A Thought on Love

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Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called “being in love” usually does not last. If the old fairy-tale ending “They lived happily ever after” is taken to mean “They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,” then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be “in love” need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from “being in love” — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be “in love” with someone else. “Being in love” first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. it is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.

-C.S. Lewis

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On Love And Boundaries

10396272_10102363090449618_4654556018052806825_n 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.

On Soul Mates

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Yesterday Bryan and I celebrated a year and a half of marriage (which I know seems like nothing, but we like celebrating the small milestones). And here’s the thing—now, more than ever, I’m convinced that we were not meant to be.  I’m more certain than ever before that there are no such things as soul mates—not the destined to be together kind, anyway.

I don’t believe that Bryan and I were made for each other. I don’t think ending up together was the only option.  I believe that if we had never met, we both would have found someone else that made us just as happy, just as complete.

To me, soul mates are just too easy.

The idea of soul mates rests on the belief that there is one person in the universe created just for you. You search for that person your entire life so that you can finally be complete.  Before you were walking around just a half of whole, but not anymore—now you’ve found the missing piece.  There’s not another option.  That person is the only one for you. And you’ll find your soul mate—you have to—because it’s fate.

It’s a nice enough theory.  It makes for sappy songs and tear-jerker chick flicks. But love, I think, is something different.

The kind of love that the best love stories are made of—the kind of love that always trusts, always hopes, all always protects, always endures—is a choice. It’s the kind of choice that requires hard work and commitment.  It tests your selflessness, your patience, and your faith. It’s a choice that requires you to bring your best self to the table and to forgive when the other person fails to do so, too. It’s a choice that requires you to ask for forgiveness yourself, over and over agin, and to stay put when all you want to do is leave.

I wake up every single morning and choose to love Bryan.  When he doesn’t put his dirty plates in the sink or take out the trash, I choose to love him.  When he brings me mocha frappuccinos and makes me laugh so hard I cry, I choose to love him. When I can’t stand being in the same room as him, I choose to love him. When I can’t imagine my life without him, I choose to love him.

“Meant to be” is a nice idea, but I prefer the alternative.  There is something pretty wonderful about knowing that of all the people in the world, someone chose me. He could have picked someone else. The world would have kept on spinning, and we both would have moved on…but he didn’t.

I choose him and he chooses me. And I think there is something really special about that.