I keep going back to a conversation I had with a friend a few years ago. We were in the early stages of getting to know one another, and we talking about how we got together with our respective partners.
‘To be honest’ she said ‘I didn’t really fall in love with W until we’d been married for about six months.’
I kind of goggled a bit. How could you marry someone you weren’t already in love with? But I get it now.
Love is not the exciting part. Love is not the quivering, trembling, breathless excitement. Love is not the big romantic gesture. Love is not the thoughtful gift. Love is not the twisting, endlessly unfurling rollercoaster of joy, of exhilaration, of bouncing around because the two of you made a private joke in public that no one else will understand. Love is not endlessly fawning over one another to the exclusion of everyone else in your life.
Love is… love. Putting up with the crap bits. Being steadfast, loyal, true. Love is washing his pants. Love is spending 15 minutes of your time rearranging something for him, something he could have done himself, but you do it to make his life easier. Love is taking an interest. Love is sending stupid jokes, not because they’re funny, but because you want to make him smile and know that you are thinking of him. Love is saying ‘Rant about it to me. There’s nothing I can do, but a rant will make you feel better.’ Love is taking a moment to appreciate all that he has brought into your life. Love is being there, is listening, is putting out a hand to reassure. Love is doing something for no other reason than to make someone else happy.
Love is not teenage giggling, thinking you’re being clever. Love is not the public display of affection. Love is not announcing to the world just how special someone is. Love is not constant retweets, favourites, likes and shares. Love is not writing self-indulgent bollocks to and about one person. Love is not creating your own world.
Love is unselfish. Love is forgiving. Love is seeing all the bad parts of him, the bits that drive you absolutely fucking insane, and putting up with them. Love is wanting to smash his fucking face in at times, telling him so, and both of you retreating to different corners for a spot of silent sulking. Love is not treading on eggshells. Love is honesty, however much it hurts. Love is brutal. Love is raw. Love is knowing you cannot live without him, whatever that ends up being. Love is not proud. Love is deep, primal, painful.
Love is not romance. Love is not lust. Love is not happy happy joy joy. Love is not boastful. Love is not fun. Love is not a gleeful little secret you keep hugged to your chest. Love is not cryptic posts on social media. Love is not a white knuckle ride. Love is not jumping around the room because he paid you a compliment. Love is not a fake reality we create for ourselves because being a grown up is dull, and parenting can be boring.
Love is every day. Love is mundane. Love is boring. Love is wanting to know how your day went. Love is offering advice on that tosser at work. Love is the rubbish stuff. Love is spending hours making mind-numbing small talk with people you don’t know, because he wanted you to be there. Love is offering support. Love is saying ‘I know things are overwhelming for you right now. I’m stepping back, so you can focus on what you need to get done. Just give me what you can spare.’ Love is enriching, reassuring, strong. Love is unselfish. Love is making no demands, no ultimatums, no footstamping tantrums. Love is knowing that you connect. Love is silence. Love is saying ‘it’s ok’. Love is life changing, but it leaves lives unaltered, untouched, unharmed. Love is pure, direct, unfiltered. Love is honesty.
I love. And my love sustains, renews, replenishes me. I love him. And if, one day, I and he do cease to be we, I will still love him. As a friend, if nothing more. He makes me a better person, in every way, in every small moment. I don’t need to show it to the world. And he won’t say it, but I know he loves me too. That is what love is.