Some say you fall in love, while others say you choose it.
I say love found me because I wasn’t searching for it when you came into my life at the innocent age of 12. In fact, I don’t even think I knew what love was. My frizzy hair, T-shirt, and ill-fitting jeans certainly suggested I wasn’t trying to lure love in.
Still, love found me just the same at that art table so many years ago. Your blue eyes and blond hair whispered to me. Something about the way you looked at me roped me in. I can’t say why or how or what even happened that day in August. All I knew was once love found me, it didn’t let me go.
Over the years, we’ve built a life together. We’ve graduated from high school and the typical prom photos to a settled-in life. We shared first kisses and first dates. We endured first fights and doubts. We stepped through many stages of life, always together. We’ve walked through many storms hand in hand, heart glued to heart, and eyes locked on each other.
We said “I do,” and we signed for our not-quite dream home but dream enough for us. We bought a dog and way too many cats. We’ve grown up and grown together.
There’s nothing special about us, not really. Our love story started when we were young, and we’ve managed to prove monogamy is possible. But other than that, we’re just an average couple living an average love story.
Still, you remind me every single day that love stories don’t have to be extraordinary or full of twists and turns to be exciting. You’ve shown me over the years that love stories aren’t about flashy events and grand gestures.
The love I have with you is a soul building love. It’s a solid love. It’s a simple love.
It’s funny because even though I’m a romance writer, our “romance” typically consists of lounging in our house in our comfy clothes watching Netflix. We spent last Valentine’s Day at home on the sofa, surrounded by our mastiff and our cats. We ate pizza and watched a mediocre movie.
There’s no place, no Valentine’s Day, I’d have rather been.
Our romance isn’t about building a novel-worthy tale for others to gawk at. Our romance, our love story isn’t about impressing upon others the obviousness of our love.
Being with you has shown me that love comes in many, simple forms.
Our love story is awkwardly dancing around the kitchen—nothing like in the movies—to an odd song we have in our head. It’s when we both come home from the grocery store with a carton of eggs and a surprise candy for each other because we’re on the same page but can’t manage to text each other. It’s a funny meme you send to my phone on a Monday that just totally fits with what’s happening in my day. It’s the look we give across the room because we know exactly what we’re thinking. It’s the joy we get of doing nothing but sitting around the house together, laughing at our laziness but being totally content.
We have a simple love, an average love, a love few would be excited to read about. But that’s what our love has shown me. The most simplistic, average love story is often the one that resonates with us the most. It’s the one that’s most important.
Each love story is a beautiful, romantic saga in its own right. Thank you for reminding me to celebrate that.
To my husband—thank you for an average, simple love. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Lindsay Detwiler is the published author of six contemporary romance novels. To learn more about her works, visit www.lindsaydetwiler.com.
Some people fall in love at a coffee shop, their eyes meeting and instantaneously telling them that they have found their match. Others meet while passing each other on the street or at the library. Love reveals itself at the mall, at work, in the produce aisle of a grocery store. It can come all at once, or it can languidly reveal itself between mutual friends. Love can transpire between two acquaintances thrown together by mutual friends or a dating website. It can come when we are young, when we are old, or anytime in between. It can come once, it can come twice, it can come more times than we can count. Love’s story is unique to each of us, despite the common core of its emotions. No two love stories are the same, despite what movies and literature may try to tell us.
For me, love revealed itself at the art table when I was twelve. True to love’s qualities, my love story is its own.
It was the first day of seventh grade, and my Cocoa Puffs were threatening to spew onto the floor from nerves. New students, new teachers, and new classes had upended my sense of calm that was usually shaky at best. Tapping my new shoes together and wishing I could fly back home, I waited for my name to be called for my seat in art class. Once in my chair, my brown eyes glanced around the room at the other faces, finding few that I recognized. That’s when I saw him. The blonde-haired, blue-eyed kid who would become my best friend, my first boyfriend, my fiancé, and eventually my husband. As fate would have it, he was seated across from me at the art table.
It wasn’t love at first sight. There weren’t angelic rays flooding onto us like a spotlight. No cheesy love song blasted from the speakers. Nonetheless, when I saw him, my twelve-year-old self knew that there was something about him. He wasn’t dressed like a model from the pages of my Seventeen magazine. He wasn’t flaunting himself or even saying a word. There was just something about him that I was drawn to, something that told him he would be important to me. That gut feeling was one hundred percent accurate, as I would soon find out.
