If ever there was an emotional state that we idealize it is love. We want nothing of its dark belly underside; we demand that it always show only its shiniest side to us. Many of us are unprepared for the battles that the heart must be willing to carry on in the name of love. We would more willingly dispose of the container and our promises of forever than have to sift through the stench of disappointment and hurts that are the products of love, as surely as are the moments of glorious connection.
Finding a point of balance between the opposing voices of love is in fact love’s purpose and maybe even where we find its meaning. Albert Ellis taught that, “The art of love… is largely the art of persistence.” Learning how to not give up on our lovers or ourselves when we fail to reflect the goodness we see in others or have in ourselves is the first act of maturing and the foundation of what love requires of us. Celebrate the days when the picture is perfectly clear, and oh so lovely when they fall on a holiday, but don’t lose heart or intention when the image is unrecognizable. Choosing love at those moments is the guts of what it means to be loved.
At our very best, we human creatures are universally imperfect. We all share some form of annoying habit, and equal measures of gifts and challenges. Early in our courtships, our biology seduces us into believing that our beloved contains no faults. While this may be critical to the perpetuation of the species, it is misleading in the work of love. There is a strange irony in relating about how our greatest strengths become our greatest weaknesses, and this unpredictable twist can often make what seemed a perfect partner perfectly impossible.
Arriving at this juncture in our relationships makes you realize that love, in fact, is not blind. Developing the ability to hold the challenging aspects of our partners alongside the aspects we love is how we learn to see love as art. We commit to seeing with a painter’s eye; by finding the essence of what is loveable and rendering the rest as background.
This is the difference between falling in love and loving over time. Getting swept away in our biological imperative of attraction and believing that is what love feels like is the heartbreaking misunderstanding of our time. Real love gives and requires of our development. The work of love is the most significant endeavor in a lifetime because finding the deep, soft connection to others over time transforms us and makes us better versions of ourselves.
Love that is significant is a way of life. It is doing the hard work where we battle with the darkest sides of ourselves and the people we love, fighting to come back to the light that comes from our connecting and reconnecting. It is accepting that relationships are not designed to be easy, but rather are the dramatic and intense theatre of our lives where we work to expand our capacity for a vulnerable heart. When we give up our expectations for love to be ideal, we step into the space where we are able to work with love as it is- and as we are. Like a sculptor’s tools, our daily efforts to see and interpret our relationships as a work in progress, slowly molds us into the loving people we long to be.