We’ve all longed for butterflies, the zing that consumes us when we’re fresh in love. Turns out, there’s actually some magic in feeling no butterflies, too.
When it comes to relationships, I believe there are two kinds of happiness: giddy and content. Be wary of the former, and seek out the latter.
I dated a few guys in my 20s. They couldn’t have been more different, in both esthetics and personality. I dated one guy for two years, and the other for only two months. While the one partner was a wonderful person, the other was kind of a slime ball. What they did have in common was they both made me feel positively giddy. I had an absolute blast with each of them, I never seemed to get bored.
But there was a catch.
When the giddiness ended, frustration and uncertainty took its place. The highs were really high, the lows were really low. Although I was over the moon every time they texted, I remember being sick to my stomach waiting to receive those texts. We would make plans, but they would cancel and make excuses far too often. I felt happy when we were hanging out but I was miserable in between, wondering if they felt as strongly for me as I did for them.
In hindsight, it’s pretty clear these relationship weren’t balanced. At the time I convinced myself the thrill I felt was a spark, and the exhaustion I endured was hard work. Because all relationships require those two things, right? I gave my partners credit for the highs and blamed myself for the lows. When I was disappointed, I told myself my expectations were too high.
The day I met my husband I remember bracing myself for a similar roller coaster. I dreaded the moment he would start playing hard-to-get, or send mixed messages that would leave me wondering if he was interested. Instead, he told me he had a great time talking to me and would like to take me out sometime.
I then prepared myself to never receive a call or, best-case scenario, receive a text days later with vague references to meeting up. Instead, he called when he said he would and took me out to dinner. It was just so easy. A line from one of my favorite books, He’s Just Not That Into You, suddenly lit up in my mind like a Broadway neon sign: “Don’t be with someone who doesn’t do what they say they’re going to do.”
I had read this book years earlier, but apparently it took a while to sink in.
Unlike my previous relationships, I never got “butterflies” with my husband—a feeling I always took to indicate a powerful connection, thanks in no small part to rom-coms and The Bachelorette. I didn’t anxiously await his texts, I simply knew they’d be there. Instead of a buzz, I felt a deep sense of peace and contentment.
I felt good, even when things weren’t great. I felt worthy and self-confident. I could finally be myself and love openly without fear of it coming to a screeching halt. Instead of diving in with reckless abandon, we took our time and built something strong.
This passage from Dr. Robin Stern, author of The Gaslight Effect, sums up the relationship best: “Perhaps the adrenaline will be gone. But is that so bad? What if seeing your new guy’s name on the caller ID made you smile deep in your heart instead of making your heart turn somersaults? What if being together brought you a sense of ease and peace instead of making you so nervous you couldn’t eat? What if your love no longer felt like a thrilling…adventure…but instead brought simply a comforting, secure, and enjoyable companionship?”
I tear up just reading that paragraph.
In our society, we expect and often receive the best of everything. We don’t want food for sustenance, we want it for our own enjoyment. We don’t simply just want a house, we want the biggest one on the block. We don’t want love, we want a soulmate. But if we want to be truly happy long-term, we need to block out the pervasive message that true love will feel as explosive as fireworks. Being in lust is wonderful, but it’s also usually unstable and temporary.
I believe true love should feel simply, normal. Normal may sound boring and kind of disappointing, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Excitement, fun, adventure, and laughter should be a part of every relationship. Giddiness is great, as long as the regular days bring contentment and the bad days don’t crush your spirit.
I admit that my own experience may not resonate with or make sense to certain people. We all know that couple who fell head-over-heels in love, married after only a few months of dating, and are just as happy many years later. But I wish someone long ago had let me in on the secret that love didn’t have to feel like butterflies, and that the lack of them might actually indicate the deepest love I’d ever know.
By taking a step back and viewing things in their simplest form, I realized the best thing for me wasn’t the most glamorous. Today, I am grateful for a love and happiness that’s sustainable. My heart doesn’t race when my husband walks through the door; it quietly fills with joy. And best of all, I never have to worry about the crash.