Prince Charming Doesn't Exist...but That's Okay
From the time you’re a little girl, the image of a fairy-tale marriage clings to your heart, paving the way for absurd expectations later in life. You read stories that talk of happily ever after and grand gestures, and suddenly, it seems like love must meet this standard.
Throughout your teen years, your college years, and beyond, there’s this magical vision of marriage. There’s this sense marriage is about princes and flowers, grand balls and candlelight promises.
Real love, the kind marriages are founded on, require glamorous people and smooth moves. Marriage requires perfect compromise and moments of romance. It’s a life of wedded bliss that begins with the first “I do,” the first bite of wedding cake, the first morning you wake up in each other’s arms. Having high expectations for marriage isn’t a bad thing.
Marriage should make you happy, should fulfill you, should help you achieve your life goals. There’s nothing wrong with holding out for your own version of a fairy-tale marriage. The problem comes, I think, when we let society dictate what a perfect marriage must be.
So many times, I hear women who are upset because their husbands don’t act like the men in the movies or in romance novels. There are no passionate kisses at 6 a.m. or bouquets of roses on a random Tuesday. There are no jets to Aruba on a whim or couture gowns to wear to a fancy club. There are no carriage rides or silver platters. Thus, we feel like our marriage is flawed. It doesn’t meet the standards we’re taught from a young age.
Marriage without this dazzling sense of romance is clearly a failure, right? The problem with the fairy-tale marriage is it lessens our appreciation for what we have. This impossible, unreasonable standard we hold our marriages to can prevent us from seeing the happiness we actually have right within our grasp.
Again, this is not to say marriage should be something you settle for. I believe every woman has the right to pursue her version of the fairy-tale marriage if she chooses. If caviar and romantic trips to Aruba and couture ballgowns make you happy, then find a marriage where this will work.
However, if you don’t necessarily want these elements in your perfect vision of marriage, then don’t feel pressured into wanting them.
At the end of the day, no marriage is flawless. The perfect marriages of television and romance novels are just images and snapshots. They do not capture the true, day-to-day living of a genuine love. Real marriages are forced to weather unromantic storms, tedious routines, and the exhaustion of adult life. Thus, sometimes a trip to a private island isn’t practical. Sometimes lighting a single candle in the bedroom is risky because of a pesky cat and the risk of a fire hazard. Sometimes a gourmet dinner on a silver platter turns into a fast food bag because there are just too many appointments and meetings this week. I
In the past six years of marriage, I’ve learned one thing for certain: There is no plot diagram, no equation, to the perfect marriage. There are so many versions of marriage, of happiness, of romance.
The key is to figure out what works for you, what fulfills you. If sweatpants and takeout bags fit into your fairy tale, own it. As I’ve said before, Prince Charming doesn’t really exist in real life…but neither does Snow White. No love is perfect because no two individuals are perfect. Each relationship will have its ups and downs, and the wedding cake never truly tastes as good a year later. The bliss from the wedding day will wear off and, when you’re left with “real” life, the kind involving bills and work and household chores, romance may change its appearance.
This does not mean the fairy tale has turned into a Brother’s Grimm sort of tale, however. It simply means your version of the fairy tale has morphed into something more appropriate for the real world.
It might be impossible to achieve the ultimate fairy tale-like marriage, at least in society’s eyes—but I think that’s okay. At the end of the day, you can still find happiness in an imperfect marriage.
You don’t have to have a knight in shining armor, a prince riding in on a white horse, or any similar image to make your marriage successful. Real marriage takes work. There is no fairy godmother to make all your wishes come true, and your prince charming may turn into a toad occasionally.
Happiness, though, is a choice in marriage.
It is a choice to say the man you married is worth your time, your effort, and your devotion.
It’s a choice to say the reality of your love together is worth more than some fantasy love society tells you to chase.
The fairy-tale marriage might not really exist—then again, it is possible to achieve a magical level of happiness in marriage if you’re willing to be imaginative and realize all is not what it seems.
Bigger Isn't Always Better When It Comes to Love
He got down on one knee at King's, our favorite restaurant at the time.
We'd gone there for late-night breakfast dates. We'd gone there after prom, on random Saturdays, on lunch dates.
And so, on a Friday, he got down on one knee in the middle of King's while we ate dinner. There was no fanfare, no clapping, no flashiness.