From the beginning, Chad and I were the least likely couple you could imagine. I was Miss Goody-Two-Shoes, always saying “please” and burying my nose in a book. I was studious, serious, and rational to the core. He was free spirited, racking up detention halls as I racked up As. He cursed often, he hated school, and he hated rules. We had nothing in common other than the fact that we both played trumpet in the band and laughed at the same jokes.
Over the years, however, we found something in each other. At first, it was friendship fused by a common sense of humor and the time spent together at the art table. There was something between us, a light that ignited when we were with each other. There was an ease to our conversations, even at the young age of twelve. We brought something out in each other. He made my rigid personality lighten up, and I helped bring some seriousness and goal setting to his carefree nature.
As the years passed, we continued to grow together as we grew up. Laughter turned into kisses, dates turned into proms, and “I love yous” eventually turned into an engagement ring. We maneuvered the murky waters of adolescence together, finding that the connection merged would weather us through early adulthood as well. Many were skeptical about our relationship. Who finds their soulmate at twelve? However, we seemed to prove the naysayers wrong as we glided through our maturing relationship, always together.
Certainly there were struggles. There were immature fights over jealousy and the other nonsensical ramblings of teenagers. There were angry words and tears, broken promises and slamming doors. We fought, we thought about breaking up. We wondered if we should move on and find someone new. No matter what feelings or thoughts threatened to tear us apart, though, our love always conquered them. No matter what we faced, we always found that we faced it better together. We realized that together was our only desired option.
Now, at twenty-eight, people are amazed by our story. When we tell them that we have been each other’s “one and only” since we were twelve, we face skepticism and astonishment. In an age where you should try to “play the field,” we are an archaic trend from the past. When we got married, we had already been together for over a decade. At our wedding, our first dance was to Faith Hill’s “Just Breathe,” the song that we first danced to in junior high.
People assume that to be with one person since junior high, you must have an unbelievably perfect connection. This is far from the truth. Is our relationship roses and candles, smiles and stolen kisses? Are we living in a fantasy fairytale that is unattainable for others? The answer is a big fat no. Those who know us well know that we are not the ideal couple.
We fight, and we fight often. Although our opposing personalities often help us balance each other out, they can also lead to turmoil. I am a planner, while he is free spirited. I am a saver, while he is a spender. I am meek and self-conscious at times, while he isn’t afraid to stand up for himself when he feels cheated. I worry about social appearances, while he isn’t afraid to curse in public. Our differences often lead to differences of opinion. Like any other couple, we have been tempted to throw in the towel from time to time. We push each other away, we frustrate each other, we annoy each other. Somehow, though, we always find a way to bridge the gap between us, no matter how wide it gets. For all of the bad days we’ve had, there seem to be at least twenty good ones.
Additionally, we are not perfect adults, nor do we have the picture perfect life. We eat ice cream for dinner and buy way too much candy at the grocery store. We struggle to save money, splurging on impulsive buys. We don’t have a white picket fence in front of our house; in fact, our house is covered in the decaying leaves that I have been nagging him to clean up. I am a terrible cook, and he is a terrible handyman. Our only children have four legs. We are still working out the details and rules of this thing called adulthood.
Through it all, though, we’ve learned one thing together: love isn’t perfect. The idea that it is perfect stems from a meticulously constructed illusion that fairytales do exist in real life, that the show Once Upon a Time can actually happen.
In our world, however, Prince Charming doesn’t exist, but neither does Snow White. Instead, we must realize that love is about sacrifice, about reality. It’s about finding joy in the small things together. It’s about ignoring his annoying chewing habits and him forgiving me for spending way too much on makeup.
It’s about just finding something to smile about each day. It’s about deciding that our faults deserve forgiveness because at the end of the day, we’d rather fight through our struggles than throw in the towel. It’s about deciding that our history together is worthy more than giving up or trying to find something new. It’s about choosing to believe in the power of us and our story over the pull of temptation. It’s about realizing that our life together isn’t even close to being perfect, but it makes us perfectly content overall.
So no, our story isn’t all that special. We are not romantic heroes who deserve a medal for staying together so long in a fickle society. We are not blinded by an unattainable love, we are not the model marriage. We don’t have this whole thing called love or life figured out. We’re still changing, we’re still growing, and we’re still searching for ourselves.
