I love you forever.
Like many, I grew up surrounded by love stories about couples pledging to love one another for forever. And when I married, this dream was realized. We swore to love each other ’til death do us part. I was all set, forever complete with my own happily ever after.
But that just wasn’t my case. The promise of forever created a complacency within me. What I believed was a safety net ended up being a beautiful spider web that lulled me into being lazy. Forever meant I could do no wrong, so I focused my energy on developing other parts of my life. I became blissfully unaware of the creeping comfort settling in, taking the guarantee of love for granted. I failed to acknowledge the receding attentions required of me to maintain our relationship. Near the end, I had stopped turning toward my partner. The illusionary security of forever was how the end began.
But this doesn’t have to be the case. If we can shed all the silly ideas about love that movies, novels and stories have socialized in us. Love, though wildly fulfilling, is hard fucking work. There is no guarantee of forever. Good relationships take conscious and constant acts of engagement. Requiring us to continuously push ourselves to accept, love, support and uplift our partner. It takes getting our hands all pruney while soaking in the discomfort of our individually evolving needs and desires. Falling in love is unconsciously easy, staying in love takes concerted conscious effort. If this doesn’t feel “right” let me ask you if anything really worth having has ever not required hard work or sacrifice? Why we hold love to a different standard is the small print we don’t acknowledge in all the romantic tales we hear. This is the paradigm we have been socialized to believe, that true love is easy or effortless, blissful with minimum effort. It’s time for a paradigm shift.
Another important paradigm to undermine is that we need another person to complete us. This is simply NOT true. We do not have gaping holes in our being just waiting for our soul mate to fill. Once we learn to see beauty in our less desirable qualities and accept that we are whole in our imperfections; we can then be open to accept another in their entirety, for all their bad and good traits. Otherwise, we will have a tendency to cast our partner as our saviour (eg. “I would be lost without her/him”); our other or better half; or our perfect complement (eg. “s/he is the yin to my yang”) – tell tale signs that we perceive ourselves as incomplete. The problem with these pedestaling acts are that they elevate your partner away from being permitted to change, to develop new faults or be anything other than your complement. Your partner ends up filling a hole in your life instead of existing as a separate independent entity. And this rigidity will crack when they evolve, which they will, or when you do, which is also inevitable. Imagine the synchronicity required to maintain being the perfect match to an ever evolving you, the pressure is crushing, selfish and unrealistic.
For me, the magic of being in love lies in loving someone for who they are, how they make us feel and in respecting them as a person who is also in evolution. It is about working hard to support each other’s personal growth paths; to function not solely as a combined unit but more as two solo artists performing better together.
Nowadays, I prefer a truth anchored in today over a promise lodged in the future. This truth comes as the answer to an assessment question. Do I love this person more today than I did yesterday? If the answer is yes, then we are on as solid ground as we can be. However, if one day the answer is No for consecutive days, weeks or months, then the end shall be near. This question brings no deception of forever to shatter nor any fantasies for what tomorrow may bring. It permits me to feel gratitude for the love I feel today.
With the present moment in mind, I boldly propose an alternative to “I love you forever”. A phrase that is more grounded and that minimizes unintended future promises that are often impossible to keep.
“I love you more today than I loved you yesterday, and I hope to love you more tomorrow.”
Saying this phrase feels real to me. It feels as certain as the ground under my feet because it is fixed in how I feel right now. If you had asked me when I was 20 or 30 if loving someone forever was unrealistic or full of hidden expectations, I would have said you lacked faith, will, imagination or that perhaps you just weren’t a romantic like me. But now, I know even magic takes hard work. So I am motivated to be vigilant of subtle changes in myself and my partner. I choose to actively turn towards him, one micro-action or micro-attention at a time. And I much prefer this active approach to the oversimplified fairytale, spoonful-of-sugar serendipity type of love often portrayed in books or movies.
Love is not entertainment, it’s a fulfilling journey that takes persistence and I am content knowing that I can give and earn love one day at a time, with each day building strength from the last. For me, having someone love me more today than they did yesterday, with the hope of more tomorrow feels much more respectful, evolutive, solid and secure than a blanket promise of forever.