I don’t really know when we started the “Love is …” little game we play. It was somewhere between reality and life is hard. In retrospect it’s around that time in every woman’s life when you learn to appreciate different things about The Notebook — like the most beautiful scene isn’t the swans; it’s staying in an old folks home you don’t really need to be in just to be near someone you love. When you realize the falling is the easy part and the staying is another animal entirely — an animal that fights against being tamed and has teeth sometimes. Around the time you realize that the wedding is the starting line and not the finish.
Love is doing a lot of things you may not want to do without complaint and staying in love despite doing those things. For a hearty chunk of our lives we focus a lot on the falling. We dream about it. There’s a lie we were told and believed that when you find “the one” the rest is much easier. Married couples fight because maybe they never were meant to be together or someone changed, we tell ourselves. Marriage is the most complicated endeavor I could imagine a person to enter not only willingly but with great enthusiasm. And the truth of it is that marriage is a lot like parenthood. It’s not that everyone else has it wrong and surely it must be easier than those old married ladies say it is, and your marriage will be blissful with fights that are really not that bad because it’s all quite passionate and the making up is fantastic. The truth about marriage, in my marriage, is that it’s not the big stuff. It’s not an explosive fight. Ain’t nobody got time to clean up explosions around this house. The tough thing in marriage is the tough thing that’s thread through all our lives and threatens to rob us thoroughly of joy. Complacency. Everyday. Ordinary.
The tough part is accepting that loving someone is just as hard as people said it would be. And that’s OK. You don’t have to apologize for it. I’ll say the thing that no one likes to say because they know people will think, “Bless her, their marriage is ….” Marriage is hard. Like as hard as that time I trained for a 5K and never quite finished. Hard hard. And that marriage being hard isn’t an indicator of how long your marriage will last, how much you love your spouse or whether you’re doing it “right.” I’ve never been divorced, but I don’t think people just give up. Some do, perhaps. But, marriage is so much more complicated than that. People have written books.
So, here I am for the February issue and in the Valentine’s season being quite unromantic. But maybe that’s what we all need. A big fat dose of the truth. Marriage, like parenthood, looks a lot different on Instagram than it does in real life. In Instagram marriage there are a lot of lovely outings and kissing selfies and I’m always really tan. These things are true (sometimes I really am that tan without a filter), but they are only a slice of this big pie that is marriage.
Marriage looks a lot like me sitting in yoga pants with ratty hair smelling like peanut butter reading a book while Mike watches a football game next to me with a sink full of dirty dishes. Love looks a lot like sitting in the baseball stands with a layer of ice on your lashes and chattering teeth. Love looks a lot like Mike not saying, “I told you so” … again. I think honesty is important. But in marriage I firmly believe you must accept that there are times when you can be right and times when you can be happy and sometimes, a lot of times, you can’t be both.
And that’s what love is. It’s being you and letting someone else be them. It’s accepting people for who they are. It’s doing crap you hate. And then doing it again. Love is doing things you really hate to do and doing them anyway because you love someone more. And it’s doing them knowing they may or may not ever do them back. It’s doing them knowing that keeping score is the easiest way to ruin a relationship. It’s doing them without grudge.
My phone has for as long as I can recall transposed “love” and “live” in autocorrect so that very often I text Mike, “Live you.” And isn’t that the truth? It took a while for me to learn that love is not a theory or a feeling. It’s a life. A life I choose each day. A life I love. Honey, I live you. Today, tomorrow, always.
Amanda Bedgood is IND Monthly’s Style Editor and mother to 2-year-old Wilder. When she’s not reading Cliff’s Notes for The Strong Willed Child, she enjoys snuggling with her husband, watching vintage Bubble Guppies and shopping for new hats.