We are, however, proof that against all odds, against the statistics and stereotypes, our generation can stay true. Despite our “short attention spans” blamed on technology and our tendency to stray, our generation can stay in a monogamous, meaningful, fulfilling relationship. We do still believe in the power of love and the possibility of experiencing life with the right person. Chad and I are not supermodels or movie stars. We are not relationship experts. We are, however, two people who found each other at a young age and invested in each other. We are two average twenty-somethings who value love, our relationship, and the life we have built together.
Above all, though, we are just a boy and a girl who fell in love at the art table in seventh grade.
Last week, after cheating on our “let’s not eat out” diet and eating at Primanti Brother’s—if you’re going to cheat, at least do it right—we stopped at the typical Detwiler Saturday night date spot.
Can you sense the sarcasm?
Walmart is not my favorite place in the world, let’s be clear. I’ve had plenty of weird, stressful, frustrating, and just creepy encounters in the superstore. Somehow, though, I seem to always find myself in its aisles of products…with Chad by my side.
We were strolling into the symbol of America’s doors. We were joking and laughing. And that’s when it happened.
An elderly lady dressed quite wildly in a tiny little car came within a few inches of running over my toe. Then, she gave me a crazed look and sped off.
Instead of saying something sentimental, loving, like, "Thank God you didn't get run over," my dear husband says, "God, you almost got killed by a fortune teller." And then he calmly shrugs and pulls me into Walmart.
This, for some reason, made me start crying with laughter. It was so stupid and random.
But that's my husband for you. His humor is odd, often offensive, sometimes crude, and sometimes just dumb. But he makes me laugh every single day.
Our Bond Over Humor
Since I met him in seventh grade, my husband has been a bit of the class clown. In seventh grade, he got in trouble for making me laugh. He sat behind me in class. When the teacher tried to draw a village from the Middle Ages, Chad whispered, "What? Are the people living in candy corn now?" Again, so dumb, but I found it hilarious. Our teacher did not.
His gift for the gab coupled with his lack of self-consciousness makes him a perfect "funny one" at any event. He is often the one at gatherings making everyone laugh with his ridiculous storytelling...unless I've warned him to keep it clean and not say anything embarrassing. It happens sometimes.
Does it drive me crazy ? Yes. Absolutely. We've had plenty of "Can you please take me seriously for a second?" moments. We've had plenty of "Stop talking everyone's ears off" moments.
For the most part, though, his humor matches his free-spirited nature, and it helps me loosen up a bit. I'm the worrier in the family, the rational thinker. Sometimes I need his humorous, life is a joke perspective.
Take yesterday when I accidentally posted the wrong video to Youtube. The unedited, test run video. The video in which I, mouth open, search for the stop recording button on my computer screen.
Yep, I was mortified.
Chad, though, started mercilessly joking about it and laughing hysterically. At first I was mad. But eventually, he made me laugh about it, too. He made me realize worse things could happen--like getting run over at Wal-Mart.
Chad has helped me laugh off my most embarrassing moments, my lowest points, my failures. When I only sold two books at one of my book events and was crying about being a joke, he helped me laugh it off. He's amazing at that. When there's an awkward moment, a heavy moment, he can lighten it.
I would share some of our jokes, but honestly, I don't think anyone would appreciate them. We often laugh that if someone would hear the things we talk and laugh about, we'd both be sent away and labeled as crazy. But that's the thing. We have this bond through humor. We find the same things hysterical, from Tosh.0 to a picture of a Persian Cat saying Fancy Feast weirdly to my near death experience with a fortune teller.
Give Me Laughter Over Anything
Some women look for sexy abs, amazing eyes, good teeth in a husband.
For me, though, give me laughter. Every day.
Chad always jokes about this, too, that he might not be sexy, but he's funny and that's better. He always tells me if he dies, I should never find a sexy model because they don't have a sense of humor.
I'm not quite sure Chad's discriminatory observations are true. But I do know I'm glad I'm married to a man who can make me smile. He frustrates the hell out of me, makes me crazy. But at least he can make me laugh through it.
So please, if you're still looking for love, make sure that man makes you smile. Life is hard and full of tough experiences. Find someone who can make you see the funny in the sad, can make you smile when you feel like bawling, and you'll be all good.
I met my first love at the art table in seventh grade.
It was not a match made in heaven. The angels didn’t sing.
In fact, I’m pretty sure he barely noticed me. But I noticed him. I looked at him, inexplicably curious about who he was. In my gut, I felt something, knew something momentous was happening.
I was assigned my seat at the table in the back corner. Across from me…the boy was assigned his seat.
