BABY DON’T HURT ME, DON’T HURT ME NO MORE!
But seriously, what is it? Even though it’s something that even humble creatures like doggos and kitters might experience, we’ve made it an austere topic as our best poets and philosophers have waxed past understanding on the subject. At this point, everyone tends to have their own opinion, and that can make it difficult to write, let alone experience in our actual lives.
Lemmie start with a brief explanation as to where I get my perspective because I think knowing from whence I come will be helpful in accepting or rejecting any portion of my view – because love is messy, for certain, in part because it is tied to emotions and choices and those things are so different experience to experience, and in the end, each person has to find their own way with it, but one perspective might be more helpful than another.
I come from a broken home, one where my parents divorced at 14 and signs they might were apparent for a while before, and between that and the fact that the way my personality interacted with some trauma I was experiencing at the time meant that I started paying careful attention to other peoples’ relationships as I feared I would never get to have one of my own. I paid close attention to my grandparents’ #goals marriage. I paid attention to my parents. To other parents that broke apart. To relationships casual and formal and weak and strong, fictional and real. I’ve been soaking it in for years. And now I’ve been married for eight years in a marriage that is far beyond anything I thought I would ever have and I’m not frightened in the least that it will end. And that’s because I’ve come to the conclusion that love is nothing else so much as it is a choice.
Love is a choice.
We talk about it as a feeling and feelings play into it. And there’s certainly aspects to it that aren’t a choice. Love is clearly multi-faceted. But the most important parts, I think, the make it or break it parts, are choices. So let’s talk how to write this sucker, huh?
The reason I’m back from the dead to write about love is a friend making mention that the understanding of how to write someone falling in love was elusive to him. How does that happen? How do you know? And I want to talk about my own love story to break down some of the parts. Again, everyone is unique, but I think there’s some helpful bits here and I am quite familiar with this story.
When I first met the man I would one day fiercely love, I almost didn’t talk to him. He was ugly and unfriendly-looking. But the circumstances of our meeting were my first day of college, and I’d enrolled in a physics class well aware of the fact that while I could understand the concepts, the math would prove impossible for me without some help, and I walked towards the class an hour early (I’d a free hour between stuff and it wasn’t worth it to go home) with determination to find someone who was good at math and annex them into a friendship where they would help me pass the class. This dweeb was also an hour early for the same reason, sitting there with a math textbook on his lap. I spent a few seconds thinking I’d ask someone else, but then reminded myself that that wasn’t very nice, and this guy looked like he could probably help me. So I introduced myself, “Are you in this class in an hour? Oh, so am I! My name is Leigh Averett, I’m a Psych major,” and he took my hand, “Hi, I’m Tyler Owens, I’m a Math major,” and YOU GUYS. MY LUCK. A motherfriggun MATH major? Jackpot. So I immediately informed him, “You and I are friends.”
It’s important to note here that yes, I was 100% engaging with this fellow because I wanted to pass a class. But also, I was 100% transparent about that. Tyler was never under the impression that I wanted more to do with him than his math skills, not because I was unkind or anything to him, but just because I didn’t fake anything more than what the relationship was. Study help. Honesty. I was honest with him.
During November, I mentioned working on my NaNo because, like I said, I was friendly with him. I learned that he wrote, too, which surprised me because I hadn’t met a very logical-math-person who was creative in that way before. This was the springboard for an actual friendship as we now had a mutual interest. We were able to talk about more things and learn more about each other, already comfortable with each others’ presence from his helping me understand how the math worked. I grew to appreciate him as a person and not just an asset (I mean, he was always a person, but he was a person I’d want around after the class ended.) And when the class did end, it was at least a month into the next semester when I realized I hadn’t talked to Tyler at all. But I had the dude’s number, so I sent him a text, asked if he wanted to catch up over lunch or dinner some time. We met at the cafeteria, spent several hours together catching up, laughing. We genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. I turned on a battle theme from Final Fantasy on my phone and “fought” a chair. When I went to get a drink, Tyler noticed my class schedule poking out of the back of my purse and saw that we had a free period at the same time in the same general area and suggested we hang out more. So we did. Most days, we spent that hour hanging out in a hall just talking bout whatever or watching silly videos. We could laugh together. We spent time together. I missed him when he wasn’t there. He missed me when I wasn’t there. I told him not to ask me out because I would say no. (I still found him unattractive.) He said he didn’t want to ask me out anyway. (He wasn’t interested in dating at the time.)
Summer came. We texted probably every day. I called him often. We talked and talked and talked. Our mothers knew. My mother’s suggestion that we were more than friends enraged me. Can’t a boy and a girl just be friends without having to be something more? (Yes, they can, but that isn’t what we ended up choosing.) And then I realized I was in love with him.
