Falling in love is like doing cocaine, according to the click-baity articles that end up chillin’ on my Google Chrome tabs for longer than I care to admit. In both states, the brain is in a dopamine induced fervor, accompanied by enhanced mood, increased sexuality, and potentially rash decision making. I suppose this Snapple-Fact-worthy bit of information is supposed to help us appreciate the immense power of love (or convince us to do a line), but I’m left with more questions than answers: What happens when you don’t feel like you’re constantly walking on clouds anymore? Are you still in love, or falling out of it? Do you really need to feel like you’re high all the time for the love to be alive?
My boyfriend and I exchanged the L word nearly a year ago, set to a, in retrospect, somewhat ominous song: “Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac, essentially a break up song. When I said “I love you” back, I meant it; I felt it. Today, I still think I’m in love, but I’m always second guessing myself, because I’m convinced that finding true love is supposed to look a certain way and have a certain journey.
I know that love is a shapeshifter, taking on many forms–both beautiful and grotesque–but I always end up comparing it to what I grew up seeing in movies and TV shows, reading about in books. I think of the fountains glowing behind Cher Horowitz as she says, “Wait, I love Josh.” And when that scene isn’t my initial reference point, I imagine cartoons with hearts circling a love sick character’s head, fireworks going off in someone’s head during a kiss…I even think about the music video for Sonic Youth’s “Dirty Boots” in which two grunge-styled teens fall in love at a concert. Their eyes meet across the venue and they bump into each other in a pit before rushing the stage, locking lips before security forces them to jump back into the crowd, their plaid shirts and stretch-free denim jeans soaring.
Is this what love is supposed to feel like…like, forever? A constant stream of lovesick gazes and kisses that send a rush through your veins? By those standards, maybe I’m not in love anymore. The sense of comfortable normalcy I once felt after settling into my relationship has been replaced with a restlessness, not for something different, but for an explanation.
During a wine soaked rooftop conversation with my roommate, I started to realize that I fetishize heartbreak.This is easy enough to do when you never had a relationship of your own, watched your friends go through breakups, and absorbed way too much angsty romance fiction. People learn important things from failed relationships (so I’ve heard), lessons that I’ve never had an opportunity to experience first hand because I’m in my first relationship. I’ve even started to feel a twinge of jealousy when people talk about their exes, because they’re able to apply their past experiences to their new dating adventures. How sick is that? I know this sounds nuts, but it’s as if their narrative is inherently fuller and more interesting than mine, and I feel a little left out. I even have moments when I imagine myself as a musician and I wonder what I’d write a song about. It seems like 90 percent of songs are about love, and more than half of them are about break ups, so I’d be fucked with material, wouldn’t I?
In short, I’m half convinced that I won’t know what love really feels like unless I’ve had multiple partners, so how could I be so silly as to think that I’m in love?
With this comes a nervous skepticism about the veracity of my own relationship. Of course, I might eat my words in the future, but here are the facts as they currently stand: I’m about to embark on the second year of an incredibly successful relationship. We’ve never had a fight, and whenever we’ve encountered hurt feelings or misunderstandings, we’ve always talked it out. My boyfriend is smart, successful, and pretty fucking cute. He makes me laugh. He’s unbelievably caring and selfless; unlike many of my friends former flings, I can safely say that my boyfriend is a good fucking guy. My virginity quickly became a non-issue after I told him about it, a fact that might have been a deal breaker for many. All of my friends–even the ones who weren’t sure what to think of him initially–love him, too. We’re moving in together in a couple of months and, at this point, I honestly can’t imagine my life without him. Whenever I call him out on something silly he does, he jokingly says, “Well, get ready to deal with that forever!” It’s a big word, one that feels a little scary but mostly makes me giddy with the prospect that I’m actually with someone who see’s this as a long term thing, just like I do. I can’t help but smile whenever we meet up. I love his lazy eye. For fuck’s sake, when he said he was suddenly going out of town for a week, I moped about it because I already missed him. Gag.
How the hell did my first relationship end up so dysfunction free? And how the hell did I become so fearful of letting good things happen to me?
Because I can’t keep a damn thing to myself, I word vomited the aforementioned to my boyfriend; my lack of break up experience, our immense success, the fact that I can’t name a single real problem in this relationship. His response was simple, yet striking: “Some people would call that lucky.”
I’ve been lucky. I’m lucky that I’ve never experienced heartbreak. I’m lucky that my first relationship is a happy one. I’m lucky that instead of fighting, we’re test-driving couches at fancy furniture stores where we look absolutely out of place.
And maybe, just maybe, I’m lucky to get to a point in my relationship where love doesn’t need to feel like a never ending thrill to feel real. Maybe love that’s actually long lasting isn’t meant to feel like snorting coke or having a firework display go off in my head, maybe it’s supposed to feel the way it does right now, like a fucking warm, familiar blanket that I can rely on.
A friend of mine pointed out, I need to stop thinking about my life as a narrative so much, especially not a narrative that’s only worth reading if its riddled with sad love stories in the hopes of seeming more worldly. She’s absolutely right. It’s time for me to stop looking at other love stories as the standard and accept my own as a part of canon, too.