I cannot describe why I noticed him. I mean, in all fairness, there was nothing super unique about him. He wasn’t sporting a Mohawk or trying to get my attention. He wasn’t flexing his muscles or wearing a pink shirt. He was just there. Right away, something told me he’d be important.
Now, four years of marriage later and almost sixteen years since we first met, I can say without a doubt I was correct.
Why I Married My First Love
There are amazing benefits to marrying your first love whom you met at twelve-years-old.
Why Marrying Your First Love is Tough
As with everything, marrying your first love you met at twelve comes with its challenges.
Our love story is special, but then again, it’s not. We’re just two average people who found love very early. I know we’re lucky to have found “the one” before we even knew we were looking for the one. I know we are blessed to have so many years together already. I also know it hasn’t been easy and it will continue to be hard.
First loves are always tricky. They haunt us, plague us, and taunt us with what could have been. For me, though, I’m blessed, because I haven’t had to figure out what it’s like to move on from one.
I’m still with him.
My husband is not the romantic hero of a swoon worthy love story.
He is not a roses-just-because, romantic love letter kind of man. He’s not a “let’s go to a suit and tie kind of restaurant” or a “let’s go dancing” husband—which is probably good because his only tie has Scooby Doo on it. He’s not a prim and proper, pull out my chair for me, set the table with fine china kind of person. He’s not the suave man with silky words and perfect romantic surprises. In fact, many of his co-workers joke with him about the fact I write romance. They ask him where the heck I get my inspiration from because it certainly can’t be him.
But my husband is, in fact, the romantic hero of our love story.
Love is in the Details
I’ve learned over the years that romance, the real kind, isn’t about huge gestures or movie-type moments. Real life love is about the small things, the things that happen when no one is really paying attention.
Love is when my husband cleaned the entire house when I was away on a three-day business trip just so I wouldn’t have to when I got home. Love is when he picks up orange tic tacs at the store because they’re my favorite. Love is when he slaps huge car magnets on his truck to advertise for my book. Love is when he makes me laugh when I want to cry. Love is when he tells me he believes in me or that I can keep going or that it’ll be okay. Love is when he takes my cat to the vet because he knows I’m worried about it or when he gets the food ready on New Year’s Eve because I’m busy editing a book. Love is when he picks baked beans as one of our KFC sides even though he hates them just because I like them. Love is when he helps me take new headshots at eleven o’clock at night because I need a new picture. Love is when he sends me an ifunny picture because he knows I’m having a rough day.
Are toilet brushes and laundry detergents and vet trips and baked beans sexy or romance-novel worthy? Probably not.
But I’ve come to learn that a man in ripped up jeans a Game of Thrones T-shirt who is willing to go out on a limb for you, who is willing to see you at your worst and try to bring you back to your best, that’s what love is. Love doesn’t always come in a suit and tie with fancy dinners and candles. Love isn’t always sleek and smooth and suave.
Real love sometimes happens when no one is watching. Real love isn’t always movie worthy. But in those small moments, those tiny moments of putting someone’s needs above yours, those are the ones that count. Those are the ones to build a life, a love around.
A New Kind of Romance
My goal in my writing has always been to showcase this type of love. I want women readers to realize love doesn’t have to be romanticized or dramatized to be engaging. I think the beauty in a love story is the realism in it. Love isn’t always about sexiness or huge moments. Sure, those moments are nice. But sometimes the real depth in a love story comes from those tiny moments a real woman experiences in the modern world. That’s what I want to showcase in my work.
So yes, I have some of those big, beautiful moments we all crave. But in my writing, I also seek out the smaller moments, the moments that are truly worthy and awe-inspiring.
My husband might not be your typical romantic hero, but he’s a hero to me. So yes, he does inspire my writing, whether he wants to admit that or not.
Chad and I are twenty-eight-year-olds who’ve been married for four years, but we’ve been together way longer. We met when we were twelve; we sat across from each other at the table in art class. We’ve been together basically ever since. Over the years, we’ve had a lot of laughs, tears, and times we wanted to give up. We’re still together though, and still happy. We’ve learned that our society’s ideal that monogamy isn’t possible and marriages aren’t forever just isn’t true. Marriage is hard, it’s frustrating, but it can last. In this new segment, I’ll share some real-life tips about what we’ve learned along the way.
Am I right in saying the days of the 1950’s housewife smiling as she scrubs the toilet and cooks dinner are gone?
Because I know for me, those days were never here.
Some women enjoy cleaning (I’m sorry if you’re one of them…but I just don’t understand. At all :)). To each her own, I suppose.
