In the last few years since I’ve jumped back into the dating game I’ve come to learn a few new things about my personal love journey. Some are new for me, and some I’ve had to bump my head against a few walls to learn along the way. With each lesson I’ve learned and I’ve grown, and most importantly I’ve loved. As I continue on my journey, I can’t wait to see what new lessons I pick up, and who I bring along for the ride.
Love Does Hurt
Fairytales, Disney movies, and granny have sold us the dream that love doesn’t hurt. They preached quotes along the lines of “When it’s right, love doesn’t hurt,” and we inhaled them like the very air we breathe. We went through relationships and chalked up every pain we endured to that love simply not being ‘right.’ Wrong. Love does indeed hurt. Now I’m not talking about abusive, manipulative, serial cheater kind of hurt; that love can kick rocks. However, if you’re doing love right you will feel the occasional sting of hurt. Growing through life together hurts because, well, growing pains hurt. Unless you and your partner are emotionless robots, you’re bound to disappoint each other or do/say something that hurts the other’s feelings. Doesn’t mean the love isn’t right, it means you’re human. It means you’re loving and learning each other, and sometimes that process includes a bit of pain that serves as a tool to teach you how to love your partner better.
Love is a Choice
I used to think love just happened. You meet, date, learn each other’s favorite colors, likes and dislikes, and then one day this magical epiphany occurs where you realize ‘Hey, I love this person.’ What I’ve come to learn for myself is that love doesn’t just happen, it’s a conscious choice. Each and every day from the moment you meet you have to make an effort filled decision to choose this other person. You choose to incorporate them into your world, get to know them, sacrifice for them, respect and be faithful to them, and you definitely choose to love them. The choosing doesn’t stop at love either. You have to choose them when life is amazing, and then again on the days when you can barely stand to look at each other. You have to choose them despite the endless options and opportunities to choose others. Sometimes, you even have to choose to walk away because you’re more important than the need to be in a relationship. The choices may often seem small or mundane, but knowing that each and every time that you choose, you choose love, makes it all worth it.
Love is Work
I look around at some of this generation’s examples of love and it makes me sad. Love has become a source of fleeting, instant gratification. We want it, and now, but just as soon as we find ‘true love,’ we quickly trash it for the chance at love with a newer and shinier plaything. We want love, but the minute having it becomes harder than simply hashtagging a bunch of Instagram posts and quoting Beyoncé and Fetty Wap, we don’t want it anymore. Our #relationshipgoals don’t include any actual goals anymore; having goals would mean we would actually have to work at this love thing and who in the world has time for that? Why work through those couple of years when the money is funny, or the months when the sex isn’t as awesome when it used to be, when you can simply blame each other for the problem and get a divorce? No one wants to work for love anymore. No one wants to get down and dirty confronting the demons, sifting through the mundane and thugging it out past all those un-Facebook worthy moments. But that’s exactly what it takes to get, keep and maintain love. No couple truly worthy of #relationshipgoals will tell you it was easy. Sure there were great times, vacations and laughs, but there were also sleepless nights, days of silence, boredom, struggle and some other ish not worthy of doing for the ‘gram. Yet despite those moments they pushed through, they did the work required individually and as a team to keep their relationships moving forward. They put in work, and many of us would find the love we want if we were willing to do the same.
Love is Deeper than Sex
When I first started my most recent relationship it began as one that did not include sex. For so long one of the elements I deemed important in the game of love, is sex. The power of sex in a relationship can sometimes feel omnipotent, with a lack of it causing you to feel unattractive, unappreciated, unworthy and sometimes even unloved. I often felt like it was a connection that was needed for love to be solidified, however one thing my journey has taught me is that love can be expressed without sex. Creating intimacy with your partner is bigger and deeper than sex. Each kiss, each meaningful conversation, each thoughtful act of service, allows you to connect with each other in a way that allows you to truly see each other. There are no pretenses or superficial attachments when you take the time to build a foundation on something other than physical desires. While I still believe sex is very important in a relationship and provides a different way to connect with your partner, it isn’t love, and should never be mistaken for or used as a substitute in the creation of something real.
Love is Vulnerability
This is an area of love that I’m still learning. As a way to appear strong and protect myself from hurt I spent years being an all guards on deck around my heart kind of chick. Not cold, icy, angry or bitter, but I never fully allowed another person to see me because as dope as I know I am, I was afraid they would get a glimpse and not think the same. I never asked for help or did all the silly things I do when no one is looking, and I avoided going beyond my surface by focusing on what I could do to be Superwoman for him. I gave you enough to like me and to care about me, but never enough to truly know me or see me. Doing so is scary, it means taking a chance at getting hurt, and after being hurt a few times, you simply start finding ways to avoid the burn. But what I’m learning is that avoiding the vulnerability is blocking my blessings. Not allowing someone in means I keep love out, not allowing myself a moment to be seen, means love ends up passing me by. Not being vulnerable means I never truly love. So I’m learning to be more open and not see this as a form of weakness. I’m learning to remove the guards and take the chances. I’m learning to allow other to see me and be okay with them possibly not liking or appreciating what they see. I’m learning to be authentically me, and in doing so, I’m learning how to truly love.
Love is Freedom
The best thing I’ve learned about love is that love is freedom. Not just in the ‘I can do whatever I want’ sense, but in other ways as well. Love is freedom to be yourself, to create your own rules, to define your journey, to laugh, to cry and to simply be. This isn’t just limited to romantic relationships either. Friends that create a safe place for you to bloom and grow are part of that freeing love as well. The freedom in love is boundless and exhilarating, and the more I open myself up to all the love around me, the freer I feel. The more dive into the freedom of love, the more I trust myself and others, the happier I am, and the more I wonder what took me so long to learn this lesson in the first place.