Sometimes friends ask me for relationship advice. The truth is that I never really know what to say.
Chances are if you know me even a little bit, then you know my husband, Steven, and I have been together for almost nine years.
If you don’t know me (Wait, who am I kidding? Does anyone but my mom or mother-in-law read this blog? Haha), then here’s some background: I met Steven in high school choir when I was 14 and he was 15. We’ve been together ever since and got married last October.
So friends sometimes ask me how we have made it work for so long. Sometimes friends ask me what they should do in their love lives. Should I text him? What should I say? When should I introduce him to my family? What should I wear on our date?
I’m never sure what to say. I don’t consider myself any kind of relationship expert. In fact, you could even say that I just got lucky. That I just happened to meet “the one” at a young age. Lucky me, eh?
Maybe there is some truth to that. Maybe it was fate in action. But loving someone for nine years isn’t just a result of having met at the right time. It’s the result of hard work, commitment, and choosing love over and over again.
I always say and do what I feel. Not always the greatest idea, but when it comes to romantic love, it kinda works. So when I had a crush on Steven I made sure he knew. I always texted him and called him when I felt like it. Even if it was 20 times a day. Maybe, he got sick of it. I don’t know. I just did what I felt, and usually it was reciprocated.
I was first to tell him I loved him (at the ripe age of 15! Let’s all have a good laugh about that one now). I have always been forthcoming about my dreams, and ideas of marriage. I always tell him what I’m thinking, whether it be good or bad. I put my heart on the line. Luckily, for me, it didn’t end up broken. But even if it had, I would do it again.
And when I had other choices in my life, I chose him. Again and again.
When it came time to decide on college, I gave up my dream of attending the University of Missouri’s journalism school to go to the University of Kansas with him. (Quite a drastic change, huh?)
When it came time to decide what to do after college, I gave up my dreams of living abroad to marry him and settle down in Kansas (for the time being!).
I would be lying if I said that sometimes I don’t ask myself, what if? But I do know that I am happy. . Long-term relationships require sacrifice and compromise. One reason why we have made it this far is because we have given up other things for each other. Not everything. We still have plenty of dreams we plan to live out together. But some things, and in exchange, we got so much more. We choose love.
And then there’s the non-romantic kind of love. The whole love your neighbor as yourself thing. The only part of Sunday School that ever really stuck with me. Maybe even the only lesson from organized religion that really has substantial value to me.
As tough as romantic love can be (and let me tell you, there are times when it is TOUGH), the non-romantic kind is even more challenging. Loving strangers? Not so easy. Loving those who are different? Super tough. Loving those with different opinions, especially when those opinions are LOUD and PROUD? The hardest.
I preach a lot about love. I’m a sentimental, mushy gushy, cry during Oprah softy. I just am. I would rather cuddle babies and puppies then go on a roller coaster. I have teary heart-to-hearts with my friends who are probably so sick of hearing, “I just love you guys!” I hug my siblings every chance I get, and tell the world how proud I am of them. I pick out super mushy cards for my parents for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and if I’m mad or sad, you will probably know. For better or worse, it’s just how I was made.
But while I’m good at the compassion thing, empathy and putting myself in someone else’s shoes, I still fail daily at loving. I’m still quick to assume and to judge. I’m quick to point out inadequacies and weaknesses. I hold grudges like nobody’s business. Sometimes my passion for my opinions blinds me and prevents me from hearing others. I often have to slow down and ask myself, “Would I rather be right? Or would I rather be kind?” Yikes. I should probably focus on the latter.
In choosing love in every other way, we might sacrifice things. We might even end up getting satisfaction more from being kind and less from being right.
People are people, no matter how different. No matter their skin color, gender, age, sexual orientation, political ideology, ethnicity, eye color, hair color, religion, or weight. And our greatest calling and moral duty as fellow members of humanity is just to love them.
And that’s all.
“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.