But for me… I’d rather listen to Elmo sing opera for nineteen hours or eat my own cooking (more on that later) than clean anything.
Perhaps this could be attributed to my schedule. I work full-time and am working on my Master’s Degree and write books. I know many of us modern women are struggling with hectic schedules even harder than mine. Some of us have demanding jobs working more than forty hours a week. Some of us work multiple jobs. Some of us work part-time and balance family life or caretaking. Some of us are stay-at-home moms who, thus, work 24/7 on more tasks than I can imagine. We are all called to a different schedule filled with struggles and impossible balancing acts.
Thus, for me, like many, cleaning takes the bottom rung on the priority chart.
Not that I don’t appreciate a clean house. I, like many, enjoy the fresh scent of a spic and span house. I like when everything is in its place and my home looks presentable.
But the reality?
Don’t come to my house on Thursdays.
Sunday is cleaning day. Sunday, everything looks somewhat presentable.
As the days trudge on and the stress of the week plods through my life, though, suddenly cleanliness is forgotten. Books are tossed on the couch instead of the shelf. A faint rotten milk smell permeates the kitchen…either from the piling dishes or the trash can that I’ve been stomping down so I don’t have to take it out. Bob, our sixteen-pound black cat, decides to rip out his hair and leave a trail through the house. Clothes clutter the bedroom floor, and the counter is undetectable under the heaps of mail and other random objects.
By the weekend, the need to clean is undeniable.
And so is the likelihood of a fight with the husband.
I would say our worst, verging on divorce fights have been about chores. By the weekend, there are usually screaming fights over who left cereal in the sink, who should run the vacuum, and why he is pretending he can’t see the soap scum in the shower.
Let’s rewind to the early days of marriage. As in the first week.
Still floating on the feelings from the cake and Jello shots, our first week of splitting chores was angelic. He did dishes just because. I scrubbed the floor with the 1950’s housewife smile even though it wasn’t even dirty. Everything was in its place…mostly because we barely had anything to put into a place. We were full of “don’t worry, honey, I’ll get it,” or “thanks so much, dear, for doing that load of laundry.”
Marriage was bliss.
Now let’s look at recent days and exchanges.
There’ve been swear word exchanges because he is apparently blind to the mud on the kitchen floor…or doesn’t know where to find the mop. He has been angry on a daily basis over my bad habit of leaving cereal in my bowl in the sink. We’ve fought over how to split up the chores, over who does more work around the house, and over how chores should be done. I’ve felt enraged because it seems like all of the indoor work falls on my shoulders because “clearly women love cleaning” and “women are better programmed for cleaning” (cue sarcastic/sadistic laughs). He’s been angry because he feels like I don’t appreciate what he tries to do.
There have been screams, there have been cleaning strikes, there have been threats to leave. There have been feminist-style rants and accusations of sexism. There have been unkind words and white glove inspections and invisible lines drawn in the house.
Some weeks, the messiest thing in the house isn’t the kitchen sink or the shower; it’s our marriage because of our chore fights.
Finding Chore Compromise
Over the years, we’ve tried many things to fix the problem.
1. Chore charts
We actually pulled a kindergarten style chore chart out. We each got stamps for the chores we completed. At the end of the month, the person with the most got extra spending money.
The verdict: Fail
We both ended up cheating. As in, “I wiped the counter with a Clorox Wipe? Stamp for cleaning kitchen.” Then we fought over the chore chart. If memory serves me, there was a violent shredding of the chart by me over some unfair stamps. Epic fail.
2. The “Sexist” Solution
We went back to our 1950’s style solution for a while. Chad would do all of the outside work, and I would do all of the inside work.
The Verdict: Angry, angry fights
After about a week of this, I became enraged. Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I love doing all of the indoor chores. Plus, I realized that while he only had to cut grass once a week, I was struggling to keep up with chores every single day. Cue jealousy, rage, and accusations of sexism…even though the whole thing was my idea. Oops.
Okay, this is what we have now. Chad does grass and snow removal. He also does dishes because I hate doing dishes. I do laundry, which weighs out with dishes because Chad hates doing laundry. Then, I do the vacuuming, dusting, floor scrubbing, animal care, and clean one of the bathrooms. Chad cleans the upstairs bathroom and will vacuum one time during the week. We’ve tried to split it as equally as we can.