It was just me and the boy I met at the art table, in the middle of a sleepy restaurant, thinking about forever.
I said yes, and he slid the ring on my finger. We continued on with our date because in reality, nothing had changed. We were still the same people we were before he got on one knee. We were still the couple who argued over stupid things, who laughed at the same jokes, who could know what each other was thinking with a single look.
We were still the couple who had been through ninth grade social, two proms, graduation, first dates, first dances, and first kisses.
Yet, we were also different. Because in that moment, we realized that the boy and the girl who met at the art table would grow up to be a married couple who chased their dreams together, who built a life together. With that ring, the next phase of our love story began, the simple, genuine love has led us where we are today.
Every proposal story, big, small, embarrassing, or even disastrous, is special in its own way.
I'd love to hear about your proposal... or about your dream proposal. Comment below and let us know how your next phase of your love story began.
If you love talking about simple, genuine love, be sure to connect with me on Facebook where we chat romance, fashion, makeup and more.
Sweet Love Prize Pack Up For Grabs
I love Valentine's Day.
Not the commercialized, Hallmark-y version. Not because I think it's the only day of the year you should celebrate your loved ones.
In truth, I love it for this simple reason: I love pink and sparkles....and the stores are filled with pink and sparkles.
Okay, so that is the main reason I love the holiday. An excuse to make adorable pink cookies (that, let's be real, are usually burnt and gross, but it's the thought, right?) and a reason to buy glitter... since I was a little girl, it's been right up my alley.
However, as I get older, I've come to realize that Valentine's Day IS important, even though it gets a lot of negative publicity.
Over the years, my husband and I have been through quite a few different versions of Valentine's Day. We've done the traditional roses/candy/cards Valentine's Day. We've done the going out to eat for a candlelit dinner celebration. Our first year of marriage, we did the "we're on a majorly tight budget" and spent only $5 on each other while cooking at home. We've done the "we've-been-married-a-while-now-let's-get-massages-instead" Valentine's Day. We've done the Netflix and pizza celebration.
We've changed our celebration for the day of love as we've changed, and I have good memories from all of them.
However, I've come to learn this over the years: Married or single, the beauty of Valentine's Day is simply the belief in the value of love.
I agree that the holiday has been over-commercialized, like so many things. Still, I think the power of the holiday is in the fact that we as a society still value love.
Love is something we often overlook in life. We get so busy making money, working on our careers, and just trying to keep up with life. We often forget to celebrate the most beautiful, most complex emotion around us.
And I'm not talking beautiful on the outside. As you know, I believe that it's the imperfect kind of love, the sometimes ugly-crying, messy versions that are the most beautiful.
But love is something that heightens our human experience, whether it be romantic love or any other type.
So this Valentine's Day, whether you're a proponent or an opponent of the holiday, I hope you'll take a minute to think about those you love in your life. I hope you'll take a moment to remember that the importance of the holiday is to take a moment and celebrate the emotion in all its forms in your own life.
I hope you remember that Valentine's Day isn't about how much money you spend or putting on a big show one day a year. It's about remembering all year long how powerful love can be... and how it can bring a richer, fuller experience to our lives.
Happy Valentine's Day, however you celebrate,
Head over to my Facebook Page to enter to win this awesome Valentine's Day Sweet Love Prize Pack!
Throbbing body parts. Obscene gestures. Vivid foreplay and sexy, thrusting bodies.
Do I have your attention yet?
In our “sex sells” society, these seem to be the hallmarks of the romance genre. In fact, when I tell someone I write romance, I’m usually faced with two types of people.
I certainly understand the allure. I’m no stranger to appreciating a sexy body or a nicely written, sexy scene. In my teens, I was an avid romance reader. At the time, the suave scenes, the perfect moments under the twinkling stars, and the sexy exchanges seemed not the things of fantasies, but the things of possibility. They inspired my vision of love.
Fast-forward to my early twenties when I started getting serious about writing. By that time, I was no stranger to the fact that the fantasies in romance novels are usually just that: Fantasies.
