Today is Valentines Day. While waiting for my morning coffee an older man asked me how many bunches of flowers I had already received this morning. To which I laughed and replied, "None, my husband and I stopped doing that a long time ago". That nipped that conversation in the bud.
It led me to think about love. The love I grew up fantasising about. Where like Claire Danes in Romeo & Juliet I would catch the eye of a man who I would fall instantly in love with. I would find my true soulmate. And my life would be complete. Full of endless love and passion of the fairytale kind.
But real love isn't a fairytale. It's raw. Emotionally and mentally challenging. Like a mirror being held up to you so you can see your inner self, imperfections and all. And I've learned over the years (nearly 17) that true love is deep, complex and amazingly beautiful. In its own (fucked up at times) unique way.
A few things I've learned about real love:
You can't change a person
At the start, once the honeymoon period has worn off you try to mold the person into your own version of perfection. And many continue to try for years on end. Some even using manipulation to get what they want. But it only leads to resentment. A feeling of suffocation. A division of hearts. And a longing to be set free.
So there's no point trying to change a person. But respecting our differences and walking a path parallel but not conjoined. Where our strengths can support each other as we discover who we actually are.
No person can complete you
No person can fill the voids of your soul. You must do that for yourself. They can show empathy and give you their support. But the work to fill those voids must come from within you. From your exploration of life. Of understanding your emotions. And the discovery of who you are.
Constant comparison will get you nowhere
I've found this to be especially true since having kids. You're deprived of 'me' time. So you fight for any snippet of silence you can get. Often there is a constant battle between partners over who has more time to themselves. But it's a battle that won't be won. You will both feel like you have the short end of the stick. And at times you're fighting to keep your head above water. Looking at it with empathy rather than bitterness is the only way forward. And trying to come to a middle ground where you both feel you are being listened to and the needs of each other considered. Life changes when you have kids. Mutual respect and understanding can carry you through.
I also think that comparison of career success can negatively effect a relationship. Our career path takes dips and turns. We evolve. And we search for meaning in the work we do. So at times our financial position will change. It's through supporting one another rather than comparing and competing that we can progress towards a mutually desired outcome.
Honesty and communication are essential
We are all unique creatures. With our own complicated inner thoughts and feelings. We come from different backgrounds and upbringings. So of course at times our values and beliefs may collide. Communicating our differences and being honest about our feelings is necessary to understanding one another. To moving forward together with strength. Rather than forming a distrust and slowly separating over time.
Remember how to laugh and have fun together
Being an adult is hard at times. You have a lot of responsibility. And the world sitting heavy on your shoulders. So it's easy to push fun to the side to attend to more serious matters. But we need to laugh. To see the joy and humour in something. To be silly and childlike. And look at life lightly together.
So love. Real love...
It isn't all roses and butterflies. But a journey of its own beautiful kind. Strive to inspire one another. To uplift one another. To show support and grow together with strength. And allow each other space to flourish as we discover our own unique selves.