With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, it seems fitting to write a little about love. Truth be told, I actually love Valentine’s Day. I understand the grumblings about it being a Hallmark holiday and that you shouldn’t need a special occasion to tell someone you love them. That’s true. But we are imperfect people, and sometimes we just need the reminder of a special occasion. I also think we could use a little more celebration. And love, in all its forms, is certainly something to celebrate.
My husband and I went on a date this past Saturday night. That’s not really all that unusual, but on this particular night we really needed it. I had been sick all week, and by Saturday afternoon I was finally ready to pull my tired, lazy self off of the couch and leave the house. I even took a shower and put on real clothes for the first time in about four days, which was a pretty major deal. I got to introduce Bryan to one of my favorite places, and we laughed and ate Spanish food—croquetas, tortilla espanola, and calamari with delicious dipping sauce. And we talked. But we didn’t talk about work or friends or our house or families.
We talked about our dreams.
To be honest, it’s been a long time—too long probably—since we’ve done that. We talked about our dream jobs and doing what we love and how to make it happen. I talked about writing, and he talked about basketball and stats that made no sense to me at all. I left feeling thankful—not so much for the dinner or the conversation, but for those dreams. That they exist and that we can support one another in them. And that those dreams really have nothing to do with each other.
What I’m learning is that the best way I can love my husband (or my friends or my sisters or anyone really) is with boundaries. I love that we both have our own dreams that are just ours. I love that we both feel free to pursue them and to make those things priorities. I love that we both have our own things that make us happy and that we make time for them. I love that we spend time with friends every week apart from each other. Those things are important, and they make us better. Too many movies and books and fictional love stories try to tell us that a romantic relationship is all we need to be happy, to feel complete. They teach us that if we just put every single thing we’ve got into that one love story, then we’ll have everything we ever need.
Boundaries in relationships are about making your own happiness and sense of worth priority, because it’s not fair to depend entirely on someone else for that. They’re about learning how to share your life without losing who you are. I can’t give the people who matter most to me the best of my time and energy if I’m not caring for myself along the way.
The fairy tale that another person can complete us and make our life whole is a dangerous lie, and it’s certainly not love. Bryan’s life is his life and his dreams are his dreams and mine are mine. What we have together is a relationship and a marriage, and we’re growing it together every single day. We both put things into it so that it gets stronger and steadier with the more we learn and the more grace we choose to give. But it doesn’t have to rely on fear or guilt or desperation, because there’s something stronger to anchor it. A love with boundaries is a love that invites us to grow as individuals and as a couple, and it’s a love that enables us to be better for one another. And that is certainly a love worth celebrating.