By that time, I’d traded the lingerie of my romance novels for flannel pajamas that weren’t inspiring any sort of lust. I’d realized that love wasn’t always candlelight dinners in gorgeous, skintight dresses and stilettos while we made eyes at each other across the perfectly set table. Instead, love became eating fast food on a Tuesday while we complained about work and cleaned up cat vomit from the carpet. Love became falling asleep on the sofa beside him because I was exhausted from getting up so early instead of staying up all night and looking at the stars. The scenes from my romance novels faded away as real life took hold.
But, as I started thinking about writing in the romance genre, I realized something: Love is so much more than some of the fantasy worlds we see in romance novels. Not that there is anything wrong with that! We need escapism. I love a rock-hard body as much as anyone. And, that’s not to say these books are only about unrealistic expectations.
However, I realized something about my beloved romance genre: something was missing. That something was that as a twentysomething whose views of love had changed, I wanted to see myself in romance. Maybe it was selfish on my part. Maybe we could psychoanalyze and say it was simply to justify to myself why my relationship had gone a bit stale, had been overrun by real life.
Maybe that’s all true.
Regardless, I knew when I put my fingers on that keyboard and started writing, I wanted to see real-life romance. I didn’t want female characters who had it all figured out. I didn’t just want rock-hard abs and passionate looks.
I wanted turmoil and confusion. I wanted characters who, like me, didn’t have it all figured out in their twenties or even thirties. I wanted characters who got lost in the world at times, who got lost in love, and who had their doubts. I wanted to see characters who fought about dishes, about in-laws, about the car, and about careers. I wanted characters who pushed each other away and pulled each other back in.
I wanted emotion, depth, and complexity. And I didn’t want all of that to only take place in the bedroom.
It’s not that I’m naïve or a proponent of chaste living. Sex is certainly a part of the equation, and hopefully we all find a way to keep romance alive in our relationships. Hopefully we all get to live the fantasy a little bit now and then.
But I don’t think for most of us that the fantasy and hot sex are the focuses of our relationship. Because, hopefully, most of us have a level of reality facing us. We have a level of depth. We would all live inside that sexy world forever if we could… but many of us can’t. Life is hard, and love is harder.
I wanted novels that reflected that. I wanted novels that didn’t just help us escape, but helped us come to terms with the realities of life and love. I hoped to write novels that showcased how love is not perfect or easy… but it can still be powerful and beautiful.
Love doesn’t have to be perfect to be worthwhile, and it certainly isn’t always neatly packaged.
Messy. Hard. Complex. Emotional. These are the things I wanted to see in my novels because these are the things I’ve experienced.
So for me, I’ve come to believe the romance genre isn’t just about sex, about fantasy, or about guy+girl=love. For me, it’s about showcasing real-life love, the kind that isn’t always perfect but is just as magical in its own way.
Join me on my journey to showcase real romance. Join my tribe and celebrate the fact that perfectly imperfect romances are stories worth telling.
Lindsay Detwiler is the author of 8 sweet romance novels and a high school English teacher. Check out all of her works on Amazon or wherever books are sold.
We can’t judge a love story by its couple.
“Wow, you two just don’t... go together.”
It’s a comment my husband and I have heard from both polite company and strangers over the years. In some ways, I understand.
We are complete opposites in our mannerisms, our personalities, and our tendencies. He is a rugged, bearded blue collar worker who hates reading, loves wearing the color black, and doesn’t care for fashion. I am a studious bookworm who loves everything pink, is a teacher by profession, and has way too many shoes. He is a free-spirit who doesn’t care for authority, while I’m a rule-following worrier. He’s spontaneous and extroverted; I’m a planning introvert.
We are definitely the yin to each other’s yang.
Still, it amazes me how so many people can judge our relationship without even really understanding us. We’ve been married five years now, but we’ve been together for over sixteen—we met at the age of twelve and have been together ever since. Our relationship isn’t perfect; I’d argue that none are. Nevertheless, we’ve found a depth in our connection and a fulfillment from being together that, in my opinion, is what marriage should be about. In short, we’ve found a happiness in our love and an appreciation for the journey we’ve walked together.
Writing online, however, I’ve come to realize how quick we are as a society to pass judgments on everything and everyone, especially when it comes to love. We like to think we can categorize and generalize everything around us just from a quick glance.