The Verdict: Less screaming fights, but still the occasional tiff
I mean, Chad seems to think the upstairs bathroom needs cleaned like once a month and that is good (wrong, as I must remind him every week). He also vacuums like a NASCAR driver, which is annoying. Sometimes I still feel like I’m doing more work in the house, especially because I typically plan our meals. His standards for clean are a bit different than mine. And he still gets pissed when I leave cereal in the sink. Or coffee in my cup. Or when I fold his socks inside out. Yeah, we still have our differences.
But we’re getting better. When he knows I’ve had a terrible week, he’ll step up his game and pitch in more. When he works overtime, I’ll do the dishes just because. We’ve spent less time fighting and more time compromising. We’ve also let go of the notion that it is possible to maintain a Home and Garden type house while working like we do and having five cats and Henry. It’s just not real.
What we’ve learned: there will always be chore fights, especially in the modern era. There still seems to be this stigma that women adore housekeeping, which is definitely not the case for all of us. I think it’s just about communicating, trying to find a system you can both live with, and realizing it will never be perfect.
Oh, and never having company over on Thursdays.
So if you need something on a Thursday, please call first. At least an hour ahead. And plan on Chad and I being angry at each other because we have to clean in a hurry :)
It's surprising, unexpected, crazy, complicated, frustrating, difficult, and a whole lot more adjectives.
We think we master it. We think we predict it, control it, shape it.
But we don't.
Sometimes love comes along when we least expect it or when we don't even want it to. It comes along when we're hurt or broken, when we're busy or unwilling.
Sometimes we give up on it, think it's over for us.
But so many times, it is only then that love comes along.
Then Comes Love releases March 25th, 2016 with Hot Tree Publishing. Be sure to add it to your Goodreads list and check out my Facebook for updates.
Chad and I are twenty-eight-year-olds who’ve been married for four years, but we’ve been together way longer. We met when we were twelve; we sat across from each other at the table in art class. We’ve been together basically ever since. Over the years, we’ve had a lot of laughs, tears, and times we wanted to give up. We’re still together though, and still happy. We’ve learned that our society’s idea that monogamy isn’t possible and marriages aren’t forever just isn’t true. Marriage is hard, it’s frustrating, but it can last. In this new segment, I’ll share some real-life tips about what we’ve learned along the way.
Every woman, on some level, craves the grand gift-giving gesture. You know, the one from the movies where the sinewy protagonist blindfolds his significant other and leads her into a room filled with billions of roses and a gorgeous, one carat diamond ring. Or there’s the lavish surprise vacation to Hawaii for two weeks filled with romance. Maybe it’s an outrageous dress to wear to a lavish, reservation only dinner. Maybe it’s a brand new Corvette. Maybe it’s that hot pink diamond ring in the Litman’s jewelers case with a $5,000 price tag (no hints here, or anything, Chad).
But let’s face it: for many of us, these lavish gifts are simply daydreams and may stay there forever.
Few of us live lives of the movies…and, if we’re being real, few of us would want to. Does the ring big enough to make your hand hurt necessarily equate to a real emotional connection? It could… but then again, a huge price tag does not necessarily symbolize a huge amount of love. It’s sparkly, it’s gorgeous, it’s envy-worthy… but it doesn’t solidify your relationship, as too many women have come to learn the hard way.
For many of us, reality can bite when it comes to gift giving. The struggles of paying the mortgage and the outrageous phone bill coupled with life’s lovely surprises (as in our water heater blowing up a month after we spent our savings on the house) can sway even the most romantic couple to a dollar-store level exchange. The corvette gets traded for a waxy piece of chocolate. The one carat ring becomes a one dollar carnation. The lavish vacation becomes a trip to McDonalds.
But you know what I’ve learned?
In all seriousness, it doesn’t matter.
Give me McDonald’s cheeseburgers over caviar and champagne any day… because true, the cheese might be a bit strange and the burger a bit questionable. But I’ll still have an awesome time. I’ll still laugh my butt off with the crazy, goofy man I’m married to.
Over the years, Chad and I have struggled with finances like any couple just starting out. We’ve been blessed, but we’ve had the years where we bought each other ten dollars in stuff from Dollar General for Valentine’s Day instead of splurging. We’ve had our years of waxy chocolates for Valentine’s Day and dinners at home. We’ve had our Christmas exchanges where things are far from equal.
Flashback to our high school days when Chad was working part-time for minimum wage, and there were plenty of Valentine’s Days and holidays on the cheap. Wildflower bouquets, dinner cooked at home, and homemade gifts became our staples.
But guess what?
