When I was a little girl, I believed that love would be packaged up in a beautiful story like it always did in my favourite fairytales. Whether it was Snow White, The Little Mermaid or Cinderella, the ending was always the same – the handsome prince would save the day. The prince and princess would fall hopelessly in love and ride off in some beautiful sunset. When I grew up, I desperately sought out for my own prince, and was left only with disappointment time and time again when the storyline in my head did not match my reality. Reflecting back at my past relationships, it is clear that my present-day definition of love has been shaped from the lessons I learned from each person who really touched my heart. Here are some of the experiences that taught me a little more about what love is…
Just because you love someone that does not necessarily mean that he/she is the right fit for you. In my early twenties, I met a man who lived in another city. I admired him and dreamed of how a long-distance relationship would work. That fantasy would never play out in reality. We were in different timezones, were in completely different stages of our lives, and had different priorities. While I loved him, and to this day have a special place for him in my heart, I know we would never work in a relationship together. We weren’t the right fit. I have realized that you can love someone, but that does not necessarily mean you are the right fit together.
Love takes many different shapes and forms. Sometimes it feels more passionate than other times, sometimes it feels intense and strong, and sometimes it feels safe and steady. But regardless of the form, the root of love is a constant – it is always there, just dressed up differently. I once dated a guy who one day came home and told me the words that no woman ever wants to hear, “I am not in love with you anymore. I do not want to spend the rest of my life with you.” Ouch. After that breakup, I reevaluated my definition of love. I realised that a committed relationship is not just about a feeling of being “in love”. It is not about lust, or chasing the high of unsustainable chemical reactions and hormones (also commonly referred to as “butterflies”). Love is about commitment, respect and dedication. Love is about honouring that commitment both to your partner and to yourself. Love is a verb, not a destination or a pit stop.
If someone hurts you, it does not automatically mean he/she does not love you. I fell in love with a man who I know loved and adored me with everything he had. Little did I know that the same man who loved me so dearly, would be the same man that would hurt me beyond belief. In the process of picking myself back up from the breakup trauma, I questioned the meaning of love. Because in my world, you don’t hurt the people you love. But I realized that even if you love someone, you can still be at battle with your own issues and demons. As a result, you can make decisions that have unintended, hurtful consequences on the person closest to you. That doesn’t mean the person loved you any more or less. I have realized that the man who hurt me did not do so because he did not love me, he just had his own stuff going on that caused him to make poor decisions. And unfortunately my heart was a major casualty of those decisions.
So what does love mean to me today? The different people that have come in and out of my life have been my teachers in the subject of love. Each person who had a piece of my heart taught me a valuable lesson and provided an opportunity for me to craft what love looks like in my world today. I will probably be an eternal student in the subject, but this is what love means to me:
Love is commitment. Love is a verb, not a noun. True, authentic love can only be shared when the two people in the relationship encompass self-love first. Love is not fleeting; it does not come and go with the feelings and emotions of the day. Love is not dictated by lust, rather, lust is just one of its many forms. And while love may not look like how it was portrayed in fairytales, it is magical. Because for love you will make sacrifices, you will be selfless and you will say sorry even when you know you are right. And when you hit a roadblock where the odds seem stacked against the survival of your relationship, you will fight for it with everything you’ve got. Because love is worth it. Because the person you have chosen to commit to is worth it.
Sometimes you will do things for love without rhyme or reason. And sometimes love is the only reason you need.