I am a romantic. When I was 3, my mom caught me kissing Prince Charming on the tv. Movies like The Notebook make me cry and pull at my heart strings every time. To add fuel to my romantic fire, I’ve been a wedding photographer for almost a decade, and have been a bridesmaid 17 times.
Throughout my early 20s almost anyone I knew who was married was ‘fine’ and seemed to be living an ongoing, blissful, honeymoon. I believed with my whole heart if you just had love you truly could conquer anything.
But then real life started to unfold. After experiencing my own heartache and walking through painful relationships with close friends, the rose-colored glasses through which I viewed love and marriage were shattered. I found myself looking at the world and the relationships around me feeling disoriented and oftentimes despair.
Some friends seemed to have done everything right. They dated well, asked hard questions, opened their relationships up to their community, and were madly in love with one another. But after a few months of marriage they seemed to be hanging on by a thread. Other close friends woke up to devastating secrets or suffered emotional abuse. Some were left in the dust when their spouses left them for another. And much to my surprise, some of my friends chose to be unfaithful. It all was so layered and complicated.
As I walked through these painful stories with my friends, my own personal experiences further challenged my beliefs.
Photos c/o Sara Kerens
A few years ago I fell head over heels for a guy, but we realized that as much as we cared about each other, we wanted different things. The breakup was confusing and messy because no one did anything wrong – we were simply heading in opposite directions. Love wasn’t enough for us.
In my 20s I dated a man I would’ve married if given the opportunity. But there was a lot of drama. When he was connected to God, himself, and others he was unstoppable. But he didn’t live in that space.
I knew if we moved forward it was going to be a long road. In the end it didn’t work out and he broke up with me. Looking back it was such a mercy because I wouldn’t have had the courage to walk away. With 20/20 hindsight I can see that I didn’t accept all of him.
That relationship woke me up to the reality that love chooses the whole person. Not just their good side, and not just their potential. A person isn’t their potential. They are who they are the majority of the time. You can’t marry someone with the hope that they might morph into another person. That’s not love; it’s self-deception. You choose who that person is today and say I’m going to love you. Period.
For months I’ve been sitting with this question: is it true that love conquers all? Were the Beatles right when they sang, ‘all you need is love’? Or is it more complex than that?
What do you need, in addition to love, to make a marriage and partnership last? I don’t know the exact answer to this question. But I believe it’s things like this:
• Do you accept this person? Not some past, or future version of themselves. But who they are today. Can you choose to love all of who they are?
• Do you respect them?
• Do they have integrity?
• Do you share similar values and worldview? I’ve gotten slack over the years from family and friends over this. They claim I’m being too picky, or looking for perfection. But the lens through which we view the world impacts how we interact with everything. Our core values and what we believe about God and humanity colors everything from how we respond to stress, to how we raise our children, to what we think about money and social justice. Alignment on these things matters.
Sometimes our requirements of a prospective partner do need to be dismantled. Things like does he have a six-pack, does he have a trust fund, and is he at least 3 inches taller than me may need to be released.
While sometimes out of insecurity and feeling unworthy we don’t hold ourselves high enough to wait for the type of relationships we really long for.
But perhaps I’ve misunderstood what love truly is. With the hundreds of weddings I’ve photographed over the years I’ve heard the familiar poem on love from 1 Corinthians 13 so many times I’ve become numb to them. But as I thought of how I wanted to end this article, all I could think about were these ancient verses on love.
One translation says…love is patient and kind; love doesn’t envy or boast; it isn’t arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it isn’t irritable or resentful; it doesn’t rejoice at wrong doing, but rejoices with the truth. (1Corinthians 13:4-6)
What if we loved like this—fiercely, with patience, kindness, and selflessness, extending grace and keeping no records of when we’ve been wronged? It makes me wonder if there were times I thought I loved a person, but really I was only in love with parts of him.
Are you like me and have had love and relationships on a pedestal for far too long? Perhaps it’s time to look inward and examine what you believe about love? Spend a few minutes and take inventory—maybe there’s some things you’re holding onto too tightly while there are some other things that need a more firm grasp.
Fairy tales and romantic comedies might give us butterflies, but feelings fade and can be misleading. The type of lovethat I want to fight for in my marriage, family and friendships is one that…bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things…that kind of love never fails. (1Corinthians 13:7).
This Post is curated in conjunction with the ladies of The Refined Collective. Be sure and read the other articles on love today by: Go Fit Jo, Jackie V., Tonyha Kae, and Tutti del Monte. Also, join us over on instagram today under #therefinedcollective to see what everyone else has to say about love.