Once upon a time, I dated a fair amount. I dated guys I liked, guys I cared for, guys who hurt me or who I hurt, and in a few shining instances, guys I loved.
I still think about those guys on occasion, and what they’re doing now and what might’ve been. Not because I regret my life or how things have turned out, but just out of curiosity. I wonder if they think of me, and because I usually default to the worst case scenario, assume they don’t.
But in my experience, I have found dating love to be different than married love (or long-term love), which is different from the love I have for my cats, my family, and my children.
Before I started dating my now-husband, I always felt that my brain kept a placeholder for a garbage heap, and every time there was a fight or something was otherwise off in the relationship, a piece of garbage got added to that mental pile. And once things reached a certain point, then that was it, it was time to get out. Or if I’d met someone else who was more appealing and cleaner than my garbage-infested current paramour, then it was time to go. And of course it was always easier to leave when there was someone new and shiny waiting in the wings, even if I was mourning the loss of intimacy with the person I had loved prior.
Yet with my husband, that wasn’t ever the case. We fight, we argue, we disagree, we get on each other’s nerves, and in my lower moments I’ve definitely thrown or kicked things (when no one was around — this isn’t behaviour I’d want anyone else to witness), I’ve sworn, I’ve ranted… but there’s no garbage pile. I somehow suspected early on that this relationship was going to be one that lasted, even if I had no hint that he was going to mean that before we started dating.
And in the early days, that love was bright and shiny and exciting and all the things new love is. But of course that level of shiny isn’t sustainable long-term, and that’s good. Because where we are now is at a point where we just get to be ourselves, gross and normal as we both are. Because it is inherently comforting in not having to be embarrassed that you’ve been ill from something you ate. Or having someone pick up the slack when you’re too weak from gastro to do anything beyond sleep. Or have someone understand just by looking at you that you’ve had a stressful day.
There are many times he drives me crazy. But he balances me out and (un)fortunately for his sake, he gets to be the sane one when I’m spinning off in all directions and crying over whatever’s got me going in that moment. I read somewhere that a good relationship is two pillars leaning on one another — each one could stand on its own, but together they’re stronger, and that’s how I’ve always felt a relationship should be, and how ours is. We each bring our strengths to the table and mostly cover each other’s weaknesses. We’re both procrastinators and we both are kinda messy, but we could have worse habits.
We may not tell each other we love one another often (twice a year perhaps?), but we’re pretty good at treating each other with love and respect on a daily basis, which I think is more important overall. Words can be empty, and I’ve certainly said “I love you” and not meant it or not realized at the time I didn’t mean it, but actions are harder to fake.
(I was going to turn this into a segue about how the love I have for my kids is a horse of a different colour, race, and breed, but I don’t think that’s necessary. I wrote a piece in one of my own journals that I may share eventually about love and my kids and the phrase “I love you,” but it’ll keep for now.)