It’s been said that we really only fall in love with three people in our lifetime.
Yet, it’s said that we need each of these loves for a different reason.
Often our first is when we are young, high school even. It’s the idealistic love; the one that seems like the fairytales we are all read as children.
It’s a love that looks right.
The second is supposed to be our hard love; the one that teaches us lessons about who we are and how we often want or need to be loved.
Sometimes it’s unhealthy, unbalanced or narcissistic even.
It’s the love that we wished was right.
And the third is the love we never see coming. The one that usually comes dressed as all wrong for us and that destroys any lingering ideals we clung to about what love is supposed to be.
It’s the love that just feels right.
Maybe we don’t all experience these loves in this lifetime; but perhaps that’s just because we aren’t ready to.
Possibly maybe we need a whole lifetime to learn or maybe if we’re lucky it only takes a few years.
And there may be those people who fall in love once and find it passionately lasts until their last breath.
Someone once told me they are the lucky ones; and perhaps they are.
But I kinda think that those who make it to their third love are really the lucky ones.
They are the ones who are tired of having to try and whose broken hearts lay beating in front of them wondering if there is just something inherently wrong with how they love.
But there’s not; it’s just a matter of if someone loves in the same way that they do or not.
And maybe there’s something special about our first love, and something heartbreakingly unique about our second…but there’s also just something about our third.
The one we never see coming.
The one that actually lasts.
The one that shows us why it never worked out before.
Like I said, beautifully written isn’t it? It’s also something that seems quite accurate for many people I know, including myself. Yet, as I read it and pictured my three loves I found myself picturing the same person each time. I have had three loves, but it’s been with the same man.
Kenny and I met 16 years ago when I was barely old enough to drive, and he wasn’t even old enough to vote. I can still remember the strangest details about the day I met him… probably since it’s one of my favorite memories… a memory that still makes me smile. I remember what I was wearing, the time of day, how my hair had been fixed, the first smile he gave me, and the way I left trig class wondering just who that guy had been sitting near me. We were young, so young, even though I felt “mature” and sure of myself and the decisions I was making. We fell in love quicker than a minute. I can remember my mother saying, “You’re in love aren’t you?” I remember blushing and smiling, unable to deny it. I also remember that she tried to hide her eyes as they rolled into the back of her head as she reminded me that I was young and shouldn’t get too serious. I scoffed at her advice. I was almost an adult! I would have run off with him and eloped if I’d thought my mother wouldn’t have sent me to an early grave. It was serious… and it stayed serious… through the rest of our high school years, through the college years, through a beautiful wedding day, and about six years of ignorant happiness.
I say ignorant happiness because that’s what it was. Just the two of us, we had so much fun. We were so in sync… best friends. We never fought over anything more trivial than who had the remote last and where they lost it. Then came the house… between working full time as teachers and building a house on nights/weekends, we were stressed. It was a different kind of stress than college had been. Before we could right ourselves from the stress of building, our first baby came along. Now we had waited. Six years in fact from the time we got married. So we were in our mid-twenties and very confident in ourselves and the decisions we had made and were making together. But the thing about kids is that they destroy most of your confidence… make you question everything you know… make you doubt even your most trusted ally. This is exactly what happened.
After postpartum wreaked havoc on what was left of my body and mind after nine months of pregnancy and a nerve-wracking delivery day, I was a skeleton of my old self. It took three years to feel like me again. Those three years were a mixture of darkness and light… celebrating our son and the wonder we had created and grieving over the parts of “us” that we’d lost. I am not afraid to admit that often I can remember the dark days faster than the light. I have lost count of the nights I spent crying… the times we let one another down… the fights about things far from trivial and downright unsettling. The questions left dangling unanswered because we were both afraid to acknowledge them: could we survive this? Was there enough left of us to be “us” again? Were we strong enough to create a new, more realistic ending to what had once been a fairy tale love? Three years of darkness… about the time we found one another again, we went and did it again.
That’s right, baby #2. Another healthy bouncing baby boy. While this time I manhandled postpartum like a boss, the questions were still there. Two kids make it really hard to reconnect. Most nights we don’t get a conversation in without being interrupted at least five times. By the time the boys are both asleep we’re both so tired or frustrated by various things that we go to bed instead of staying up and fighting for us. Is that healthy? Probably not. Is it selfish? Yeah… but we’re humans. We knew after the first one that there was still something there… that we still loved one another. We just struggled to be “patient” and “kind” to one another. However, once our little one turned two, we finally faced the questions that had been following us around like five o’clock shadows.
One summer night we finally asked and answered. It hurt. It was scary. But once I knew my answer and heard his, I found my third love. We did reconnect. Turns out there was enough left of us to be “us” again. Even though there are some days that are still hard…. still nights punctuated by the silence of frustration and disappointment… there is still us. I love him now in ways I never fathomed… as a father and provider… as a husband that has been faithful to his wife on her darkest days… it is a different love, but knowing it’s there gets us through the disagreements. Knowing we’re still here after all of this makes it easier to remember that even though sometimes the bad days are easier to remember, there really have been more good than bad. Now, it does feel right. It feels like a life line… like a light in a dark tunnel. God knows there is still plenty of struggle. Being parents is hard. But trying to be good parents is even tougher, especially on a marriage. The thing about it though is that we had to have that second love, that hard love to find this third one. We learned so much through the struggle. I’m thankful for it.