Feel the passion. Remember what it was like to fall head over heels and then show your partner how much you love and appreciate them.
Love doesn’t have to lay dormant. It is a splendid thing!
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