Finding your way back to love

At the point of writing this, I have known my partner for 16 years and we’ve been together for 14 years. Fourteen interesting years. Sounds like a long time, feels like a long time too but it’s interesting that after a decade I am still learning about this man.

What is love?

How we’ve been taught to think about love generally provides unrealistic expectations. Love isn’t something that magically changes the situation, love is something we work to, consciously practice, love is something we choose, a commitment we make everyday. 

“I love you” is not a synonym for “I’m sorry”; it is not a placeholder for  “I don’t want to let you go yet”; it is not a substitute for good manners; it is not a quick fix for hurting someone’s feelings; it is not a euphemism for “I’m scared”. 


Be careful of I’m sorry

Have you ever been in love? Can you explain what that feels like? I met my husband when we were still in high school. He was two years ahead of me. We did not attend the same school. We were introduced via good old MSN Messenger (drop a comment if you remember MSN Messenger days). I thought he was cool to talk to when I didn’t have anything to do, but I didn’t really like him. Then, one day he called my house phone and that was that. We spent HOURS on the phone together. Every month the phone bill came, my mother would come to my room and ask me who I know at this address and phone number. Can’t remember the lie I told her at the time, but I might have said someone from school. 

Within a month of meeting him – we were friends (to me at least). We spoke every week if not every day and we spoke about everything. Speaking to him felt like a judgement-free zone. It felt like I could get an unbiased opinion, and he wouldn’t just tell me what I wanted to hear. Within a few months I knew I loved him – as a friend maybe.

Renewed commitment

I am not one of those people who can explain eloquently how it feels to know you love someone. There was just something a little bit different about how much I appreciated our conversations. I didn’t know if I wanted him to be my boyfriend, but I knew regardless of what we would become we would remain friends – I couldn’t lose this guy.

Eventually (a few years down the line) he asked me to be his girlfriend – still one of the cutest moments in our relationship. He asked at the right time too, because it was summer and school was out so that meant lying to my parents about who I was going to the movies with almost every weekend, so I could see him often. 

After almost two decades, not every day has been peachy. We’ve been through some really tough moments. The only reason we’re still together, in my opinion, is because over the years we’ve renewed our commitment to saying yes to each other and working together against the odds. 

It’s easy to feel love, to feel those butterflies in your stomach, to be unable to hold back that smile when they call, what’s harder is how this love manifests – the action of love. Most times we show someone we love them based on how we know how to love, based on how we have experienced it or how we want to experience it. The issue here is that your partner may not interpret love this way, and may be legitimately confused about what you’re trying to communicate. 


Practical applications of love

We have to go beyond the passion of love to the practical application. You have to be willing to take a step back and tune in to your partner’s needs. You can love someone and be completely blank when it comes to showing them this love. We have to be willing to tune into their channel and really listen – not just to what they’ve said but also to what they haven’t said. Observe their facial expressions, their habits, listen to their opinions, their tone when they speak about certain things. Don’t be afraid of asking questions. Be mindful of your tone though, and it may help if you explicitly state that you’re simply asking to get a better understanding of whatever the issue might be. 

We’ve all heard about the 5 love languages. If you’re in a relationship with someone (for a reasonable time – whatever this means to you) you might already have some idea of what their love language might be. But to take the guessing game out of it, just take the quiz together ! 

Choosing love

Choosing to be in a relationship, choosing to spend some of your free time with a person, choosing to say yes to love, choosing to create new experience, choosing to share your space, choosing to compromise…choosing this path with this person… is a big decision. While, there is no perfect partner you also need to ascertain what might be a deal breaker for you. There are people who say that “people don’t change”, but we all do. As we are approached with different obstacles in life, go through different experiences and are forced to react to different stimuli, we will be modified in some way – whether big or small. The world around us is dynamic and so are we. So, yes people can change. This means that saying yes to someone 10 years ago, may look a bit different from saying yes to them today.

I would never recommend that you continue to show up everyday for someone who is harming you in anyway. Assess what is working, what isn’t working  and whether these issues can effectively be worked out to your satisfaction. There is unconditional love, but not unconditional circumstances. Someone can still love you and choose to let you go. You can be in love with someone and not be the right person for them at this time. Regardless of how strongly we feel about someone, if they decide to take a step back we need to respect their decision. State your claim and ask if you can work it out, but a relationship is a two-way street. It only works well if both parties say yes.

There are still arguments

Over the past few years my husband and I have had less serious arguments, we’re getting better at diffusing arguments before they blow all the way over. However, as you grow older with someone it’s the small things that get on your nerves more and more. Back in the day it was the pile up of the small things, now it doesn’t even need to be a pile lol just a little collection, heck just one small thing can spark an argument. This is where compromise sets in. If I were to complain about everything that is mildly annoying I would be complaining ALOT. You have to find that balance of things you can live with while you’re choosing to be with this person and where you need to draw the line. You never know how important it is to put the toilet paper correctly on the roll (Are you over or under? Tell me in the comments). 

Unless there are adverse circumstances, like the ones stated above (abuse, other forms of harm, etc…), there is usually a way back after an argument. You said yes to this person however long ago, how have things changed since that time and what will it take for you to say yes again? You can find your way back to love. 

AN IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: Remember that you are two individuals who’ve decided to share experiences. You are not one person. You need to maintain your own friendships and hobbies (that may not be shared), so you can maintain your social identity and carve out some alone time. Any healthy relationship is improved by the time you also spend apart.


We did a podcast series on Dating in the 21st Century, check it out !

Episode 11: The Dating in the 21st Century Series – Part 1: Interracial couples; entitlement and tradition
Episode 12 : The Dating in the 21st Century Series – Part 2: A Trans, Poly, Queer Perspective
Episode 13: The Dating in the 21st Century Series – Part 3: Maybe your list is wrong
Episode 14: The Dating in the 21st Century Series – Part 4: First Comes Love, then Comes Marriage
Episode 15: The Dating in the 21st Century Series – Part 5: Open Mind. Open Heart. Open Relationship?

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