As a frequent writer about the topic of marriage, the “you two don’t go together” has been expressed in more depth and sometimes more viciously. I’ve received comments questioning the validity of my marriage, accusing us of being together for the wrong reasons, and ripping our connection apart. I’ve been accused of only marrying him for his beard—seriously—and he’s been accused of being controlling. We’ve been berated for not having kids, some claiming this clearly means our relationship isn’t strong. We’ve heard it all. As so many of us come to learn, the online world can be brutal in its judgments and comments.
Although the online world is certainly a harsh representative of our society, even the “real world” isn’t always kind. I’ve come to realize how much we all tend to judge the relationships around us from our surface-level view of couples. We assume we know couples, for better or worse. We are haughty enough to think we can understand a couple’s relationship based solely on their public persona.
There seems to be a constant need to judge each other’s marriages, relationships, and connections.
The True Defining Elements of a Love Story
Like so many things in life, you can’t judge the true worth of a love story by what you think you know. Real love stories happen behind the public persona created by a couple.
Real love stories are quilts consisting of patches from various circumstances and memories. To judge a couple based on one image is to falsify the snapshots that make up who they are.
To appreciate a relationship, you have to be able to see it in its entirety because in the end, isn’t the journey what truly builds a relationship?
The struggle a couple walks together isn’t always apparent in their public interactions. You don’t know what they’ve been through hand in hand. You don’t know what they’ve earned and built together, what they’ve overcome.You can’t see any of that from the picture they show to the world.
You can’t see what they’ve battled and survived in private by the way they hold hands.
You can’t see the struggles, disappointments, and hardships they’ve faced by the way they walk beside each other.
You can’t see the joys and connections they share by how good they look together.
You can’t see the midnight dances in the kitchen over exciting news, the stolen kisses, or the sweet inside jokes shared by overhearing one conversation.
You can’t see the sweet, simple, everyday moments from the way they glance at each other.
Quite simply, you can’t understand who they are through a rash judgement about the foundation of their love based on outward appearances or assumptions.
This idea can certainly go both ways. The couples you seem to think have it all don’t always. The couples who swoon over each other in public sometimes live a much darker persona at home. Just like in Big Little Lies, sometimes the public version of a couple is much brighter than the serious, dark truth hidden at home.
Regardless, the point is this: you cannot possibly judge a relationship based on public appearance or outside knowledge of a couple.
Moreover, real love stories aren’t about flashy shows of affection or romantic gestures. These do not define a couple. If it were that simple, love wouldn’t be such a complex emotion so many of us struggle with. Love is much more layered than a surface-level appearance.
Real love is much harder to define because it’s a collection of moments, memories, events, feelings, and pathways. It’s an intersecting web of choices and situations that create an ever-changing relationship.
In short, a couple can only be defined by the journey they walk together, a journey only they know and understand.
Thus, we must remember that, at the end of the day, a love story is only owned by two people: the two people living it. The rest of us are just bystanders unaware of the true tale.
Lindsay Detwiler is a contemporary romance author with Hot Tree Publishing. Learn more about her works here: http://bit.ly/2u42BjU
Nose scrunches, general disgust, raised eyebrows, and repulsion.
These are sometimes the reactions when I say I'm a romance author.
I understand the genre isn't for everyone. Still, over the past three years as a published author in the romance genre, I'm come to learn there are so many unfair stigmas about romance reads. Some automatically assume whips and chains are a part of your stories, Fifty Shades forever changing the way we think of romance.
Others have told me they only read "real literature" or only like books with "complex characters," so romance isn't for them.
Some simply say they hate cheesy works and stories when eyeing my books.
When I'm met with these responses to the romance genre, I smile politely. Like I said, I understand the genre isn't for everyone.
But as both a writer in the genre and an avid reader of it, I know these stigmas and stereotypes are so often untrue.
My First Love Affair with the Genre
When I first decided to write a novel, I knew without a doubt it would be in the romance genre because I'd fallen in love with it years before.
In junior high, Nicholas Sparks's stories became my obsession, my own love affair of sorts. I adored the way he could weave together two seemingly different lives, two broken people, into a single, working unit. I loved reading about their journey, their first kiss, their connection uncovered. I loved the way he could make the most complex, frightening human emotion seem to make sense.
Thus, putting pen to paper, I knew love stories were what I wanted to write. I wanted to explore the depth of romantic connections. I wanted to uncover romance where there seemed to be hopelessness. I wanted to help broken characters find their way to redemption down a rocky road of love.