I still have the wooden heart he carved for me in eighth grade (complete with a mistake on the backside of it , which just makes it more precious). I still remember the day he stopped on his way to school to pick a bunch of random “wildflowers” which were probably just weeds because he couldn’t afford roses. I still have every note he wrote me, every dollar store card.
That’s not to say we’ve never gone overboard on gift giving.
Have we splurged on gifts over the years? You bet.
There was the time in eighth grade he saved his allowance for months to buy me a locket for Christmas. There was a promise ring in tenth grade that set him back a few. There was the Playstation and DDR game he bought me one year for Easter (Don’t judge :) ). There was the Nicholas Sparks signed novel he bought me last year for Christmas.
There was the Wii and the gaming chair I bought him. There was the expensive toolbox, countless video games, and trips to Medieval Times.
We’ve both splurged. Maybe not Corvette level, Hawaii level splurges, but, in the scheme of our middle-class budget, they were splurges.
Were they special moments? Yes.
But would I trade all of those splurges for some of our free and cheap moments? You bet.
Last Valentine’s Day, we didn’t even exchange gifts. We spent the evening splitting a $10 Stromboli and a bottle of the cheapest vodka. We watched Netflix, laughed at stupid inside jokes, and just spent time together.
And it was the best Valentine’s Day we’ve had to date.
So there will be years in your marriage when you don’t have the money to buy or get gifts. There will be disappointing holidays where you feel like he’s forgotten you or doesn’t care about your relationship.
Please remember, though, that gifts are not measures of your relationship. We’re all guilty of Facebook bragging… I myself put a picture of the roses Chad got me on FB for Valentine’s Day last week. But don’t feel like you have to compete with your friends.
At the end of the day, gifts, no matter the holiday, are just nice gestures. They are not predictors of the success of a relationship. They are not requirements.
Giftless holidays sometimes allow you to understand what you have when you take all of the extra stuff away. If you have a giftless holiday but can still enjoy the company you’re with, then you’ve achieved the greatest gift of all.
Voice of Innocence, Without You, and Then Comes Love
Abs rippling, the sexy hunk sweeps the perfectly clad woman off her feet, kissing her at just the right moment. A few perfect lines, a few perfect touches, and they are off to their happily ever after.
These are the scenes modern romance is made of... or are they?
As a society, we seem to be obsessed with the idea romance is for the twentysomethings only. I am just as guilty as the next woman of wanting to see a gorgeous, sinewy hunk in my romance movie or next read. We think romance is synonymous with youth. I guess in a way it is.
But does that mean there is a cut off for love? Does that mean romance, passion, and the spark dies after your twenty-ninth birthday?
I certainly hope not.
Love's Age Limit
This morning, my faith in love later in life was restored thanks to the Today Show. There was a beautiful special about couples who have been married over fifty years. Hoda hosted a special party for forty-one couples who have been married over fifty years. They even made a music video with the couples called "Little Romance."
I found it so refreshing and emotional to see these couples interact in the segment. There weren't any six-pack abs or perfectly tight faces. There weren't passionate kisses or flirtations.
But there was certainly love.
There were looks of deep, genuine care for one another. There were laughs that certainly had their foundations in the decades. There were gentle touches, care for each other, and just joy.
Watching this special, I realized that our society puts so much emphasis on the wild, crazy love of youth that we forget what love later in life can mean.
Sure, love later in life might not be zesty and spicy. It might be lacking the swoonworthy scenes of our favorite rom coms.
Looking at those couples today, though, I realized there is a genuineness, a deepness in love that spans the decades. There is something to be said for a couple who pledge themselves to one another and make it last through the years, good and bad. There is something heartwarming about the way those couples looked at each other.
Love Later In Life
There are plenty of real life examples to go around, too. I can remember visiting my grandfather at his retirement community apartment and seeing an adorable couple sitting together on the bench. They were so happy together, holding hands and laughing in the summer sun almost every day.
I came to learn they had just met at their apartment complex. They were both in their seventies, and both had loved before. Together, though, they were just a portrait of happiness. They glowed when they were together. I heard from an acquaintance later who knew the woman that she said she never knew love until she met this man at the retirement center. She had been married before, but she hadn't loved as deeply as she did now.
I thought that was an amazing sentiment.
Sometimes, we think there's an age limit on the heart. We think that once one has lived so many years or had so many experiences, the heart dries up.
Such is not the case.
Love can come in so many forms at so many unexpected times.
