All relationships have their fair share of ups and downs. Navigating the twists and turns of romantic relationships can be a difficult task especially for the individual who has yet to understand his, her, or their self. John Lennon’s song, “All You Need Is Love,” just may be true, depending on one’s definition of love.
The cool, January, Atlanta air whipped across our faces as we gallivanted around the city. My heart was consumed with joy as he wrapped his protective arm around my shoulder. “You should walk on the inside, away from the cars,” he said switching sides with me. I appreciated how attentive he was to small details. His concern for my safety was comforting. I had a boyfriend who actually cared if I was warm, and knew proper etiquette required the man walk juxtapose to the street.
We continued on our date listening to the rhythmic sounds of an elderly fellow playing the bongo. “You two look like you are in love,” he questioned, “How long you been married?” We weren’t married. We’d just made the decision to formally court one another the night prior. However, I just knew that if my new boyfriend asked right then, I would have been elated to marry.
18 months later, I would find the man I just knew I wanted to marry, down on one knee. 18 months and he developed a deeper love for me. 18 months and I felt ambivalent. 18 months forged paths that were diverging. Nevertheless, I took a leap. I said yes, and we married in 3 months time.
Just as the seasons turned Earth cold, so did my heart. What was supposed to be blissful was nothing like the warming love I experienced on the cool winter day when our love was new. I searched frantically for the happily ever after, fairy-tale-like ending that television portrays. I felt so lied to. I didn’t find it fast enough. I. WANTED. OUT.
During this time, I was too stubborn to admit that I no longer wanted to be in a relationship. In fact, I’m still not sure if an end is what I actually sought. Perhaps, I was just so used to men mistreating or abandoning me that I was preparing myself for my inevitable fate. I purposefully did little things to push him away while simultaneously numbing my pain.
Someone who I’d been friends with for nearly seven years at that point, I could not stand the sight of him. The most sickening part of it was that the problem was the woman in the mirror—not him. I hated looking at him because it was a constant reminder that I was not ready to love someone who I truly loved. I could not stand to look at myself because I just was not ready to face me. And we paid for it.
What I wish I knew
Before we married, I wish I knew that marriages take work: a significant amount of emotional, physical, and mental work. I did not realize I was hiding horrendous emotional damage behind mask after mask of “happy relationship” until it became a relationship with someone I considered my best friend.
Love is not a warm bubbly feeling of butterflies and constant bright smiles as described on our first date. Although that is amazing to have, it just is not feasible for a feeling—any feeling—to be omnipresent with the same amount of strength. Feelings come and go, but actions…someone’s character, remains consistent. I had to learn that the feeling of being in love, what many describe as “the honeymoon phase” ends. When the phase ceases to exist, the couple is left with each other’s character and actions which makes one another feel loved. And love is truly defined by your actions towards those whom you claim to love.
So, I stopped looking for butterflies. Instead, I started looking for me. I never knew what made me feel loved. It is impossible to communicate to someone how to love you if you do not know how to love yourself and vice versa. One can learn such things while in a committed relationship; however, I completely understand why dating yourself prior to dating anyone else is critical, now. The key here is to love your partner in the way they feel loved and ensure that you are being loved in the way you feel loved. It only took almost losing my best friend and husband to figure it out.
I also wish I knew how vulnerable I would become through our marriage. My best friend knew quite a bit about me, but I wasn’t sure if he was really ready to handle the down-and-dirty, ugly bits that I kept tucked away in forgotten basement boxes. I believe that black women feel the need to be perfect at all times. Strong, do-it-all, Wonder Woman, take no mess, back down from no challenge, strong. Yet, when someone lives that close to you, they see all your flaws. It shined a light on the fact that my constant attempts at perfect were getting worse and worse especially since I added the new title of wife to my duties. Then came the time to open up about what I was feeling. Was I ready? Absolutely not! I began to withdraw, and held everything close to my chest. What I learned? More often than not, it is better to open those boxes and clean house. Someone will go into the basement at some point in time. Eventually, with a plethora of individual counseling (sometimes marital is needed, but remember, I identified myself as the problem), mentorship, and prayers, I learned to open up—which leads to my next point.
I wish I knew dating would have to be intentional. We currently have no kids; however, I have a laundry list of professional and personal goals. His number one priority is family; yet, the military life can interfere with that sometimes. For us, as with many couples, it can be difficult to set aside time for one another. We sometimes do impromptu dates in which we’ll dance to no music or play a board game. At other times, I’ll find a text on my phone that reads, “hey girl. You got plans tonight?” We flirt daily despite the cheesiness. These small actions keep things fresh, and have potential to evolve into pertinent conversation that we may have forgotten we needed to have throughout the hustle and bustle of the day.
The truth is, not all relationships can or will play out like ours. Every marriage has bumps, obstacles, and roadblocks. Sometimes, bailing on the relationship looks more appealing in comparison the current difficult moment you may be experiencing. My husband and I have been there before. These are things that each individual couple must assess for themselves. But I have found, when all parties are exhibiting the true actions of love, not just the feeling, then yes—All you need is love. And maybe, just maybe, the bane you are experiencing will once again, become bliss.