Love is a miracle
Of all the mystifying things in life, for me, love is the most mystifying and miraculous of all. I have been in love a few times in my life, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. Each of those experiences has been an important part of my story and has shaped me into the person that I am. I thought I had learned a lot about who I was and who I wanted to be as a partner. I thought I had learned a lot about who and what I was looking for in a partner. But no love story could have prepared me for the true love story. About seven years ago, my soul connected to a man who challenged everything I knew about myself and love, while simultaneously making me more certain about both. Somehow, Nick’s presence, kindness, and very being has both grounded me in who I am and changed me from the inside-out. The parts remain constant—my gifts and dreams and motivations and core attributes are ever-present—but the parts have been transformed. I see them differently, feel them differently, imagine them differently, know them differently. I used to think that people were weak and stupid when they changed for their partners, when they altered their lives because of the conditions of their romantic relationships. But I now know that real love changes everything and it is perhaps weaker and more stupid to try to resist that.
I like to think that I have always been a good person, but Nick has made me better. I like to think that I have always been a strong person, but Nick has made me stronger. I have learned that I am not the center of the universe, that listening matters, that compromise is necessary, and humility is powerful. I have learned the power of “thank you,” the danger of repressing feelings, and the importance of meeting others where they are rather than where you (or others) want them to be. But above all, I have learned that love is a miracle. I could never have imagined a feeling so large, all-encompassing, and all-forgiving. I could never have dreamed of a person who so perfectly complements my strengths and faults, beliefs and interests. I would never have envisioned a life like the one we have created. No picture of the future could possibly have done justice to the love story we are starring in every day. It is beyond comprehension and truly a gift from God.
1 Corinthians 13 says: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” For religious and non-religious folks alike, this passage is a staple for talking about love. At risk of being shot down by lightning, I want to add my own narrative based on the miracles of love I have experienced over the last several years.
Love is patient, love is kind. This is my measuring stick for how to hold myself and how to act in all my relationships, romantic or otherwise. However, in the context of the former, patience and kindness has been the ultimate glue in my relationship. While I believe that love brings us closer to our perfect selves, love does not make us perfect. We make mistakes. We say the wrong things. We act in unkind ways. We lose our way and sometimes even lose ourselves. In these moments, it is sometimes difficult to respond with patience and kindness. I am guilty of snapping and rolling my eyes, of unnecessary sarcasm and the occasional passive aggressive snark. I am lucky to have a partner who is forgiving and understanding, which is not to say permissive or passive. Love is never about rolling over, accepting abuse, or tolerating cruelty. Instead, I have found that it is exactly the opposite. Nick challenges me, shares when he doesn’t agree, and names when he feels hurt, angry, or dismissed. And he empowers me to do the same. We have learned that we must advocate for our own needs, even when they might not fully align with the other’s. We have learned that we must name when lines have been crossed. We have learned that “thank you” and “I’m sorry” are sometimes the core of patience and kindness. This is part of the miracle of love.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. I understand this part to mean that we cannot focus on ourselves and our own accomplishments, but I have found that a huge part of love is lifting the other up, of boasting and feeling pride on their behalf. Both Nick and I have been through a ton in the last seven years. While some of our successes have been untraditional or seemingly small, I am proud beyond words of the work he has done on and for himself in the face of challenges I can not imagine. I am also proud of the man he is, and I do not shy away from saying it out loud. And he returns the favor. Besides potentially my parents, I don’t think there is anyone who is more genuinely proud of what I do and who I am. Even in the midst of chaos and doubt, his faith in me is unyielding and gives me fuel. This is part of the miracle of love.
It keeps no record of wrongs. It keeps no record of rights either. Nick and I learned early in our relationship that keeping score was toxic and dangerous. “But I did the laundry earlier,” could not be an excuse to not do the dishes later. “Last year, you said/did” is largely irrelevant to the conditions of today. We live complicated lives and part of loving and honoring each other is about recognizing that there are moments for giving, moments for taking, and moments for just staring into space. We must trust that these moments will balance out over time, even if that means that one person is doing a lot of giving while the other is doing a lot of staring. Not keeping score means loving each other and acting in the most loving way in all moments regardless of what happened yesterday, last month, or two decades ago. There are moments for reminiscing and moments for revisiting past events, but if these moments are used as collateral or “evidence,” there can be real negative consequences. In any game where there is a winner, there is also a loser. I have not found that it is ever constructive to make somebody feel like a loser. Instead, it tears them down and serves to falsely lift us up. The running record is often misleading and subjective, and largely depends on who is keeping score. Do we earn/lose points for chores, for patience, for being supportive, for sex? For how we respond in times of crisis, in times of joy, in times of stress? For going to that family reunion? For getting a good gift? As individuals, we all place different values on different actions and behaviors, and we also are naturally inclined to behave in certain ways. Do we get bonus points for doing something the other wants and we don’t want? For sacrifice? For changing one’s mind? This is a slippery slope. Furthermore, I would suggest that it’s the antithesis of love. We must be courageous and vulnerable, share our concerns openly and lovingly, and be straightforward about what we need right here and right now. This is part of the miracle of love.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. People do not always protect, do not always trust, do not always hope, do not always persevere. People regularly fail. In a world where we inevitably disappoint, err, stumble, and fall, the true miracle is that we can love at all. At my best and worst moments, Nick’s love for me and my love for him reminds me that I am a part of something larger than the human experience. About a year ago after a really bad day, I wrote in my notes: “Last night, I came home to a squeaky-clean apartment, a hot meal on the table, and a man who scooped me into his arms and said, ‘I love you’ before ‘hello.’ He listened as I expressed my frustrations and told me he was proud of me. ‘For what?’ I asked. ‘For being you,’ he said.” This is the miracle of love.