Love and Literature: Capturing Real Love at Every Age
As a writer, I try to highlight the real woman's experience. I've written about teenagers. I've written about twenty-year-olds. Now, I'm also writing about an eighty-year-old for the first time.
It seems like there wouldn't be much to write about in an eighty-year-old's love life... but I've found it to be quite the opposite. Then Comes Love follows three different women of three different ages: 80, 50, and 32.
Surprisingly, though, I think it was more fun to write the eighty-year-old's story than the others I've written so far. It was fun to explore what love later in life looks like. There was so much complexity to write about and so many emotions. There were things to explore that I didn't get to explore with my other characters. There was also a depth and realness to the emotions that I hadn't experienced with younger characters.
Most of all, I feel privileged to get the chance to highlight a facet of love we often forget. Love later in life is a real thing. I hope this book sheds some light on that fact and gives some women hope. I hope it reminds women that love does not have a time limit or an age limit.
So am I swearing off writing about young love? Absolutely not.
There's something so special about the first time the heart finds love, usually at a young age.
But the thing is, I've realized that no matter what your age, love is always special when it comes along. It catches us off guard no matter where we are in our lives. It moves us, it changes us. It challenges us.
So whether you're fifteen or one hundred and fifteen, love is a common denominator in all of our lives.
And no matter what age it comes at, it's always a beautiful, magical, and complicated thing.
The vision:My perfectly white dress cascades behind me as I walk, flower bouquet bulging in my arms, down the lace-enshrouded aisle. After some elegant words and lofty I dos, we head to the reception, a perfect balance of elegance and fun. The cake is illustrious, the food delicious, and the DJ gets everyone on the floor. We party the night away, walking out under the stars, floating on a cloud.
The reality:While the dress is truly beautiful, the straps start to come off, and my mother-in-law has to quickly stitch them after the ceremony to prevent a crazy malfunction. The bustle is incorrect, so we have to hastily do a makeshift, curtainy bustle. I almost put the ring on Chad's right hand instead of the left, and we are confused when it is time for us to kiss since there is no "you may kiss the bride." The sandcastle cake I requested looks more like sea slime and sort of tastes like it. We have no clue how to cut the cake and end up awkwardly making a disastrous mess of it. The DJ blows a fuse, leaving us standing for ten minutes in uncomfortable silence, and he picks the longest version of every song, leaving the traditional dances lasting way longer than expected. The photographer is awful...there are actually no pictures of just us that are clear.
Our wedding in October of 2011 was far from the perfect vision we had in mind. There were plenty of things that went wrong and that were disappointing.
It's the same for our marriage. This October will mark five years since our wedding day, and I'd like to say life is like a bouquet of roses. But it's not. The wedding flowers wilt quickly, and sometimes the gold band you bought starts to tarnish. Marriage is hard work.
The romantic dinners and roses and strolls in the park hand in hand are sometimes just a thing of the movies. Real life--grocery shopping, work, cleaning, house disasters--can be exhausting. Spending almost every moment with someone can be agitating.
Do we have beautiful romantic moments? Absolutely. We go to nice dinners. Chad surprises me with chocolate instead of roses (which is exactly what I would prefer). We laugh at life's crazy moments, and we often have a perfect night getting takeout and watching Netflix. We have a good life.
But are things perfect?
We have screaming fights about his snoring or spilled soda on the floor or whose turn it is to let Henry out. We argue about where our furniture should go or when I last did laundry or who left food out on the counter to spoil. We scream about where the stamps are or where the savings account book is or where my favorite shoes got to. We accuse each other of eating the last Kit-Kat or misplacing the Xbox controller or Henry's vet papers.
Like our wedding day, things aren't always the dreamy vision we had in mind. There are plenty of disappointments. But over the years, I've learned one big thing.
Love is never perfect.
It's frustrating and messy, just like a wedding. Sometimes the cake you bought tastes awful. Sometimes your gorgeous dress almost loses its straps. Sometimes the man you married snores way too much or refuses to put his laundry away or puts empty boxes back in the pantry. Sometimes the woman you married stuffs the trashcan full so she doesn't have to take it out or leaves coffee cups everywhere or leaves cereal in the sink (hypothetically speaking, of course. This is CLEARLY not about me :) ).
But real love, the kind worth hanging onto for a lifetime, doesn't have to be perfect. In fact, if you can choose to stand beside someone who sometimes drives you crazy, if you can look past the ugly moments and focus on the beautiful ones, then you know you actually found love.
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