We've all heard those cute, cliche phrases from fairy tales, movies, and pop songs: "All you need is love;" "Love endures all things;" "Love means never having to say you're sorry." (No one really believes that last one from the movie Love Story, right?)|
The great, big, grand idea of love sounds magical and wonderful, filled with sunshine and roses and skipping in meadows holding hands.
As a little girl I pored over books and movies where the girl overcame great odds or terrible tragedy or gut-wrenching heartache and ended up with the guy of her dreams whisking her away to paradise. As a young woman I learned as everyone else does that life doesn't work that way. At first it was painful and awful and made me start to second-guess every decision I made when my heart was involved.
Eventually I found the guy of my dreams. Well, he found me and, in a metaphorical way, jumped up and down and waved his arms around until I took notice -- he actually sang Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me" at a karaoke bar every week for at least a month to try to get my attention.
The thing was, I had gotten to the point in my life where I had been bowled over by "love" and hurt so badly by others that I closed him off, shut out any feelings I may have noticed for him in order to protect myself.
For me it was a matter of my heart's survival. We all, I'm sure, have crept back into our little caves at some point or another to avoid what we assume will only end in heartbreak and sadness, but in the process we risk missing out on something truly great.
Over the next 11 years, I let my guard down little by little, allowing my dream guy to find a place in my heart and really wedge himself in there. Like a plant that starts as a tiny little bud one year and becomes the centerpiece of your garden the next, that is what this man became to me.
But, like any real-life, messy love story, what had grown to be beautiful, healthy greenery began to wither and fade when children, stressful jobs, and busy lives prevented the proper care of our relationship.
We slipped into a dull routine, and I forgot to tell him how much I appreciated who he was and how much he meant to me. I closed myself off again, hoping that if I didn't let anything potentially hurtful in, I could avoid the way I was feeling. Do you know what happens when you do that to someone you love?
They don't magically come rushing to your side on a white horse, give you flowers, and tell you your hair is exciting. They pull away, you both feel rejected, and that lovely green plant that is intertwined with your heart grows smaller and smaller.
Love is not enough to survive a marriage. Love is a foundation, but not even a strong foundation like love can withstand what two people who have lost their way and lost each other can do to it. When it seems most painful, most difficult, or most uncomfortable, that is when you must be willing to face each other and talk.
That is the moment when it is imperative you trust yourself and the one you love. You must reach into the scary void and say how you really feel or what darkness is on your mind. If you go through life with your partner assuming he or she feels a certain way without having the courage to stand up and have a conversation about it, you will lose everything. You will become an empty shell who is bogged down with the anguish of betrayal and the pain of loss.
If you can make yourself vulnerable even once with the one you love, you may discover there is a way to be happier and a reason to try harder. You may become stronger together instead of weaker apart. Do not squander an opportunity to take your loved one's hand and tell him or her you are lonely, sad, frustrated, or hurt.
Do not resent receiving that information back either.Take a deep breath, know you will both be much closer if you hold on to each other and work through that most difficult, uncomfortable conversation. Do not shut down and allow your heart to cut off that person who is so deeply embedded there, he has become a part of you and you can never be the same without him.
To my husband -- I love you with all my heart. I am indescribably sorry for everything we have had to face in our time together, but you can count on me to face it with you and stand beside you for as long as you will have me and for the rest of my life.
Liz Strader of Davenport is an entrepreneur, advocate, and working mom of three little girls.
Moline, IL Details
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