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5 Lessons From Staying in Love for 15 Years

This morning, I wrote an email to a friend that included this line:

I feel we’re hitting the age where lots of our peers are getting divorced…

While not an epidemic amongst people I am close to, this makes me sad.

So I started thinking about what Chrissy and I have learned in our 15 years of marriage. Here’s what I came up with…

Love causes pain.

Chrissy and I are listening to Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin. Last night, there was a line that made me grab my journal and write, “Love causes pain.”

I mean, think about the various scenarios…

When you love someone and it’s not returned, it hurts. When you love someone, and it’s returned but imperfectly, it hurts. When you love someone and they leave you, it hurts. When you love someone, and they are hurting, it hurts you, too.

I think about the times Chrissy’s been crying and snotting all over me. Yes, it was disgusting. But it’s also painful, and not just for her.

(In fact, loving anything at all may be out of the question.)

Love reveals your imperfection.

When you are in love, you and your beloved are close. Closer than any other people. (Hello, you’re trading bodily fluids.) When someone is right in the front row, they really do see everything, warts and all.

But the harder part is that they see you for who you really are, for where you’re hypocritical, where you hold others to a high standard but cut yourself slack.

This is ultimately a gift, but it’s a hard one to receive. And if you’re not expecting it, marriage can be pretty sucky.

Love makes you want to change.

I’m not sure if women are like this, but many men have this thing about changing. It’s as if he’s supposed to be the same guy the whole time he dates a woman, while he’s engaged, and then forever after.

Unless he was totally put together before meeting her, he’d probably be a prick.

Given the last point about our imperfections, you ought to want to change, right? In the last 15 years, I’ve started taking responsibility for myself and others, I’ve learned when to hold my tongue, I’ve found some strength, and I’m starting to know when to take my foot off the gas a bit.

Love needs your brain (not just your heart or your other parts).

I’ve written elsewhere about “target fixation.” When you are head over heels, you can’t think about anything else. You are worthless. You are overcome by hormones and pheromones.

Hold on there a sec.

You have to take a deep breath, go for a walk, talk this out with someone you know and trust, and get some perspective.

(And this isn’t only for the heady early days of love, but also the hard days that come later. I think a lot of people lose all perspective and then walk away from a good thing.)

Love rules.

And I’m not talking here just about marriage or even romance generally.

Even if it hurts sometimes…
Even if it reveals our imperfections…
Even if makes us change…
Even if it needs careful thinking…

Happy Valentine’s Day. Keep it together out there, folks.