In the last post, Addicted to Love, I touched briefly upon the idea of “soul mates” and the unrealistic expectations we often take away from fictional stories. Today we’re going to take a closer look at the difference between reality and fantasy in our search for true love. A love that endures.
Seasons, cycles, mountains and valleys, every life has ups and downs, and so too does every relationship. We’re all familiar with the words “for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health,” and we know that these words are almost always promised from a mountain top in a relationship and not from a valley. When we pledge to love, honor, and cherish our spouse until one of us breathes our last breath, we all hope that our love story will have the longevity to last the better part of a century, and that death will truly be the only thing strong enough to separate us. In that honeymoon phase we think we’ve already found true love. The truth is, we’re only just beginning on the journey to discover it. True love is something that is proven over time; something refined and strengthened by the fires of life.
Think right now about the most powerful and inspirational real life love story you’ve ever seen. I’m going to guess that there was likely great adversity overcome; adversity so great that only true love could withstand it. These are the stories that move us to tears. These are the stories that restore our faith in humanity and in love. I have seen relationships that have withstood life altering accidents that forever change the way one of the spouses looks or acts. I have seen couples stick together through tragic loss, financial bankruptcy, and crippling illness. Have you ever been to a wedding where they get all of the married couples out dancing and then slowly have them sit down until only the couple that has been married the longest remains? They inevitably receive resounding applause because we all know that a marriage that survives for 50, 60, or 70 years is something worth celebrating. Nothing lasts that long without seeing its fair share of hardships. So how can this change the way we view our own marriages?
As discussed in the previous post, we see “soul mates” being portrayed in a relationship that is blissful and easy. I wonder that we ever confuse this with true love when the most poignant examples of true love are those that are proven through endurance not ease. How many of us have hit dry seasons and valleys in our relationships and felt like maybe it just wasn’t meant to be? Sadly, we’ve all seen loved ones separate when the pressure and tension of life reaches a breaking point. What makes some couples stick it out when others throw in the towel? And how can we have our marriages beat the odds and someday be the last couple standing at our great-grandchild’s wedding?
My husband and I have been married for 13 years. It may not seem like a lot when the end goal is 70, but even 13 years has been long enough to throw us some real curve balls. My battle with ulcerative colitis has by far been the longest ongoing stressor on our marriage, and one we certainly didn’t see coming on the sunny, August afternoon when we said our vows. There have been a lot of tears, a multitude of days filled with just getting by, and way too much of getting to know the not-so-beautiful parts of me (It’s a bowel disease… enough said!). We’ve been frustrated. We’ve been tired, really, REALLLLY bone-tired exhausted! We’ve gone through the motions and had long stretches of time that weren’t particularly lovey dovey, blissful, or easy. Nine years of battling illness takes its toll, but through it all we were committed, we were a team, and at the end of the day we were a family. We didn’t see chronic illness on the horizon, but my husband has definitely honored his “in sickness and in health” vow. And you know what? Our love is deeper and more true than it was on that August afternoon 13 years ago. We’re more a part of each other with every new chapter written in the story of us.
If you’ve found yourself in a marriage with some rough patches, take heart; you’re in good company. Every great love story has been tested in the fire. Challenges are an opportunity to grow together in trust and in faith. When we see the weakest and most raw parts of each other we can begin to know and understand each other more deeply, and we find our most honest acceptance in those places. Just because it isn’t easy doesn’t mean you’re not soul mates. After all, the true soul mates are the ones who keep on fighting until only death parts them. The true soul mates are the ones who have found a love that endures.