Have you ever heard the quote, “No man is worth your tears, and the only one who is will never make you cry”? I heard that piece of advice when I was young, and it sounded pretty great to me, so I took it to heart.
I set out looking for a man who would treat me the way I “deserved”.
To make a long story short, I didn’t find him.
Instead, I found a long string of romantic relationships that were both fun but painful while they lasted, and ended in dishonesty, drama and ultimately, failure. But when each of the relationships ended, I consoled myself: that wasn’t real love. Love wouldn’t hurt like that. Love wouldn’t be so hard.
It always made me feel better to think that “the man who wouldn’t ever make me cry” was still out there somewhere.
I would just have to keep looking for him.
Years later (in my late twenties) I met my husband.
Many things about him were different than the guys I had dated before, and the quality of our relationship was certainly different. But I’ll never forget the first major conflict we had, ending in tears on my part. We were sitting in the front seats of his Toyota Corolla in the Target parking lot.
I felt so defeated in that moment, and so infuriated. “You aren’t who I thought you were,” I wanted to tell him. “You were supposed to be different.”
But just as I was about to shake my head and say, “well… I guess this is it…” he reached his hand across the center console and put it on my knee. He said, “I know this is hard. But I’m not going anywhere. We’re in this together.” And that moment, marked by the Target Parking lot, would become infamous in our relationship.
It turned from the moment I thought our relationship would end to the moment I knew this was man was my husband.
Love is hard. Love hurts. But love sticks around.
We went to a marriage conference during the months we were engaged—a generous gift from my parents, a way of supporting us as we stepped into such an challenging new season of our lives—and one of the speakers at the conference said something that has stuck with us ever since.
It went something like this: dysfunctional marriages have strife, conflict, frustration, fear, sadness and betrayal—and no one ever talks about it. Functional marriages have strife, conflict, frustration, fear sadness and betrayal—but each person in the relationship shares freely and openly with the other.
Which only makes me think—great marriages are not easy marriages.
Strong love is not feel-good love, even though sometimes it does feel good. Strong love is love that stays open, admits fault, assumes the best, reaches across the console, says, “I’m hurt…” and keeps coming home.
Love is hard. But love stays close.
Love hurts, but love changes us.
A friend of mine is getting married soon, and the other day, as we were talking about her wedding, I told her: “I’m thrilled and excited for you. You will be so altered by the love of your husband.” My voice shook a little as I said it, and I saw her eyes become glassy and blue.
Part of me wished I could explain to her that, while it isn’t exactly how it sounds, it will still be wonderful. Then again, I could tell from the look on her face that she kind of already knew (and she’ll know more very soon).
Love is nothing like I thought it was.
But it hurts like hell.
I used to think loving people was pretty much like liking them.
And that if I didn’t like someone, or what they were doing, I couldn’t really love them. This also meant that if people didn’t “like” me, or something I was doing, it meant they weren’t loving me either. This idea of love was complicated and messy. It prevented me from truly loving people, and from receiving the love they were offering to me.
I couldn’t see love, and couldn’t find it, because I didn’t realize what it was.
I was so sad, and so lonely, waiting for love to show up.
Love hurts like hell.
And changing the way I see love—from someone who will “never make me cry” to someone who almost certainly will—has changed everything for me. I’m not waiting for love to show up anymore. I’m learning to let it in, to surrender to it. I’m learning to come out of hiding and live toward it, and into it. I’m seeing it all around me.
I’m letting it hurt.
Slowly, it’s leading me home.