It’s the question some people spend an entire lifetime trying to resolve. Never mind the angst of not knowing what the meaning of life is or who killed JR (way before my time but apparently it was a big deal). This is the quintessential concept that cements relationships and sustains happiness. It makes us excited. It makes us scared. It makes us vulnerable. Is it really such a complex emotion as people make it out to be?
It wasn’t until I was much older, married and happily in love, that I realized knowing what “love” meant was a simple concept to me. Growing up, I never saw my parents engage in PDA other than hugs or quick kisses when they picked each other up from the airport. They never went out on date nights and I always thought it was strange that when other parents would go on vacation without their kids, they always brought us along. I did, however, grow up without any conflict. If my parents disagreed, I never knew it. I saw a wife who supported her husband through a number of lay-offs and never complained about the excess load or lack of resources. I saw a husband who championed his wife’s independence and always willingly. stepped in to alleviate her burden. I saw a wife who didn’t demand romance or pout when her husband forgot their anniversary. I witnessed a husband who would over exert himself with his kids when he was beyond tired from working 12 hours that day.
I saw teamwork and sacrifice and maturity and a lack of ego. I saw a growth mindset, a similar value outlook, and mutual respect, despite only knowing each other two weeks before deciding to marry. It was these concepts that were puzzle pieces to the framework of love I didn’t even know I was uncovering. I was lucky and blessed enough to grow up in an environment where love (and not only to a spouse) was not an abstract or elusive construct. It was very real and it was felt every day in our expression, our hugs, and our affection.
My experience with love was so substantial that I knew I wanted to marry my husband after one conversation. I may have been equipped with my parents’ example, but love can certainly be obscure with so many different emotions and hardships. With two small kids, two full time working parents, a busy travel schedule, and health and social obligations, our lives are far from easy. It’s natural to slip from the head over heels “in love” moments to the matter of fact “you’re just my roommate” tune. However, the amazing thing about love, is that while its core elements are constant, its dynamic is also fluid and evolving. As time passes and our experiences change, we aren’t the same people we were when we first fell in love. It requires us to grow with it. There are instances when practicality outweighs the passion or when date nights are folding laundry together and binge watching political thrillers. What I used to value of dining out has been replaced with sleeping in. It’s squeezing in one hour of makeshift massages or playing board games after the kids have gone to bed. It’s putting in the effort to connect when you’re exhausted from the day and logistics have been put to rest.
Love is letting it go when your wife comes thumping in with “King Kong” (or so I’m told) footsteps when you’re trying to go to bed. Love is letting it go when you have to constantly remind your partner to be proactive in their household responsibilities. It takes strategy and patience to avoid those pet peeves that could easily become landmines of resentment.
The concept of love is simple, but it does take work. It’s acceptance when your partner is different, it’s commitment to one another when times get tough, its open, two-way communication, it’s thoughtful notes throughout the day to remind yourself that someone is thinking of you. It’s affection and silliness and laughing with your best friend. It’s remembering that we all make choices and that donning a positive attitude through the challenges is one of them. Above everything, it’s mutually putting your partner above you- in thought and in action, in heart and in practice. In the end, love is subjective, but these are the foundational values, both the practical and the emotional, that I see are successful in my parents and their model relationship. Their marriage is one of true, unconditional love and one that evokes inspiration for generations to come.