I knew when I started writing romance there was a certain stigma about it, but I didn't worry about that. I worried about telling my stories, stories of complexity and emotion. Stories of reality and harsh truths. My romances aren't always about skipping into the sunset and finding a simple solution to life's problems. My romances are about the struggles we as humans face when trying to meld two different lives into one. It's about the obstacles that threaten not only our love, but our identities.
The Truth About Romance
Romance stories aren't cheesy, easy reads or lighthearted, unrealistic sagas.
They aren't all about abs and sexual encounters.
They aren't all about boy meets girl, love, marriage, and happily-ever-after.
As a reader and writer in the genre, I've come to learn that romance is a broad genre with so many nuances in its offerings. There are stories of escape, stories of depth, and stories of gut-wrenching pain.
I know no matter how many articles are written about the value of the romance genre and the depth of its literary value, there will always be stigma. Romance will forever be pictured as shirtless men parading women into the sunsets of forever.
Still, I want to make it clear: I will never apologize for writing romance. No matter how many sighs or shriveled noses I see at my work, I will stand proud knowing I write in this genre. I will never back down from telling the stories I love, even if some don't want to take them seriously. I will never stop defending the genre for its literary value, it's revelation of deep human truths, and its beauty at highlighting one of the most misunderstood yet valued concepts of the human journey: Love.
To learn more about my dedication to genuine, sweet love stories and to get three free chapters of my most recent release, sign-up for my mailing list:http://bit.ly/2u42BjUbit.ly/2u42BjU
Today, I welcome a guest post from Sylvia Smith. Sylvia Smith is a relationship expert with years of experience in training and helping couples. She has helped countless individuals and organizations around the world, offering effective and efficient solutions for healthy and successful relationships. Her mission is to provide inspiration, support and empowerment to everyone on their journey to a great marriage. She is a featured writer for Marriage.com, a reliable resource to support healthy happy marriages.
Is it time to talk to the teenager in your life about love and relationships? Talking above love (or even worse, sex!) sounds like the kind of cringe-worthy chat most teenagers would much rather not have with their parents. But in fact, an honest chat about love is an important part of preparing your teen for their transition into adulthood, and a good way to teach them about healthy relationships and boundaries.
Here are 10 reasons why you should be talking to your teens about love.
1. Teaching Them About Good Relationships
Romantic relationship is a new territory for your teenager. Talking to them gives you the chance to teach them what good relationships look like. You can empower them with the confidence to say no to any relationship that is less than respectful, and educate them about having healthy relationships.
2. Warning Them About Signs Of Abuse
Let your teen know what makes up an abusive relationship and be clear with them that they don’t have to accept any behavior they are uncomfortable with. Let them know that abuse isn’t only physical violence, but also covers put-downs, being pressured to do things they don’t feel happy with, or being steered away from family and friends. Look up some anti-abuse resources online and share them with your teen so they’ll be ready to spot any warning signs.
3. Setting Boundaries And Expectations
Teenagers notoriously like to push boundaries – it’s all part of growing up. Now is a good time to talk to your teenager about your boundaries and expectations around love and relationships. Discuss curfews and ground rules with them. Be prepared to negotiate and listen to their concerns. Talk openly about when and how (or if) it’s ok for them to stay with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or have them stay over.
4. Defining Love vs Lust
This isn’t about being puritanical or shaming your teen for normal impulses. But do talk to them about the difference between love and lust. Help them understand the importance of thinking carefully about major decisions such as how far to go with their partner, and when. Give them a good grounding in how to know whether a partner really cares for them, or is just looking for some fun.
5. Showing Them What Respect Looks Like
Respect is the key to healthy relationships. Talk to your teen about respect. What does it mean? Show them what respect looks like in a healthy relationship: Talking kindly to each other, taking interest in each others lives, and respecting each others feelings, needs and boundaries.
6. Starting A Discussion About Preferences
Figuring out everything about sexuality can feel like a minefield. Make things easier on your teenager by starting an open discussion with them and letting them know that it’s ok if they don’t have it all figured out right now. Reassure them that there’s nothing wrong with being bigender, agender, transgender, gay, or anything else. Let them know that no matter what, they’re just as perfect in your eyes.
