I was 16 years old the first time I ever fell in love. Or at least, what I felt was love at the time. I was emotionally fragile, vulnerable and incredibly naive. I knew hardly anything about love, just that I wanted to feel loved and appreciated. This person made me feel special for the first time in my life. As much as the short-lived relationship took its toll on my emotional health, it taught me many valuable lessons about myself, about others, and about life. The most important lesson – that love is far from simple and that you can never stop learning about what it means to love someone.
Love takes time
I’ve never been a believer in the phrase, ‘love at first sight’. For me, love is so much greater than a feeling. It’s about loving my husband even when we’re in the middle of an intense argument and still wanting to make him lunch for work the next morning. It’s about being so furious at him for his behaviour but still being able to say that I love him. It’s about realising that a person’s behaviour does not always translate to who they are as a person.
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Love – whether it be between a couple, friends, or family members – I’ve learnt, takes plenty of time to grow.
Like with all families, I’ve had ups and downs with my in-laws. We’ve had our disagreements. We’ve had incredible difficulty finding common ground. But tonight, our family went out to dinner with my in-laws and the night was filled with so many smiles and laughter. We have reached this positive stage in our relationship because we’ve taken the time to understand each other. To compromise. To put the past behind us and work at building a better future.
Sometimes you don’t understand why people say or do things. Sometimes those very words and actions have a heavy influence on how you feel towards these people. But sometimes, time reveals to you the reason why events transpired the way they did and you realise that these people have actually loved you all along. That maybe they were scared, worried or apprehensive for you. That maybe they always had your best interests at heart – even if their words and actions showed otherwise.
And when you reach this moment of clarity, you realise that it isn’t just the relationship between you two that has changed – but you have changed as well. That upon retrospection, you’ve been able to make peace with the past and grown as a person.
Love does mean saying that you’re sorry
There’s a famous movie line that goes, “love means never having to say that you’re sorry”. In my experience of being married for almost 7 years, I’ve learnt that an apology is more than just important – it’s absolutely necessary. When you apologise, you acknowledge that you’ve made a mistake, you show compassion for hurting the other person, you explain how you will try to do things differently next time. It’s not about winning or losing. It’s about taking responsibility for your actions.
For a lot of people, understanding and expressing emotions and feelings may be far from simple. They may not have grown up with a strong sense of emotional awareness. But I believe it’s something that can be developed. I grew up being told to suppress my emotions – that crying made me appear weak, that feelings shouldn’t be talked about. I know now that it takes a lot of strength and courage to recognise, understand and express emotions. That you shouldn’t be ashamed to feel – you should take pride in feeling emotion.
It’s this emotional awareness that plays a significant role in all kinds of relationships. That gives you the tools to better communicate with the people around you and to help understand another person’s point of view.
You’re bound to hurt those who you love. You’re going to say and do things that you regret. You’re going to make mistakes that you never thought you’d make. But the only way forward is to admit these mistakes and work at how you’re going to improve the situation and yourself.
Love may not be simple, but it’s worth it
As a 16 year old, I would often say to that first love, “if you’d love me, you would…”, as though love equated to doing anything and everything for a person. As an adult, I know now that love is just not that simple.
Love does not mean obeying a person’s every ‘command’. Love does not mean sacrificing who you are to make someone else happy. Love does not mean shaping someone into who you want them to be.
Love is about compromise. Working as a team. Treating each other as equals. Forgiveness. Helping each other grow as people and to become the best person that they can possibly be.
It’s not like the movies where just a few complications lead to a resolution. In real life, there’ll be plenty more complications along the way. But it comes down to the determination and willingness of both parties to work at the relationship that will increase the chance of a ‘happy ending’.
In the words of Bob Marley:
“Everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.”