Better Than Butterflies

What if the butterflies are permanently gone. Does this mean I have to end things? This fear nagged at me almost three months into my relationship with my boyfriend, Jonathan. We began dating the summer after my freshman year of college, with a 4-hour drive between us, most of our relationship took place over Skype and I was worried that I no longer felt that rush of emotion when we spoke. 

Carolyn and Jonathan on the day Jonathan left the hospital.

Jonathan was handsome, well liked, smart, funny, and serious about his faith. But I was having doubts about this relationship. I couldn’t remember why I had started to date this guy in the first place. I knew a lot about him, because we spent all of our time talking, but I didn’t know much about what it was like to simply be with him, in person. Where were all of those giddy feelings of lovesickness that I was supposed to be having? I was entitled to those feelings, right?

But those were my fears three years ago. Today, I’m getting ready to marry that guy I started dating over Skype. Did I reclaim the butterflies? No, not permanently, but I discovered something even better than that.

At the end of the summer Jonathan and I met on campus so we could discuss the relationship in person. Instead of breaking up, we made the decision to continue dating into the school year so we could learn to be in a relationship in the same city. I returned home that night feeling invigorated and excited for school to start.

The very next morning, Jonathan had a seizure and was rushed to a hospital near campus. He went into emergency surgery a few days later to remove a non-cancerous tumor in his brain. This surgery left Jonathan exhausted, in pain, and temporarily unable to verbally express himself due to the post-operative swelling in his brain. I visited him in the hospital every day.

It was in these days that I learned most about who Jonathan is. Despite his considerable pain, he was always patient, kind, and cheerful, and his nurses loved him. Jonathan slept most of the time, so usually I would spend the time chatting with his family. Sometimes I just sat next to his bed, holding his hand. I was able to simply be there with him, which I had craved all summer long, and yet this was very different from what I had expected. After all of those long hours talking on the phone and over Skype, we were now quiet. The noise of flirty conversation and joking was gone, and I was able to catch a glimpse of Jonathan’s soul. I realized that I didn’t need those fleeting, unstable butterflies as much as I had once thought. When I held Jonathan’s hand on the hospital bed, I knew that he was the kind of man I could marry.

Sure, the excitement of new love can be fun, but I think it’s important to understand that our feelings can be unsteady, and that choosing a potential future spouse is made up of more than sweaty palms and a racing heartbeat. Of course, I am madly in love with Jonathan, but that doesn’t mean that he fulfills my every emotional desire. True love isn’t about personal fulfillment. It’s about giving yourself to another person in the way that he or she needs at each moment. That’s what I learned in Jonathan’s hospital room.

Jonathan had to take that semester off in order to make a full recovery at home. We found ourselves in a long-distance relationship once again, but I wasn’t worried anymore. I knew who Jonathan was, not merely the way he made me feel. I found that I could be devoted to him and not simply to the feelings I had when I was around him.

And now, instead of just giving each other butterflies, we’ll be giving each other wedding rings, and those last a lot longer.

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