I didn’t marry my first love…and I’m okay with that. It seems like a crazy thing to admit for a woman who is happily married with two children, but I’m admitting it because I think it’s important to remind people that real love stories are not like the movies or those novels we so love to engross ourselves in. Real love happens over time, in ways we don’t often expect. Real love often happens when we’ve given up and are on the precipice of an all-consuming darkness.
I love to hear a good love story. A real love story. One with lots of plot twists. And you’ll hook me every single time if there is a point where it seems as if the ‘main characters’ won’t actually end up together. For me, that’s the point of no return, I have to know what will happen after that.
I’ve loved love for as long as I can remember. As a young teen, perhaps even a preteen, I dreamed of love. I wanted so badly to be swept up in someone else. I wanted someone to make me forget who I was and create a new life. I wanted to be simply enveloped in love… Always in a rush, always thinking too far ahead for my age, the idea of love bit me early and hard. I wrote notebooks full of songs and stories about love. The longing of it, the inevitable loss. Those early years spent experimenting in ‘dates’ that only meant we held hands in school and wrote little notes back and forth were just the beginning of my journey to find what love truly is.
We aren’t born knowing true love, not true romantic love. True love doesn’t even happen instantly…it takes years to develop. It takes mistakes, forgiveness, and above all, compromise. True love is not the moment your eyes locked with the person you decided to spent the rest of your life with. True love is continuing to love that person even when they make you angry. True love is fighting for that person, crying with that person, forging a life together when the world seems to want nothing more than to tear you both apart.
I still remember the way new love feels…I remember it because occasionally my husband and I still spend nights whispering under covers, giggling about things no one else would find funny, and tracing each other’s lips with our fingertips. I still remember the spark you feel down your spine as his hand brushes your lower back. The way goosebumps inch their way down your arms when he kisses the small of your neck… I remember because it still happens. Almost a decade later – he still makes me feel like I’m the most beautiful person he’s ever laid eyes on. All those seemingly small things, those small reminders of new, fresh, exciting love are what make love true.
I’m not a believer in love at first sight, but I am a believer in knowing when there’s something special between two people. I didn’t instantly love my husband when I met him. I’ve never instantly loved anyone in my life except my two children. Even with them, it took time to forge a bond. However, it didn’t take me long to feel a connection with my husband when we met. I couldn’t tell you what it was, even now, that drew me to him. But it was there, it was heavy, and it tormented me day and night. You see, our story is one of those stories full of plot twists. I couldn’t write a more unbelievable story if I tried…and trust me, I have a passion for writing about love. It’s a story I’ll sit down to tell one day and it’ll leave you on the edge of your seat if you don’t know it all. No one knows it all except he and I. Our story has always been a bit of our secret and I’ve enjoyed that.
I’ll never be one of those people who can claim they married their high school sweetheart. I’ll never proudly proclaim to teenage children that I’ve only ever had one real love or been with one person so they should wait for that one special person. Nor would I want to. I can tell you that I am thankful for every experience I’ve had to feel love and explore it. I can tell you that finding the right person to love is not easy, but it can be an amazing ride. There are different degrees of love, but anytime we open our hearts to another person we open ourselves up to learn. We learn about ourselves and about what it takes to make a relationship work. We learn what we do and don’t want in a partner. We learn what we should and shouldn’t do for and to ourselves. All the chances to love are also chances to grow. Whether it’s a small first love that consists of nothing more than love notes, or a big life changing event that breaks us into a million pieces when it’s over…it’s love. While love can end, what we felt in those moments does not change. Therefore, I’m thankful. I’m thankful to have grown and loved and lived. And to have found my person – the one whose love for me and mine for him does not fade, but grows. The love whose been there when I was at my worst and loved me harder. Those are the ones we hold onto, those are the ones that are real.
I didn’t marry my first love…but I married my true love. And in the grand scheme of life…true love is far more valuable than the first…