“I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)” ― E.E. Cummings
I don’t consider myself to be an expert on much.
I do work with words for a living. I help people find them. I shape and edit them, I shine them up and send them out into the world. I also write my own as often as I can. I wouldn’t call myself an expert, but I’d say I have a healthy infatuation. Language moves me.
Love moves me too.
I’ve known my mister my entire life and we decided to build a life together over six years ago. From the outside, we look happy and satisfied—as if we have this love thing figured out. And we do, if only because we’re honest about the fact that we don’t.
I’m not an expert in love either; but like my commitment to the written word, I’ve stumbled into something worthwhile with this man I call mine. And I’m working with the materials, shaping, learning and growing every day.
So to the outsider, yes, we’re smitten and have more joy than we know what to do with; but to make a relationship work you have to put in honest effort and time. You have to face fears and challenges that you didn’t know you harbored. You have to witness the ugliest parts of yourself and decide what to do with them.
Will you hide from the truth of who you are? The version of you this person mirrors back? Or will you face your personal truths and learn and grow and heal and grow more?
We must take care of our hearts, and hearts require proper clearing. Hearts require maintenance and care. And when you’ve committed your heart to another heart, you have an even greater responsibility to honor those dedicated beats.
Take time every day to witness the good in your partner. Look into crystal blues and soak up his infectious laugh. Watch his gentle shifts in the kitchen as he prepares dinner. Listen to the excitement in his voice when he speaks of his passion.
Days march on without concern for where your heart is, so you must insist that it slows. We do this by remaining present with the things that matter. Pay attention. Listen. Witness.
Revisit your love story—often. There’s nothing like a good love story, but make your own your favorite. I was reunited with my childhood sweetheart in a crowded bar while foot-stomping bluegrass played. I remember the tap on my shoulder, the casual turn on my heels that led to a joyful scream like no other. I remember the hug—and I’ve never experienced a sensation more real. Not before. Not since. Think about your love story, think about the magic that was embedded in that moment, the moment that brought you together.
Respect the dance. I spent a lifetime thinking that relationships worked a certain way. I thought that once you found ‘happily ever after,’ you danced through adulthood into old age with your best friend by your side. Now I see that this is only partially true. Because the dance changes, and it changes often.
Sometimes life requires quiet, slow serenades and other times it requires fierce, uninhibited undulation. Sometimes you need your partner pressed close, mirroring every subtle movement. Other times you will require space to spin and jump and laugh in a room all your own. Respect the tempo changes. Understand that life will speed up and slow down without warning, but if you have a partner you can trust, you will do more than survive the dance—you will savor it.
Scream it from the rooftops. Be vocal. Be communicative. Be sincere. If there was one way I’ve grown in my relationship (and in my life) it has been through communication. Relationships take deep digging and brutal honesty. They require tact and graciousness, but they require openness above all else. As a couple, my mister and I have had fights—impressively explosive fights—that resulted in some of the most dramatic growth we’ve known.
The kind of fight that people would divorce over, the kind of argument that you don’t feel you’ll ever recover from—those are the moments that have the most to offer. Have enough respect for the relationship you’ve built to sit together and scream and cry; then, when you’re too exhausted to continue, sit and talk and yell and talk some more. And when you find yourself on the other side of that argument, having truly listened to each other, you’ll find an intimacy unbreakable that had been waiting deep inside for you to uncover.
Laugh. Our hearts are happiest, are most open and joyful, when we give ourselves permission to laugh. Reject the notion that life’s problems have to weigh us down. Look to your partner for support and be the support they might require. Share laughter, even in moments that don’t call for it. Be inappropriate. Laugh to the point of tears. Pull each other from dark places—no medicine knows more strength.
[Photo via dfbphotos of flickr]