At eighteen, I suffered the deepest heartbreak of my life when the guy I gave my virginity to dumped me and froze me out literally overnight. He wasn’t exactly the kind of guy I imagined myself marrying and having children with, but I had desperately hoped our love would be strong enough to last a lot longer than it did—and maybe I was hoping he would change and become “marriage material” in time.
What happened, as I’ve written before, was exactly the opposite. He shattered my heart and left me in a depression so dark that I turned to alcohol and self-harm to numb my pain. Thrn, over the course of several months, and with the incredible support of family and counseling, I did the slow work of healing.
But during that time, in some of the darkest, saddest moments of my life, I never gave up on the idea of true love. Even in the midst of my own pain, I believed it was real and that people really do find it.
I was lucky to be raised by parents who had always had a faithful marriage. Having lived in the same house with them for eighteen years, I knew it wasn’t a perfect relationship; they had their share of arguments and occasional tension. But the fact that my mom and dad had committed to one another for life, and most of the time seemed happy to have done it, gave me strong reason to hope for my own future.
My grandparents on both sides had also been married for more than 50 years. Again, I knew their marriages weren’t always easy. Even though I was young, I had overheard enough conversations between my parents to understand that. But the fact that they had committed their lives to working through their problems was also easy for me to see, and I understood that that is what love is: Love isn’t the absence of struggle or disillusionment, but walking together through it.
I believe that seeing these long-term committed marriages struggle once in awhile, and yet seeing the joy that came from sticking through the hard times, is what gave me the hope to continue believing in love even in my heartache. Had I only seen picture perfect, Hollywood versions of love, I couldn’t have believed I would ever have it.
But seeing the marriages of my parents and grandparents helped me believe that true love is available to people like me: a normal, average person, but one willing to make a lifelong commitment. I don’t believed in the fairy tale story anymore—that when a couple says “I Do,” they live happily ever after with no more troubles. But I do believe in commitment and promises that come with saying “til death do us part.” I’ve seen six people do it, so I know it can be done.