Love is difficult.
Love is hard.
Love isn’t a fairy tale.
In the past few years, the internet has been inundated with relationship advice articles that spread these messages like well-conceived, well-intentioned plagues. There are constant reminders for women that love is imperfect and the knight in shining armor doesn’t really exist. I, too, am guilty of perpetuating these ideas in many articles I’ve written and even in day-to-day conversations.
It’s like so many of us feel that it is a badge of honor to talk about how imperfect, difficult, and painful our journeys in love are. We wear the scars like medals for all to admire—and we convince each other that if we don’t have these scars, it can’t be real love.
In addition to being a writer, I’m also a high school English teacher. In my daily life, I come across many teenage girls battling with heartache and figuring out what love is while wiping away endless tears. I can’t help but worry about the fact that we’re teaching girls that love equates to difficulty and pain. I also worry that these indelible marks turn into unquestioned tenants in our adult years and perpetuate the lie that it’s normal to be unhappy in love—admirable, even.
We use these principles to convince ourselves that frequent heartache is not only acceptable in a relationship, but necessary. We tell ourselves that lies, manipulation, constant disappointment, and even forms of abuse are acceptable because love is just complex and that’s just the way it is. We tell ourselves that our unrealistic expectations about love need to be squelched because Prince or Princess Charming doesn’t exist. We convince ourselves to lower the standards for what a healthy relationship looks and feels like because we worry that to do otherwise is to commit to a lifetime alone.
But here’s the thing: When I think about it, real love isn’t actually hard. In fact, it’s the easiest part of my life.
I don’t claim to be a relationship expert or have the perfect love. Nonetheless, I can say without a doubt that in the eight years we’ve been married (and the 20 years we’ve been together… we met at the art table when we were 12), our love is the easiest part about my life. Certainly, in our years together, my husband and I have had ups and downs. We’ve struggled with major losses, disagreements, frustrations, and boredom. I’ve cried, he’s yelled, and we’ve both said things we regret. It’s true.
Still, when I think about our relationship, the good absolutely outweighs the bad. The smiles are more numerous than the tears. Fights and sadness are the exception and not the rule. Our love is a comfort, a constant in an ever-changing, stressful life. In fact, it’s the easiest part of my life when I think about it. It’s the one thing that’s always there, the one aspect of my life that always feels like it’s put together. He’s more likely to dry my tears than to cause them.
On days when everything is crumbling around me, our love is my constant. It’s what makes me smile, what keeps me together, what keeps me dreaming. He’s the one who helps bring out the best in me when I feel like I’m at my worst—and vice versa.
I don’t think my husband and I are a rarity, an elusive unicorn in humanity’s search for what love is. I think, in truth, we’ve just been lucky to find that one person who makes love easy—as it is meant to be.
I think it’s healthy to be realistic, and it’s okay to talk about your problems when it comes to matters of the heart. Still, I think we also need to teach our girls that love doesn’t have to equate to pain. We need to stop convincing girls and women that love should be a battle, a warfare that we trudge through. We need to stop believing that real love requires countless scars and soggy tissues.
Instead of teaching girls that love isn’t a fairy tale, we need to teach girls to hold out for the person who can make love pretty close to a fairy tale most of the time.
Above all, we need to teach girls that if you make your heart wait for the right one to share it with, then love isn’t actually hard at all—it’s the easiest decision you’ll ever make, day in and day out, even when life gets pretty tricky.
And if you ask me, none of us should settle for anything less.