I can remember back to a phase right after college where it seemed like everyone was getting engaged, planning weddings and having babies. It was a phase of life filled with joy and excitement and possibilities. A whole new life just beginning for so many of us.
Fast forward to over a decade later and we’re now entering a new phase. One filled with more heartache than I expected. Friends who are struggling, marriages that are ending. Relationships going in separate ways.
And all of a sudden, in the midst of our imperfect marriage, I feel like maybe JonPaul and I are one of the lucky ones.
Maybe somehow despite the chaos of moves and babies and career changes and just life – somehow we made it out the other side. Somehow we’re holding on. Our love story still lives on.
And it’s not because our marriage is perfect by any means. In many ways, it’s the complete opposite. But rather because at some point, our marriage changed.
When JP and I were first dating, and first married, our relationship felt like a fairytale. He waiting patiently for me after work with flowers laying on the front seat of his car. Sweet love letters in the mail for no reason. Showing up unexpectedly on business trips just to say “hello”. It was the kind of love and courtship I had always envisioned. Sweet and exciting and filled with butterflies.
And then somehow, all of that changed. Little by little, baby after baby, little bits of (what I thought was) the fairytale relationship fell apart. The “perfect” marriage didn’t feel quite as perfect.
About seven years into our marriage we hit a rough patch. It was a bad combination of kids and work and life and not knowing how to make the other priority. I remember wondering for the first time if we’d make it. We were lost.
It took us a long time to get back on track. And if that experience taught me anything, it’s that the problem was never JP. Or me. Or even us. The problem was what I believed love should look like. What it should feel like. What marriage really is.
I remember years ago reading an article about the expectations our generation places on the idea of marriage. About how so many of us expect ONE person to be ALL things. Be spontaneous and exciting – but dependably home every night at 6:15 like clockwork for dinner and to help bathe the kids. Be passionate and physically romantic – but don’t forget to kiss the kids goodnight before doing it (or be upset when they want to crawl into our bed in the middle of the night). Be a best friend, help with the laundry, know our budget to a penny – but also impulsive and romantic and don’t forget to sweep me off my feet while doing it.
Spontaneous, but predictable. Over the top romantic, but practical. Pursue your own dreams and be inspirational, but don’t forget to support me 100% in mine too.
It’s impossible. An expectation that sets us all up for failure.
And very quickly, I realized I was guilty of this. I had an unsaid expectation for this ONE person to be ALL things. And a false idea of what love was supposed to look like and feel like.
So we made changes. And we recalibrated what was important to us. What we really wanted. What love really looked like, for each of us.
Since then, it’s been a different kind of love….
It’s less flowers on the front seat of my car, and more leaving a work meeting early to help with ballet and lacrosse pick-up.
It’s less romantic date nights out, and more sitting side by side at the bottom of the stairs sharing a bottle of wine as we quietly listen for the kids to finally fall asleep.
It’s less love letters in the mail, and more sitting and listening as the other cries because they feel like they’re failing, and not stepping in with an opinion, but just listening.
It’s quietly comforting a sick child in the middle of the night so the other can sleep.
It’s getting up at 5am to quietly unload a dishwasher every morning so the other one can start the morning rush with a clean kitchen.
It’s a love that’s built on service, commitment and selflessness. It’s quiet and humble and showing up every day trying to put the other person first.
Love looks and feels different these days because we’re different.
I look at where JP and I are at today, and we are nowhere near perfect. But our marriage, and the love and respect I have for him today are stronger than they’ve ever been.
I think it’s because we realize our marriage, and our relationship, is a living, breathing thing. We’ve learned to let it grow and change and evolve. So what worked for us over a decade ago when we were just dating, doesn’t work for us anymore.
Love looks different for us now, and I’m sure a decade from now, it will change once again. But the work is in allowing the evolution to happen.
The man I walked down the aisle to almost 13 years ago, is a totally different person. And I am as well. So for today, we meet each other where we’re at and do our best to fall in love new again each day.