I have been thinking a lot about love lately. About what it is, how we find it and how we develop more of it…
Growing up, I thought I knew what love would be like, or how it should be. In high school I only dated a little bit, and my first few years of college were the same. I didn’t really feel like I needed a relationship. I was independent and happy doing my own thing…I was a “free bird” like my dad always called me. Sure I knew what love meant to me in regards to my relationships with family and friends, but beyond that, a committed relationship with a guy brought on that ‘deer in the headlights’ type of a look…
So, for years, I based what I knew about love on what I heard and saw around me. “Oh-that’s how a relationship is supposed to be”, I would think…or with dating–“so that’s how it’s supposed to happen!” I was also raised in a church that focused a lot on love and family. We were advised to date, find our spouse, and start a family. We were also advised to wait until marriage to move in together and have sex…oh and don’t forget that choosing someone to marry was the MOST important decision you would ever make! No pressure. All great things of course, and I truly love and value my religion, but the pressure was on and I think from a young age I started to build my list of expectations.
So, to be honest, the dating game for me was kind of hard. Not always, but overall I didn’t feel like I fit “the norm”. Many of my college friends and peers were getting married left and right, at young ages, and only after dating a couple of months! In finding the one they wanted to spend their forever with, it seemed fairly smooth and easy…”picturesque”, if you will. Is this what love and finding your forever was supposed to be like?? Because I didn’t feel like I was having the same experience…honestly most the time I hated to even go on dates haha. I continued to gather definitions of love and “how it should be” when you are dating someone and making that marriage decision. Again, the expectations continued to build… “alright, this is what I am supposed to look for, and this is how it should be” I thought… It’s about falling in love with that perfect person. And it’s just easy, and perfect (for the most part). Cool!
What I didn’t know…is that I would learn and experience it all in my OWN way.
I never really heard about the hard stuff.
About how sometimes in dating and making that marriage decision, it’s hard!
That everyone is different and experiences love differently…and that it’s totally OKAY.
I had come up with all of these rules and expectations from what I saw around me. From the love songs I heard. From the social media feeds I saw…but what I didn’t realize is that love is different, personal, and really beautiful in the individual ways we create it.
“Choose your love. Love your choice.”
I thought that it would be all butterflies and fairytales and that I would fall madly in love just like that! (heck yes I love fairytales and believe in them)… and the truth is, I still got my fairytale…just not in the way I expected.
When I met the man of my dreams, I didn’t know he was quite yet. We started out as friends-he was fun and lighthearted. We would spend long nights talking, and I was a sucker for all of his hilarious stories. He lived life in a different, and happy way, and I wanted to be apart of it. He seemed to see me for me…
We started to go on dates and I actually kissed him first! Woaaah. Get it. Haha.
A few months later he bought a ring pop, got on one knee, and asked me to be his girlfriend. I was excited in the moment, but then freaked out for the next 24 hours. Was I ready for that commitment?? …I mean I wasn’t interested in dating anyone else, we were spending almost all of our time together…so what was the difference? The title honestly freaked me out, but I decided to go for it.
“Take it one day at a time” —that was my dating motto.
Months of dating passed and we were having a blast! Family and friends approved and the social media comments added to my confidence(may sound stupid saying that, but it’s true)
He said I love you. I said thank you…and then said it back a month or so laterJ
My heart was growing for this boy.
I met his amazing family and he met mine. Ohhhh boy it was getting serious.
As the months past, and our relationship grew, my heart continued to follow—but I also experienced moments of doubt and question. Did this boy and my relationship meet all of my criteria and expectations I had to get married? Were these doubts I was having “normal”? (what the heck does normal even mean anyway?)
I prayed hard for God’s help and guidance. I felt that “still, small voice” of peace when I needed it..and tried my best to hold onto it…but holy cow, Satan worked freaking hard to fight back. There was something inside of me though that KNEW this relationship was more than I could see…and that I needed to trust in that, my heart, and in my God. I also had amazing family members and friends that helped me along the way, especially my dad…
What I didn’t know then, is that my doubts and questions were normal. I just didn’t think they were, and so I latched on to them and built things up in my head. And things that were built up from my past were adding to it too.
I had felt the peace I needed (and these answers and peace come differently for everyone too. I wanted that lightening strike answer from God that I was to marry this boy…but that’s not how it worked for me) —and I had to learn to HOLD ON to that peace.
This boy was my perfect. And even through all of my imperfections, he loved me and cared for me more than I could ever dream of…I had felt what I needed to feel. I felt God’s love and approval. And instead of sticking one foot in when it came to the marriage decision and that level of commitment, I decided to jump all in.
When I made the ultimate decision to get married, I felt peace, and when the proposal came a month or so later, that overwhelming peace continued. I was going to marry the most amazing man, and I was so excited for our future… then something happened.
About three weeks later, a sudden dark cloud washed in over me. I can’t even explain how fast it hit, or why it did. It just did. I thought it was just the usual pre-marriage jitters, so I pushed through it, but things got worse. I went to try on wedding dresses for the first time and felt sick. Who feels that way when they are trying on wedding dresses for the first time?! …This dark cloud wasn’t going away, and I suddenly found myself crying uncontrollably. I would cry almost all day and I didn’t really know why. I couldn’t seem to get myself out of bed and the things that usually brought me joy felt dull. Everything felt hard. I mean EVERYTHING. Even showering. What was happening to the usual happy, care free, me? … honestly, it was weird how everything hit me so fast. Sure I had dealt with some minor mental issues in high school, and an eating disorder issue in college that brought on some mental issues for a while…but nothing like this. Nothing had hit me so hard, or so fast, and I didn’t know how to handle it. I was up and down, all over the place, and I couldn’t shut my brain off from all of the negativity. I was consumed, trapped, and I can’t tell you how badly I wanted to escape. As hard as it is to say, I was ready to end my life because of it.
