I often feel inundated with so much art, discussion, and philosophy on all the myriad ways we fall in and out of love. I am the first to admit that I have gotten swept up in it, that I have dwelled on these subjects — we all have — but it can sometimes feel exhausting. There is so much attention focused on the act of getting to know someone, of those exciting firsts, of the moments where even the most mundane activities are positively electrifying. Then, conversely, we talk about the moments when that love dies out, when it is ripped apart painfully, and the ugly untied ends it leaves behind that we have to work on mending. The trajectory of love we often hear about is, “Meet cute, desire from afar, thrilling infatuation, series of firsts – horrifying breakup, anger, resentment, finally becoming okay again.” Rinse and repeat.
And why not? These are the kind of moments that consume us, that fill our lives with the energy and passion that we may have thought were extinguished completely. Even when we’re agonizing and wailing over someone who used to love us but doesn’t anymore, at least we feel something. There’s no ignoring it; we’re fully in the moment. And it is easy, with the kinds of love that span over time and become a slow, calming rhythm in our lives, to forget how much we are feeling. The love and the joy becomes a vague hum in the background, the kind that would rock us to sleep on a long car trip. We miss, on some level, the acute passion of the moments bookending romantic love.
The same thing, too, can be said for all kinds of love. We can just as easily become intoxicated by a new friend, want to learn everything about them and spend as much time as possible growing the spark between us, and then fall quietly into familiarity. Perhaps we won’t even remember the profound meaning they have in our lives until they leave us for one reason or another. Family, too — the most obvious in terms of “unassuming, unconditional” love for most of us, can be tossed aside if something shiny and new should come aside. But nowhere is this dichotomy more present — and more prolifically expounded upon — than the romantic love we all seem to be looking for.
Love, dating, sex, marriage, desire — these are all things that consume us and fill us with questions. Who is getting it? Who doesn’t have it? Why don’t I have it? Will they come back? Will I find someone new? What do they think of me? Little else exists when infatuation does. And yet, once we’ve been welcomed into the club and have found someone with whom we can be fully and utterly ourselves, with whom we share everything, with whom life is simply good — we take it for granted. In fact, sometimes we are so eager for that thrill of danger, of uncertainty, of desire, that we’ll search for and create problems where there are none. It’s as though our brains can’t comprehend that something can simply work, and that happiness is not just a wisp of smoke we’re meant to perpetually chase and never attain.
We rarely hear about the little acts of love that exist between partners, where there are no plot twists or last-minute obstacles. There are few films, few books about a woman who packs a lunch for her husband every morning and cuts the crust off his sandwich, or the man who works an extra job at night for two years so his boyfriend can attend law school, or the lesbian couple who lie in bed at night and ask each other how their day was and really listen. Sure, that might be a component of the story, but it is sure to be drowned out by the conflict and the thrill that we want to see. And there is nothing wrong with that, we like excitement. But sometimes it’s hard not to miss the attention paid to the little, unglamorous acts of love that make up a true partnership.
I wish I heard more waxing poetic about the person who is there for them in ugly moments, to whom they have grown accustomed to seeing naked but still long to touch. I want to hear about the thrill of the safe, the glowing feeling that consume us if we only stop to consider how magical and how precious it is — someone loves us for who we are, in all our forms, at every time of day. Someone wants to be there for us when it isn’t easy, when it isn’t convenient, and when the electricity of the new has worn off. This “boring” love, as we can sometimes consider it, is only as mundane or as familiar as we allow it to be. Sure, falling for someone is wonderful. And yes, breakups can be the inspiration for a million new beginnings, but the love that exists between them — if it can last — is more powerful with a whisper than the rest of it is with a scream.