Author: Jennifer S. Kennett
I recently came across a poem by Wendell Barry, written for his wife entitled “The Wild Rose” which eloquently describes the unique paradox of loving someone versus being “in love” with them. Often when I work with couples who are in my office for counseling because their relationship no longer feels like a sanctuary, I talk about the difference between loving someone and being “in love”.
Most of us (in North American culture) start with the “falling in love”; the early rush of hormones, excitement & lust. We dive headlong into the wonderful experience of infatuation. Popular media likes to push the fallacy that “true love” is equivalent to being “in love” for the rest of your days. And while it’s true that infatuation can—over time—deepen and become a lasting love connection, it’s not the same thing as being” in love”. Having been married 25 years now, I can say with much certainty that my love for my partner is relatively stable and enduring but being “in love” is something that is far more transitory.
My experience of being in a long term relationship is that being “in love” ebbs and flows depending on a thousand factors including my comfort in my own skin, sparks of interesting conversation between my partner and I, the time of the year, the time of the month, and sometimes (but less often than you might imagine) because my partner is being particularly sweet to me. I have learned to trust that, during moments where my feelings of being “in love” have ebbed, I will fall back in love again at some point.
And sometimes when it’s been a while since I have felt “in love”, I focus on choosing to love my partner. Loving someone may be stable, but it is also a daily choice. I choose to assume the best of intentions in his actions, I choose to communicate my appreciation of him, I choose to speak up when I least want to, I choose to stay open to his positive influence, and I choose to accept responsibility for my part in our love connection. When I choose our relationship as a priority, magic happens, and I fall “in love” again, just as Wendell Barry describes:
Sometimes hidden from me
in daily custom and in trust,
so that I live by you unaware
as by the beating of my heart,
Suddenly you flare in my sight,
a wild rose blooming at the edge
of thicket, grace and light
where yesterday was only shade,
and once again I am blessed, choosing
again what I chose before.