As a young girl, I grew up believing in love. Yes, much of my earliest understanding was rooted in the “happily ever after” facade of fairy tales, where nobody saw what went beyond the “after”—it was just white dresses, wedding bells chiming, and the retreat in a carriage.
In high school, I met love again in the sonnets and plays of Shakespeare.
Love that could transcend time.
Love you could cross oceans for.
Love you lamented the loss of.
Love you’d never forget.
I relished in the melody of his words and hoped that some day, I’d be able to feel those things—if not in one person, spread throughout different types of relationships and over time. On the flip side, I also experienced love loss on the home front, watching my parents’ marriage crack and shatter, despite my earlier view of their love, so my rose-colored ideals fractured.
I had what I thought was my first love in those years, but it did not quite match up. We had different love languages, and they did not translate. After heartbreak and a season of sullen negativity, I threw my hands up and gave it to God. Too much attempting to squeeze water out of stone caused me to shift internally.
It finally found me, in the quiet of a theatre, with a boy who hung the lights and built the sets. I’d been searching for loud love, showy love, Hallmark card love, but it quickly revealed itself to me in subtle ways.
Sometimes love isn’t fireworks.
Sometimes love comes softly.-Janette Oke-
Laughter over movies and silly jokes. A mutual love of plays and musicals. Working alongside one another in a tech booth. Being driven home after a hard day’s work. My love language is quality time & acts of devotion. His is acts of service.
Don’t get me wrong—there were notes and flowers, occasionally. Little trinkets left for me to find. I just cherished them more for their spontaneity and simplicity. They were the sonnets I needed.
Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one’s life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath.-L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables-
We learned about love through our years in college, realizing that there wasn’t anyone else for the other. The fear of marriage failure left me hesitant to hope for an offer of his hand, but when it did come in the quiet snowy morning in New York, my heart mended. Nobody saw it but the two of us, and for that I’m grateful. I’m of the opinion (and forgive me if you don’t agree) that these moments should remain private.
Here’s where I’ll admit something after all of that gooeyness. If you fast forward past the ring on finger and wedding bells, the house buying, bill sharing, and kid rearing we have experienced in the past two decades since those first romantic gestures, I’ll be honest—love is harder. It takes more effort and there are lots of messy bits tangled in. Some of my best love moments come when we are all snuggled together on the couch, giggling at a movie, or when I cuddle up and read with our tiny humans. Love looks different, but it’s genuine.
This past weekend, sans our two kids, and with hours to ourselves, I felt those giddy teen/early twenties years slip back in. We still try to put effort into Valentine’s Day, because part one and two of our lives began on that date. It take more coordination of time frames now, borrowing babysitter/grandparents (thankfully!), and coming up with something sentimental is more challenging because it feels like all of the “regular” ideas have been done.
The world wants you to believe in manufactured love, artifice. If you don’t get elaborate wooing, is it really love with a capital L? I’m happy with the small things that don’t come gift wrapped, and time spent together.
The good news is that he’s worth it.
We are worth it.