7. Building Trust Between You
Talking openly about love, sex and relationships is a great way to build trust between you and your teen. They’ll see that they can talk to you about anything and you’ll be there to listen and offer thoughtful advice. That sets up a healthy, trusting dynamic between you and your teen. When they’re navigating the ups and downs of love and need someone to help them, they will turn to you.
8. Showing Them How To Navigate Emotions
Emotions are tricky when you’re a teenager. Suddenly you have all these intense feelings, and we’re sure you remember how dramatic situations can get when there are a few teens involved. Teach your teen about emotional self care and regulation and help them to know themselves and handle their emotions better. They’ll be better equipped for dealing with the emotions of first relationships and first love.
9. Teaching Them How To Stay Safe
Love and dating aren’t always safe. You can let your teen know that without scaring them. Talk to them about staying safe,tell them to always keep an eye on their drink and make sure someone knows where they are. This is also a good time to chat with them about safe sex.
10. Being There For Them
Talking to your teen about love lets them know that you’re there for them as they go through this exciting and turbulent time in life. By modeling respect and openness, you build trust and make it easier for them to come to you to share their joys and worries.
Being a teenager is fun, challenging and tumultuous. Talk to the teenager in your life about love and give them the tools they need to form healthy relationships now and for the rest of their lives.
About the author:
Sylvia Smith is a relationship expert with years of experience in training and helping couples. She has helped countless individuals and organizations around the world, offering effective and efficient solutions for healthy and successful relationships. Her mission is to provide inspiration, support and empowerment to everyone on their journey to a great marriage. She is a featured writer for Marriage.com, a reliable resource to support healthy happy marriages.
Finding a Magical Love: Sometimes You Just Know
16 years ago today, I was the nerdy, awkward thirteen-year-old walking into the junior high dance with her friends. I was wearing a red tank-top from Deb, my favorite store, and some tan shorts. I had on my wedge sandals that made me feel so cool, and I think I was sporting some glitter eye-makeup. It was the end of the school year, and our band trip to Kennywood was the next day. I had no idea that the dance I was going to would become a full-circle moment years later.
You were the 13-year-old free spirit with more detentions racked up than I could count. You were reckless when it came to school and the class clown. But there was something about you that intrigued me, that made me think we could be good for each other. You made me laugh. You got me. Even then, you were always in my corner.
That night, though, sixteen years ago, everything changed. The slow songs came on, the ones that in 7th grade, we still didn't want to admit we were waiting for. We tried to pretend we liked standing in the corners or dancing with our friends. We tried to pretend boys still had cooties, and you tried to pretend you were too cool to dance with girls.
That night, though, you broke the rules. You crossed the dance floor and asked me to dance. You carefully put your hands on my waist and tried not to stand too close. It was humid in that dance, and I can still remember worrying my bangs were sweaty and gross.
But with Faith Hill's song about magic floating in the air swirling around us, something clicked. I knew something about us dancing there in the middle of all the crazy junior high kids laughing and carrying on, was just right. There were so many people around us, but we didn't notice. Suddenly, I didn't feel like the awkward girl trying to find her place. I felt like everything was just right. I felt like we were just right.
I had no way of knowing that years down the road, glitter eye-makeup would no longer be cool. I didn't know I'd laugh someday about my obsession with butterfly clips or that Deb would close in our mall.
Most of all, sixteen years ago, I had no way of knowing that we'd have this life together we do now. I had no way of knowing that I'd marry the boy who asked me to dance, and that I'd be thinking about that red tank-top and wedge sandals sitting on our sofa, surrounded by a beautiful life we've built together.
I had no way of knowing that over a decade later, we'd dance to Faith Hill's "Breathe" for another first dance...our first dance as husband and wife. What a full-circle moment that was, with everything fading away just like it did that seventh-grade night.
Then again, maybe I did know. Because even then, even at 13, we both knew that whatever it was between us wasn't something everyone had. We knew there was something once-in-a-lifetime about the way we just got each other, the way we made it work. We knew that even though we were so different in so many ways, we were the same, too.
Looking back, I think even then, we both knew the life we could build together could be something magical.
And it is. It truly is.
To the boy who asked me to dance sixteen years ago and is now my husband, I loved you even then. What a beautiful gift it is to find the one for you at such a young age...even if I was wearing glittery eye makeup and butterfly clips.
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.