See what happened is that my family went on vacation, and our vacations were always going up to see extended family. I have a complicated or non-existent relationship with a lot of my extended family for various reasons, so I spent a lot of time calling Tyler while there. At one point, I spent an hour, a whole hour, telling him about the plot of the book I was working on, Death’s Tear. I got to the end and told him I wouldn’t finish because I didn’t want him to know the plot twist. He said he already knew the plot twist, because I’d told him the story already earlier (and spent a different hour doing it) . I was shocked. He’d patiently listened to me tell him the same stupid story a second time! “Why didn’t you tell me I already told you?” I asked. “Because I could tell you really wanted to tell someone this story,” he said. He cared enough about me and my interests and needs to give me an hour to tell him something he’d already heard especially because he knew my grandmother’s house could be a very lonely place.
A couple days later, I couldn’t sleep because of a new emotion I was experiencing. It wasn’t an unpleasant emotion, but I’d never felt it before. I puzzled and puzzled. I realized it was a type of happiness, contentedness, feeling safe. I determined it was because I finally had a friend to whom I was just as valuable as I valued them (my best gal friend and I had a difficult history and while at this point, this is also true of us, at the time, we were coming out of a time where I didn’t feel like she cared for me as much as I adored her.) That’s a whole thing, loving your friends more than they love you, or not feeling as close to them as they feel to you, and to have someone who cared about me as much as I cared about them, it was a wonderful feeling.
That wasn’t it.
You can guess what it was, what I realized it was, a few moments later. I was furious. I didn’t want to love Tyler. (See, I get it, love isn’t always a choice. But also it is, so hold on.) Then I thought about why I didn’t want to love him. The two main reasons were he wasn’t super attractive to me, which is something that can change, and also he was leaving for two years to a foreign country in a few months, which was temporary. I decided that the attraction thing was something I wouldn’t worry about anymore (and it did change) and that I could wait two years. I was only like 19 at that point, anyway, pretty young to get married. If he was so important to me, two years was not that long to wait.
And I did wait, writing him all the while, falling more and more in love with him. We married, and even though our own marriage has been described as #goals by some friends, we’ve had some rough parts, too. I’ve even had the D word cross my mind in very stressed out circumstances. The reason I’m not worried about it, though, is because of that choice. No. No matter how stressed out I get and no matter how much that stress can be attributed to Tyler, I choose to work on this marriage with him. I choose to love him. I choose, even when livid with him, to hold his hand to remind him the feelings I have now aren’t the path I’m choosing, and I talk to him using my angry words while holding on to that bond. I might not have chosen to fall in love with him, but I chose to make that pact of love, to always choose him, even when that emotion long ago has evaporated. And he chooses the same (though I swear he’s never angry with me.)
So how do you write that? Okay, let’s break it down. First, I got to know him. I got to know that even though he had a rocky exterior, he was actually a pretty cool guy. He got to know me. He learned that I wasn’t ever going to lie to him to use him. If I wanted something from him, I’d be upfront about it. He didn’t have to worry that when I called asking to hang out, it was because I ACTUALLY wanted something else. It was because I liked him and wanted to hang out. We built a relationship on honesty and trust, we supported each other. This is important for literally any relationship. Without trust, your relationship won’t be healthy.
Based off of that initial trust, I gave him more and more of myself. I trusted him with my feelings and insecurities and some of the bad things in my life. Even if incidental. He responded respectfully. Our trust grew and grew, to the point where I could trust him with something like a need to be heard and validated in the form of letting me go on about a story because I did accidentally and he didn’t hurt me. Which brings up another facet of love: Tyler could hurt me more powerfully than anyone else on the planet because I have opened up more of myself to him than anyone else on the planet and I trust him not to. This is, of course, a choice – I choose to give myself, I choose to trust him, but it’s more than just a choice. Trust is more than just a choice, and more than just emotion, much the same way as love. Trust and love are, I think, closely intermingled. Not the same thing, but I don’t think you can have love without trust. And when I realized I could trust Tyler with my whole self, I realized I loved him.
So how to write falling in love? Think of the process of coming to trust someone. How do you realize you trust someone? What is that process like? Perhaps you’re more familiar with it. Falling in love is not so dissimilar. You give a little and give a little until you realize you can give everything and you want to give everything and you choose to try and if it backfires, it hurts like the literal hell that it is. Broken trust is agony. A broken heart is agony. They’re closely intertwined.
Tyler’s angle of things likewise is inextricable from the trust he has for me. The trust that I am genuine. The trust that I am not using him. He trusted me more and more until just as I felt I could give him my whole self, he felt he could give me his whole self. Which is why in conflict and difficulty, we always choose each other. We always choose love. Because that trust and support, that friendship and the moments of laughter, the self-improvement we inspire in each other, it’s worth fighting for.
To write falling in love, you have to write the development of a relationship where you can give your whole self to someone else, your secrets, your fears, your ugly thoughts and behaviors, all of it, and the realization that you can do that, and more importantly that you want to do that, that’s the realization that you love that person.
Love is multi-faceted. It’s a feeling, it’s trust, but most of all, it’s a choice.