It’s funny to think how little of love is about romance. How in my life I’ve felt the most loved in the least romantic situations. When I woke from anaesthesia and was out of it and in a panic, and my future-husband came to my side to comfort me. His unreserved enthusiasm when I told him my plan to start my own legal practice, and how much faith in me he demonstrated when he encouraged me to invest our money in the venture. How he believes me when I tell him how I feel and how he puts his work aside to hold me when I’m having panic attacks.
I’ve jokingly referred to marriage as a very comfortable hole. As we become more entwined as couples, we close ourselves off from other options and opportunities. We exclude the possibility of other romantic partners, we limit ourselves to the jobs that enable us to live together, we compromise on activities and restaurants and movies that we can both somewhat enjoy because we can somewhat enjoy it together. We forge a deep emotional bond, we shelter and confine ourselves within it, and we furnish that bond with memories and hobbies and friends and children. Effectively, we turn our relationship with that other person into our favourite place – our home.
And sometimes we want to rebel against our confinement. We peer out from our burrows at the freedom and adventure and excitement of the single world. At the kind of romance that’s possible when you haven’t had to clean the bathroom after your partner had the flu. The kind of romance that is about possibility instead of being about responsibility. Affection and commitment born of passion instead of compassion. The look of adoration in the face of a person who doesn’t know all the little ways their beloved actually sucks.
But we can’t reclaim that kind of romance; and if we did we would find that we had romanticized romance. And so, amidst the grocery shopping and traffic jams and bad days at work, we have to find ways to constantly remember how incredible our partner is. To trust our love without taking it for granted. I still feel a rush of young love when my husband does something impressive at work or says something clever. My husband buys me a stand mixer instead of flowers and I buy me new lingerie for his benefit. I challenge myself to surprise him – by baking something new or learning a new language or collecting new stories from my travels. We try to not neglect the old, like getting all dressed up to go on a date and slapping each others’ ass in public. But we permit one another to change, and see it as an opportunity to fall in love anew. I’ve fallen in love with my husband the frat boy and my husband the law student and my husband the criminal prosecutor. And I imagine people feel similarly when they watch the person they love “level up” as a mother or a father.
A hole, no matter how comfortable, will not be the right fit for everyone. But we cannot blame a hole for being a hole or expect it to be more than what we make of it. We cannot neglect its upkeep and then blame the institution of holes for its squalid condition. As I sit on the train on my way home to my husband after a weekend away, knowing that he spent part of his weekend making a surprise for me, I feel comfortable giving you the following advice: if you want to start digging a hole with someone, choose the person who is most willing to put in the work. It might not be the most romantic notion, but it will fill your life with an unparalleled love.
Posted in: Love