Something that I’ve learned, had to begrudgingly accept, then eventually started to embrace, is this fact-
Feelings come, and feelings go. As powerful as they can be, human emotions are fleeting and unreliable.
As a hardcore romantic, it’s pretty out of character for me to say that. I’m a firm believer in love, in feeling, in wearing your heart on your sleeve and following where it leads. I love love.
Yet I realized that, for every person I was ever in love with, the feeling was so real, consuming, immovable, eternal. It felt like a love that could last forever.
Then it was gone.
For the most part, I recall my past with near complete romantic apathy. Sometimes I'm even filled with bitterness and resentment, mentally plotting a Gone-Girl-esque (but not as extreme) revenge, fists clenched, anger boiling.
And then that’s gone too.
This, along with several other recent experiences, made me believe that loving someone, with a love that stays, is a choice. Maybe I didn’t love my exes enough to choose them.
Or maybe, I just believed in love too much, and when I started to doubt it, the relationship was placed in jeopardy as well.
I’d always thought that if I could feel so much love for someone, a relationship will be second nature. Yet sometimes, love isn’t enough. Sometimes, more often than we’d like, love fails.
‘Love’ is to 'feeling,’ as 'Relationship’ is to… 'the practice.’
They’re related, complementary, similar, but love =/= relationships. Love can spark, sustain, or allow for a relationship, but it does not necessitate, equal, or translate to one. Not always, and if it does, not always perfectly.
“Love” is a feeling. It’s that flittery-fluttery warmth. A “relationship” consists of the nuts and bolts, the logistics, the idiosyncrasies, the communication, the day in and day out dynamics of that love. Love is the soul. A Relationship is the body.
A mistake a lot of us make is to bank too much on the feeling, that we expect the rest to come easy.
But it is not enough. It must be supplemented by practices in communication, affection, transparency, vulnerability, trust, comfort, assurance, and the like. You could have the most beautiful voice. But even the best singers have benefited from technical training, to learn how to be aware and in control of how to operate that beautiful voice.
What most relationships need isn’t more love, it’s a more mindful and proficient love. Because, most often-
People hurt the ones they love, not from the lack of love, but from a lack of understanding.
I learned how to healthily manifest my feelings, almost without knowing I was learning. It simply came with having genuine feelings to start with.
I fell in love with one of my friends. Someone I got to know in a very organic and sincere way, with no constructs out of the platonic.
I fell slowly and quietly, which ironically made it the most significant of relationships I’ve been in. My feelings never jump from apathy to butterflies- they’re based in a stronger sense of knowing and appreciation. I know him pretty well. And this lets me love him pretty well.
I don’t need grand gestures to know I am special to him. And I don’t get more than temporarily annoyed about our differences.
By taking the time to learn and understand someone, I’m able to see their mistakes simply as mistakes, and love them just the same.
In every other relationship, I had designed our relationship top-down: 'I want this cute picture, these words, this kind of love and appreciation. I want love.’
But that’s such a fallacy. I was looking for love in a person, not a person I could love.
So when the things I was looking for were less than ideal, I dismissed the person as being “right” for me.
And this is why people change. How they hurt. How they “become something they’re not.” Because they lose sight of their own roots, seeing each other only through the sensitive and critical lenses of a relationship.
It’s not that anyone from my past was necessarily “wrong” for me. It’s that it didn’t occur to me to focus on them, not the love I was looking for.
I know he is far from perfect. I’ll be the first to say that. But his imperfections are a part of him, the him that I love, the him that I choose, every day.
I know, now, that exercising your mind is NOT disrespecting your heart.
If anything, it’s putting into practice what you know your heart ultimately feels, even though it may not feel it at the time. Feelings can be clouded and tainted by so much, but if the love is true, it will lead you back to that person.
You have to let yourself feel, while exercising the ability to choose accordingly, not just blindly acting on impulse and emotion on a whim.
If this were 3 years ago, I’d be dismissive, almost offended by this notion. Because it all seems so unromantic- after all, “love is all-powerful. It’s destiny. He’s "The One,” or he’s not.“ Having to be understanding and accepting and patient had no place in the fairy tale I wanted.
I was wrong. There is nothing in the world more romantic than choosing to love someone. There is nothing more beautiful than loving someone for who they are.
So when you say "I love you,” to someone, make sure you are able to say,
“I know you, and I love you for you.”
Love cannot be forced. It has to come naturally, at its own pace, through understanding- just as a tree grows from a seed. Even though you can’t always see it. Even though that’s not where the fruit or flowers are. The roots need to grow. In time, it will grow to be beautiful. And you will love it, for what it really is.