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I'm not going to tell you that you only need to love yourself, or that romantic love isn't worth all the hype, or to love the whole world, or that love is all there is (although yes).

I wouldn't have even thought to write something today, on Valentine's Day, if I hadn't remembered the infamous Post Secret video someone sent me in 2008. When I watched it then, I felt gutted. 

I was married then and thought I should be more "in love" with my husband. I cried at my desk watching the video because I thought I messed up, that I made a mistake in marrying him because I didn't feel all swept up anymore. I had doubts. There were cracks in my once perfectly whole adoration. Instead of noticing all he was, which had come to me without trying for so long, I started to see what he wasn't. I found myself grimacing at him being...himself. What once charmed me began to irritate. His temperament—steady, sure, confident—became an affront to mine. He hadn’t changed, and he hadn’t tricked me into thinking he was someone else, so this shift inside me came with guilt. I couldn’t shake it, though I tried. Or maybe I didn't. I don't know.

I’m not one to blame life, but life became really goddamn hard for us. We got pummeled by more than most in our first years. I can’t help but wonder sometimes how much I brought on to take us down so I wouldn’t have to eat all the blame. Ultimately I would eat most of it anyway. Until I couldn’t anymore. 

There’s so much still to understand, to unwrap and unpack. I will continue to look at it not because I need a different ending, but because it is ultimately beautiful to me, even as it’s tragically sad. On the outside, we are two people who fell in love, married, had a baby, went through more hard stuff than we could withstand, and eventually split. There was infidelity and addiction and loyalty and survival and disgust and forgiveness and mutual love for a little girl and family and coming together and falling apart and kindness beyond reason and also heartbreaking, unforeseen limits in our capacities. On the inside, we could not know what all was happening; it was so much bigger than us.

I was confused then, and immature. I had to be. What I knew of love was what had been shown to me, and what I learned from Disney and all those sweet fairytales; neither model was very helpful. He arrived too with his own notions. Even if we'd known what to expect, I don't think it would've changed much. You cannot prepare an uninitiated heart for initiation by explaining the journey. We only know when we’ve walked it ourselves.

I’m not going to tell you that you only need to love yourself, or that romantic love isn’t worth all the hype, or to love the whole world, or that love is all there is (although yes).

I am going to tell you to keep faith in the larger story. I’m going to tell you there is a through line that runs deeper and is more benevolent, surprising, and magnificent than you can conceive. You’ll get tricked into thinking—and especially, maybe today—that your story is about the lover you have or the lover you don’t. You may think your story is about wanting, and longing, and never quite getting, or maybe it’s about feeling like you’ve finally arrived because you have someone to wrap your arms around tonight and, Thank God, because you’ll never have to go back to the loneliness again. 

Either way and no matter what, do not be mistaken: this is a love story. Your entire life is a love story. It’s just not the kind you think.

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