I believe in love because I know that real love is more than just “being in love”. Real love is something we choose to do, not something that happens to us.
When I was a freshman in college, a bunch of us girls would gather in someone’s dorm room where we’d dreamily discuss our ultimate life plans: our future career goals, our future dream wedding ideas, our future adorable children, and of course, the future perfect husbands and perfect marriages we’d one day have.
As fun as these fantasies were, deep down, I knew it probably wouldn’t be quite as easy as that.
So I got out my journal and wrote a personal essay for myself about my true thoughts and hopes for the future marriage I wanted to someday have.
“Love, true love”, I wrote, “is putting up with a person day after day and learning not to be bothered by the little things that annoy you. Love is staying with a person because you committed to doing so forever. “
Several years later, I’d graduated college and met a guy named Kyle. We’d become friends, our friendship had grown, we’d started dating, we’d fallen in love, he’d proposed, and we were now engaged. In going through some old papers, I stumbled upon my long-ago written essay on love and marriage. And with my newly-engaged and ‘enlightened’ perspective, I decided to add to my original essay:
“Yes, I am in love” I admitted. “But I also LOVE. Love – not being in love – is a choice. It’s working together and committing to figuring out how to make things work even when it seems impossible. “
Even with my grandiose ideas about what love was, I still went into marriage naïvely thinking that I had it all figured out. I thought that for sure MY marriage couldn’t go wrong. After all, I knew what love was. I was destined to have a great marriage, right?
But time passed. Life happened. Trials came. Kyle and I grew into different people, and several years into our marriage we found ourselves at a crossroads. We fought all the time. We didn’t know who the other was anymore. We were not happy.
After one particularly nasty fight, Kyle threw up his hands and, referring to our marriage, he growled “I just don’t know what to do anymore!”
“Well, I won’t sign divorce papers”, I angrily snapped at him, “so I guess we gotta figure out something!”
Though I’d thrown the statement out in defiance and as a retort, neither Kyle nor I said anything after it’d been spoken. We both knew it was true.
We gotta figure out something.
Love: the choice to stay with someone because you committed to doing so forever; the commitment to working together and figuring out how to make things work even when it seems impossible.
We had to figure out something.
Our marriage didn’t magically get better from that point on. It took us many (many!) more months before we were able to effectively communicate without devolving into anger…but something tiny, yet significant, changed from that moment on.
We were going to figure something out. Together. Because we’d chosen love.
And I believe in love. Because I choose to love.