I went to a wedding with my husband not long ago. It was a beautiful affair: twinkling lights, fresh flowers lining the aisle, the works. The couple beamed at one another in front of the church with so much love in their eyes the space around them glowed.
I stole a glance at my husband and felt a tiny twinge of envy. More than a decade into marriage—a house, a pack of kids, careers, the works—had our love dulled into something that paled in comparison?
We started out just like those two, of course. When we were engaged, my husband-to-be counted down the days to our wedding on a little magnetic dry erase board at his apartment, the only adornment on his stark white refrigerator door.
When the day finally arrived, my new husband smiled at me with such pure, deep love as we said our vows and promised our lives to one another. We were deliriously happy and deliciously naive.
He started counting up on the dry erase board after that.
Those days when love exists in the vacuum of two, when it pours out of every ounce of your beings, are a gift. Standing at the beginning, blissfully unaware of the twists and turns ahead, the joys and sorrows that await—it’s magic. You’re together, you’re in love, and that’s all that matters.
But days turn into months, then to years, and the honeymoon starts to feel like a dream. Jobs and careers introduce new demands on time. Extended families come with worries and stress. A baby—maybe a few—comes along and shifts your gaze from one another to the living, breathing, utterly dependent product of your love.
You do your best to hold on to threadbare wisps of romance stolen between the exhaustion, but most days end with you falling into bed—together, on the good nights—bested by the daily demands of parenting and acting like grown-ups. Sometimes you struggle to remember the last time you properly kissed each other, let alone anything else.
And without anyone noticing, that little dry erase board loses track of the days, then disappears altogether.
Sometimes, I see every hour of every day etched across our faces. We view the world through sadder eyes that have seen deep loss and tremendous joy. There are faint lines beginning to form around my husband’s kind blue eyes. Our idea of a good night involves getting through a whole episode of a favorite show and all the kids sleeping eight hours in their own beds. Not exactly the stuff of romance novels.
Our love is aging . . . but some things become more beautiful as they’re refined by the work of time.
What I’ve learned since the day we stood on the altar and promised forever to each other? Real love is a choice—a daily, conscious, unwavering choice. It’s the prism that’s taken a white-hot, concentrated beam of brand new love from so long ago and spread it into something colorful and boundless and beautiful.
And every day, I choose him. I choose us.
I choose our shortcomings and faults, our failures and our heartaches. I choose our inside jokes and laughter, our success and our joys. I choose our seasons of struggle and our renewals of hope. A thousand times, in a thousand ways, I choose my husband and this life we share.
I came across that little dry erase board just a few days ago while emptying a long-forgotten corner of a dresser drawer. The numbers were faint, frozen in a different time. But instead of making me feel sad for what was, I warmed with gratitude for what is: love—this beautiful life—we’re choosing every day.
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