Instead of embracing what love looks like between us, I’m left wondering what love SHOULD look like.
There wasn’t some boyish, lopsided smile that I stared at, longingly, noting the date, time and location in which my heart succumbed to its charms. There was no cute indie rock song drawing me into a montage of realization. He didn’t adorably bite into a sandwich or something, leaving me a little in a lovesick daze. It wasn’t like that scene in Clueless where Cher realized she’s in love with Josh as a fountain lights up in the background.
Nothing about this revelation was cinematic, which almost bums me out.
It was a slow, lurching thing that crept into my brain and left a gooey trail in its wake. It was easy to shrug off my friends’ questions about whether or not I was feelin’ the L word yet. It was less easy to ignore how sappy I felt when I received a f*cking heart eyed emoji.
I knew that I was too much of a coward to drop the L bomb, worried that it wouldn’t be reciprocated, that the confession would ruin everything. I sort of went with the idea that, well… he’s the dude, that’s his line of thinking. Not because I actually believe that but because it was a convenient excuse to avoid spilling my heart out.
I’m enough of an emotional roller coaster around this dude. I once cried (to his horror, and later mine) because I felt bad about making us miss the bus. So, f*ck it, I thought, let him do it… hopefully… maybe… someday.
Luckily, I didn’t have to put on my big girl pants and do it first, nor did I have to even wait too long after realizing my feelings myself. He said it one night not too long ago. My response was classic: “What?” It seriously took a second to register.
But after it sunk in, after I said it back, I was filled with such immense relief. We were on the same page! Now I can stop being so neurotic, stop worrying about my body image as much or stop worrying about my fear of farting in the middle of sexy stuff. Love conquers all farts, after all. Pretty sure that’s the saying.
But do things change after saying “I love you”?Well, here’s what nobody tells you about the L word: Nothing really changes after that.
It’s said, you are both are happy, and then it’s mostly business as usual. At least, that was the case for us. Yeah, my body image is still garbage and I’m still afraid of farting while spooning. It’s not like we hold hands more or stare into each other’s eyes for longer stretches of time.
This isn’t exactly disappointing, but the lack of change still leaves me feeling a bit confused. Of course, being my anxious, relationship-inexperienced self, I quickly went from giddy about exchanging “I love yous” to wondering, “Okay, so how does one maintain this love sh*t? Should I be putting more work in?”
I’ve tried saying I love you a few more times, but it feels weird and clunky on my tongue. It doesn’t feel like a lie, it just feels insincere, like I’m forcing this sentiment somewhere it doesn’t need to be. Is it because it’s already a given between us?
I’ve resorted to saying “Je t’aime” in a quiet, hesitant sort of way, which just makes me feel like a teenager going through a French New Wave cinema phase — so, not a good look.
Instead of embracing what love looks like between us, I’m left wondering what love should look like between us.
I suspect that this might be more common than I think it is, but I’m also convinced that much of my anxiety about love and longevity stems from the somewhat unconventional way we got together to begin with. We went on a couple dates, he stopped responding to my texts, I bugged him until he did, and we eventually started seeing each other again.
I can’t help but think, oh, this is all just an accident. This wasn’t supposed to happen. And maybe neither was this love thing.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that we’re in love with each other right now. It’s just a little scary. It feels like so much is on the line now. I’m always worried that I’m being annoying or wondering if my boyfriend would be happier with someone else (which is condescending of me, because the dude is grown and can pick who he chooses to be with).
For us, it feels like falling out of love will confirm that yes, this really wasn’t supposed to happen, this really was an accident. You really shouldn’t have kept texting [him], Ashley!
I guess most try, and most fail at the love thing a few times in their lives. Hell, my boyfriend has been in and out of love at least once before. I can’t help but think of that and my other friends’ former relationships and wonder how they tried to keep the love alive and how they failed. I’m acting like there’s a way that I can beat the system, do A, B, C and D so that we don’t fall out of love too soon.
After barfing up my feelings all over this piece, I’ve realized that one of the worst things I do is worry about what is or isn’t normal for a relationship instead of what is or isn’t normal for my relationship. Easier said than done, but I’ve realized that it’s too mentally exhausting to try to figure out a damn cheat code for this love thing.
Plus, it makes a relationship a lot less fun. I’m just going to have to figure out love the hard way.
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This article was originally published at The Gloss. Reprinted with permission from the author.
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