In November of last year, I decided to flip through my journal. I came across this entry: “I believe in love.”
Really and truly. That’s the exact sentence that I wrote in my journal about two years ago. And I’m not just saying that because I’m now writing for I Believe in Love. Promise.
Here’s the rest of the paragraph: “I am obsessed with love. I am a hopeless romantic and believe that God has planned the most incredible human love story that I have ever heard.”
Since I started journaling in middle school (albeit on and off), most of the situations and people I’ve vented about have been related to relationships. I love romance stories. My dad always grumbled when it was my turn to pick a movie for family night, since I would without a doubt pick something with a lot of kissing.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with some romance stories. But I began to believe in romance stories that just didn’t match up with reality. From the time I was a teenager until I wrote that journal entry, I spent most of my time making poor decisions in my relationships because of the lies about love that I believed.
False love stories told me that it was okay to have sex without guarantee of any sort of commitment, let alone marriage. After all, most of the time sex leads to marriage in books and movies. Right? Except it never did for me.
False love stories told me that love was easy, that it would solve all my problems.
Except I still had highs and lows in all of my life, no matter which relationship I was in.
I kept following the formula provided for me in the media, and it never turned out well.
At one point in graduate school, I had a one night stand. There was an emptiness inside of me, and I was using physical intimacy to try to fill it. But after that sexual experience, I was still sad. In fact, I was even sadder because I felt even emptier.
That was my wakeup call. I finally knew that the love stories I had devoured had warped my perception of love and sex enough that it was negatively impacting my own wellbeing—emotional AND physical. I called a therapist as soon as I got into my own bed in my own home.
In therapy, I began to recognize that I suffered from anxiety and depression. I finally knew that fear and doubt and worry would always be a part of my life—even if I was in love. My expectations of perfection, like the idealistic romances I consume, were just not realistic.
Slowly but surely, my view of love began to change. Enough that by the time I wrote about love in that journal entry, I had this to say: “I guess it’s just that with my One I will be able to express these [fears and worries and doubts] and still feel safe and secure in the uncertainty.”
I started dating my now-fiancé a few months after I scribbled this down. A month after I re-read these words, he got down on one knee and ask me to spend the rest of my life with him. I said yes because he was the only man with whom I had been able to share everything—the good, the bad, and the incredibly ugly. I can express all of my uncertainties with him because I feel safe and secure in his love. I know he loves me. That’s one of the few things in life I can be certain about.
I still read and watch love stories. But I’ve learned to discern what’s true about those love stories and what’s just a fantasy.
I’ll wrap up this post by sharing the final pieces of that journal entry: “I want a love story…that works because we fight for it. Because we fight for each other.”
That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned about love. True love isn’t always easy, but it is worth fighting for. That’s the one thing those romances got right: Love is real. And I believe in love because true love has given me the strength to keep fighting.
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