Your second love . . . the one that came after your first love ended in divorce after 22 years. That love is completely different from the first. 

I married my high school sweetheart. Back 20-something years ago, I thought he hung the moon and everything in between. But the red flags I turned my head to then—they could have all decorated a carnival very nicely. 

When my marriage ended after baby number five was born, I didn’t know how life would ever go on again for me. I sat there crying in disbeliefI could never love again. He was my everything, and he just didn’t want to be kept. I believed I knew what love was, that I had loved with every fiber of my being.

In the end, I did learn a lot about what love is not. But that’s the problem with love. Love can fade. People can fall in and out of love every single day. Love makes a lot of lawyers rich. And even though it took a little time, the love I once had for this man who I had loved with every fiber of my being was gone. It left just as quickly and suddenly as it had come years before. 

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Here we are rounding two years since, and I honestly cannot figure out what it was exactly that I fell in love with him over. I see the red flags waving now when I recall memories. The fact is back then, I fell in love with the possibilities of a future with him. The version of what I thought he would become. Of course, he grew to be far from the man I had envisioned. So I sit here questioning if I really did love him for him or not. I loved the idea of him. 

What I’ve learned about love from my first to my second is that with the second, you make them work for your trust first. You’re protective of your heart because you never want to be scammed again. You are more skeptical and go into love at a very slow walk, not a mad dash or blind sprint. 

My second love has had to be patient, understanding, and even more patient with me. I pushed at him making sure he wouldn’t wavier. I had walls he had to help me take down because I was not running blindly into love ever again. I walked into it, ever so slowly. I questioned almost everything. I let him learn and know me and earn my trust before I handed my heart over. 

He taught me what a healthy relationship is and is not. He taught me to not let a person tell you or show you that you do not matter or they don’t want you, more than once. Having to fight for someone’s love isn’t healthy. If someone isn’t sure about you, just leave. 

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Most importantly, my second love has shown me that it’s not just loving someone that makes a relationship last. It’s what you do for one another. It’s making their health a priority. It’s asking if they’ve eaten, taken their vitamins, it’s all the things they need to do to take care of themselves so they can be the best version of themselves for you.

It’s being a safe place for them that they don’t get anywhere else, so they can tell you anything and not be judged. Trusting that person and knowing they absolutely will not use what you’ve shared with just them, against you. You push each other to grow and to heal and the work doesn’t ever stop.

You learn with the second love that you walked into, love is not conditional on what someone else can do for you. You learn to love every aspect of them even the parts you don’t like because it’s a part of them. You do this because love changes as we grow and changes through the stages of our lives. Through grief and happiness, sickness and in health, soaring high or at rock bottomyou choose love; it’s an action, not just a feeling. Love is what you choose to do every single day. 

The best thing about my first love? It got me ready for the right love I’d find someday. For me, it’s now. 

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Ashley Travous

Ashley is a 39-year-old mother of five, starting life over again after 18 years of marriage. 

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