When you’re planning to get married, they tell you it’s gonna be hard.

Marriage is a lot of work, they say.

It demands relentless effort. Nurturing. Forgiveness. Compromise. Communication.

And all of that is true.

But there’s one thing no one tells you before you say your vows. Truth be told, I think the sweet old couples who’ve been in the hard for 60 years probably don’t want to scare anyone off.

But I honestly wish I’d known the messy, complicated, beautiful truth. Then I wouldn’t have spent so much time wondering what I was doing so wrong.

If I could tell those blissfully happy newlyweds just one thing, it would be this:

Expect to fall out of love.

Maybe it’ll happen once, maybe a thousand times.

I suppose it never happens to the lucky few. They dance through the decades unaware that the feeling of being in love is something that can go away.

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But so many of us learn the hard way—through trial and error and heartache and mending and all of that on repeat—that it can, and it does.

Hear me, sis.

It’s normal. It’s natural. It’s human.

It’s an intentional design element of marriage, not a flaw.

And it gives us this incredible opportunity to dig deeper into the sacred relationship that exists between two people who have chosen to fight for each other . . . through good times and bad.

To love is intentional.

It’s something we can act on with purpose even when the feeling has escaped us.

To love another well is a choice.

To love a partner without conditions is a choice.

To show genuine love through words and behaviors is a choice.

To commit to another human being, for better or for worse, is a choice.

And to be unrelenting in the pursuit of a love that’s bigger and better than just mere feeling . . . that’s a choice.

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And in making this choice—over and over and over again, intentionally, purposefully, with a willing heart—something extraordinary happens.

You get the chance to fall in love again. And then again and again and again. Maybe a thousand times over. Maybe once every day.

Imagine how deeply this strengthens that bond.

It’s true—I don’t look at my husband the way I did on our wedding day. Instead, I see him through this spectacular lens I didn’t even know existed when I was looking through rose-colored glasses.

I see a husband, yes. A father to my children. But I also see something that can’t be contained within even those significant life roles. We’ve built and nurtured something that’s so much more than the sum of both of us together.

I look at our marriage and see eager hearts and open minds. I see battle-ready allies.

It’s a holy space.

It’s a mighty bubble.

It’s a sky made for soaring. It’s a rocky path that’s best traveled in tandem.

It’s a dream, and a refuge, and a promise.

This marriage creates for us the privilege of falling in love repeatedly, but it also grants a joy and peace that will never depend on a flimsy feeling.

When we’re in the winter of that loving feeling, when the warmth and the brightness are fading, and we find ourselves desperate for spring to come again, we don’t have to worry.

It will.

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And in that gap, this marriage allows us the honor of choosing an even purer and more courageous kind of love. It’s the kind of love that overwhelms and overpowers the darkest valleys and coldest nights.

It’s a solid kind of love. It never wavers.

I love my husband in a way I didn’t know how to love back then. And that’s how he loves me, too. It’s a love that will evolve over a lifetime.

That’s a dance I wouldn’t miss for the world.

So maybe we’re the lucky ones, after all.

Originally published on the author’s Facebook page

Cassie Gottula Shaw

I'm Cassie, and I'm a writer, mama, Jesus enthusiast, cliche coffee drinker, and lover of all the stories. I believe in the power of faith and empathy, radical inclusivity, and the magic and beauty of ordinary days. I'm inspired every day by the firm belief that we owe something to each otherlove and human connection. When I'm not writing, you can find me running from dinosaurs, building castles, pursuing joy, or watching the sun rise over the fields of Nebraska (coffee in hand) where my husband and I are raising two spectacular children. For more stories, visit my Facebook page, From the House on a Hill with Cassie Gottula Shaw; Instagram, Cassie Gottula Shaw; and the blog, fromthehouseonahill.com