I remember the day I first saw him. At the amusement park where I worked, my boss had just hired a new employee. Broad shouldered with short dirty dishwater blonde hair, he was walking by the games in a bright and flashy yellow uniform shirt and a pair of cargo shorts. And as he walked toward my station, I got all giddy with my hair in two braided pigtails, my own bright yellow t-shirt, and short khaki shorts: I was supposed to train him on how to use the equipment and run the registrar.
I acted like a complete fool. I wanted to be in his thoughts, and I wanted to be his reason to come to work—because he was going to be my reason to be early and stay late. Looking back, I recognize that lust is part of what drew me to him. I wanted his attention. I wanted to feel the power I could hold over him every time he thought of me. At 16, I thought it was love at first sight, because there were butterflies in my stomach every time I saw him. I didn’t really know the difference between love and lust.
But as time went on that changed. When we began talking, I found myself drawn deeper into him as a person. I enjoyed his time and spirit—he was such a happy, fun, affectionate person. He genuinely cared for me and, to this day, loves me for every flaw I have. We learned to lean on each other. I found myself listening and learning and getting to know him for who he was, and there was no judgment there. His past was his past, and my past was no longer just the past but a part of me that I learned to open up to him.
Because as love deepens, you don’t want to hide your story or any facts about yourself, but you want to share them. Because love is about growing with your partner, through all the ups and downs of life. It’s feeling their happiness when they share the joyous moments of their story, and feeling their sadness when they reveal the hard times. And you find yourself lost in time as your interest changes and evolves into respect and caring love. You want to be there every step of the journey and be his fan club cheering him on.
Pretty quickly our relationship changed from lust to something different. I didn’t only want to be his girlfriend—I wanted to be his everything. And when he asked me to marry him I knew I wanted to be with him forever. I found myself wanting to be a family with him. I no longer wanted to have power over him when he thought of me; I wanted us to grow old together.
Since we married ten years ago, I’ve learned that love is not a need for attention or sexual gratification, but is being there for all the crappy times. In the failed jobs or sickness, you want to be the one that he turns to for comfort. Love is caring for the person and his best interests, even if it’s going against what you may want. Love is wanting to take all the bad moments and make them good. Love is caring for the person as if he were an extension of yourself. Love is being open to every aspect of life together, so that through good and bad times, your love grows and becomes more mature as your lives become completely intertwined.
As our love grew and matured, our lives became even more intertwined. For instance, we had our children, who are an extension of our love for each other. (After all, they were created from our love.) I got to see him as a father, and he got to see me as a mother, and while that can bring out different parenting styles, it also reminds me of how much we need each other, and how much our kids need us.
I now know that love is a lot deeper than what I thought it was when I was 16 and head-over-heels with that broad-shouldered boy who is now my husband. Yes, true love is deeper and more dependable than butterflies in the stomach and feelings of happiness that can vary from day to day. But there’s one thing I was right about in those early days: I still want to be with him for the rest of my life.