Extending Our Love Stories
What I learned about love from “The Course of Love” by Alain de Botton
“Our understanding of love has been hijacked and beguiled by its first distractingly moving moments. We have allowed our love stories to end way too early. We seem to know much about how love starts, and recklessly little about how it might continue.” (Alain de Botton)
“So, how did you two meet?”
It’s a common enough question, most couples have answered it dozens of times, especially in the early years of their relationship. People want to hear about love at first sight, mutual feelings of excitement, and something that only ‘fate’ could have designed.
The answer is always some kind of story. Even if the meeting itself was quite commonplace (I met my husband at a barbecue at a pastors house – boring!), the telling of the story turns it into something else. Our memories become infused with the feelings of love that followed, the small excitement and hope we may have felt at that moment are remembered larger because they came to fruition. We often remember knowing “they were the one” far before we would have actually admitted at the time. For example, the “story” of how I met my husband would go: “My parents were living abroad and I was visiting them for the Christmas holiday. We were all invited to a New Year’s Eve party. My husband-to-be saw me from across the room and the moment the seat next to me opened up, he swooped in and introduced himself. And the rest is history.”
Is this true?
The details are correct, but after that night, regardless of any emotions, we hardly knew each other, and it was many months before I would have stated out loud that I loved him. The story I can now tell only exists because of what came in the months and years after.
The start of love is easy, it’s all emotions and hope and expectations. I’ve often heard people differentiate between loving their spouse and being in love with their spouse. There’s an unspoken understanding that being in love is the goal, choosing to love someone is somehow less romantic. We get so focused on the initial emotional high of love that we can spend the rest of our lives trying to get it back.
The idea of a romantic love that overcomes all differences, dissention, and disappointment is demonstrated in movies, tv, social media, music, and literature. But as Alain de Botton writes, “we should be careful not to judge our relationships by the expectations imposed on us by a frequently misleading aesthetic medium. The fault lies with art, not life.”
We think of the young twenty-something couple with the picture-perfect, Instagram-worthy proposal as the ideal couple. We look at newlyweds who seem to have it all together and do everything together as examples. If we really want to learn about love we need to look at the older couple who has been together for thirty years. The ones who may seem cranky but are always honest with each other. The ones who have survived losing jobs, moving towns, raising teenagers, and health crises. These lives don’t always show so well on social media, but if we look at the love they have cultivated, we’ll probably see something different.
“The partner truly best suited to us is not the one who miraculously happens to share every taste, but the one who can negotiate the differences in taste with intelligence and good grace.” (Alain de Botton)
My grandparents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary last year. They met while my Grandpa was in the air force and was stationed at the base where my Grandma worked in the office. It’s a cute story, but it’s not the part that inspires me. I want to create the type of love they’ve created through years of choosing each other, sacrificing for each other, raising three kids together, changing careers, moving cities, bettering themselves, and serving each other.
Falling in love is exciting, and the start is always important. We can’t get anywhere without the start, but we need to shift our focus. Our love stories don’t end with marriage. They don’t end when we add routines, chores, or children to our lives; they continue throughout our lives. Our entire life holds opportunity for stories, choose to live it the way you want and don’t cut it off early.