Questions ran through my head over and over again. Why was this happening to me? Was this a sign of some sort that I wasn’t supposed to get married? I have always been about FEELING and ‘the way that I feel’- no logic (im working on that), and my feelings and emotions were all out of whack… we tried postponing the wedding. We thought maybe I was just under too much pressure. That seemed to help for a little, but the same dark cloud lingered and then continued to creep back in, consuming me more and more. I was so lost. Every negative emotion and thought seemed to take over my whole self—and I was no longer me. I loved my fiancé, but I didn’t know what else to do. I broke off our engagement.
The next month or so was a tearful blur. I literally think I cried for most of the day and didn’t get out of bed much at all. I thought that if it was the marriage that was making me feel this way, breaking everything off would make me feel better, but it didn’t. I just continued to get worse. I moved home and my parents saw that I was in desperate need of some help. They called a doctor and booked me an appt. Little did I know, this caring doctor would be an answer to my prayers.
Even after my first phone appt, I felt understanding and relief. The next few months were about starting over and building myself back up. Just keeping my head above water really! It took weekly sessions, medication, and a lot of patience. I discovered things about myself that I never really knew. I’d had OCD thoughts and perfectionism for a looooong time, and I had recently had a major depression episode….mental illness ran in my family, but I never really thought I had much of it.
I began to realize that everything that had happened to me in the last 6 or 7 months wasn’t because of my marriage or my relationship. If anything, that was my glue, my safe haven. Luckily the boy of my dreams took me back and we continued to date while I got back on my feet. He stuck by me every step of the way…and still does.
I started to feel more in control, and I knew without a doubt, FOR ME and no one else, that I wanted to marry this amazing boy! And quick haha. He needed a little bit of time (totally understandable after everything I put him through), but he soon knelt down on one knee again and proposed to me for the 2nd time J ….and it was amazing. I think because of everything we had been through, we felt more in love and ready for this next step. Happy tears came and we were married two months later…and I can’t even describe to you how much happiness and peace I felt that day. We both felt it. My family felt it. It was so real you could almost touch it. Im crying just typing about it right now. I got my fairytale in a crazy, completely different, hard, ultimately beautiful way…and the truth is, my fairytale is still being created.
Now I know some of you have already heard a blip of that story, but I feel like it is necessary to tell when talking about love.
So then you get married. And everyone tells you “you’ve made it”
People seem to forget about you (or so you think) and you aren’t that new, popular dating couple on social media anymore. (again, I know how silly that sounds)… I have dealt with ‘needing peoples praise and approval’ ever since I was young…and I am working on it.
But it’s you two against the world, and now the real deal begins. Learning and growing together…just you two.
And it’s about continuing to build that confidence and love. And daily choices and commitment. Wooo. Hard work!
The first couple of months were hard for me. Not because of anything new I didn’t know about my husband, but because we moved right after we were married to a new place where we didn’t know anyone, and he worked almost all day into late hours of the night…I became needy and clingy! (sooo not like me) Quickly irritated when he did anything else but focus on me with the little time we had together. We can all agree that I was a little crazy. But it’s cool! We got through it!
…The mental issues also didn’t go away. And I thought they would. Sure, they were 1,000 times better than before, but I still struggled…and the OCD would fire up every so often too. About stupid stuff I knew wasn’t a big deal, but I couldn’t get it out of my head. #brainissues… I started to learn though that God needed me to go through all of this. That this struggles were meant for me, and were shaping me into exactly who HE needed me to be. …‘my weaknesses will soon become my strengths and great blessings’…
Now we have been married for over a year.
I can’t tell you how happy I am that I married the man that I did.
We are far from perfect, I still have my daily mental struggles, and my OCD sucks sometimes, but we are continuing to learn and grow…
And something that I have learned about myself and love is…
Love is a constant choice and commitment. It is about building your love up brick by brick. It’s about charity and selflessness…all things that I am trying to work on daily.
Love is the pure love of Christ.
I know I have a long way to go, but I want to continue to build that type of mature love…
Continue to build that confidence in my relationship and myself…and not have to have that satisfaction and approval of others.
Continue to work on loving myself so that I can better love my husband and those around me.
Continue to work on not comparing myself or my relationship to others. (Yes, these things still happen when you are married—not just when you are dating)
It takes work.
Truly loving someone and seeing them the way that God see’s them.
Giving your whole heart…
All things that take TIME… & seeing yourself progress and develop these gifts over time is really amazing.
So what is love to you??
Love can be a lot of different things.
Don’t feel like your story has to be picture perfect…or like everyone else’s. We all experience love differently.
We all have different marriages and different things that work for us.
There is no set “right or wrong” when it comes to shaping your love story and “how it should be and feel”…everyone is different.
So you do you. Your timeline. Your experience.
And be gentle with yourself along the way…
I think I know, but I have a feeling I can’t even comprehend the magnitude of what true love is…