Let me begin by saying I’m still a hopeless romantic. I think.
Just the other day, I was too quick to admit — voluntarily and without a gun to my head — my favorite scene in 27 Dresses. (Which is when they’re singing “Benny and the Jets” in the bar.)
I could tell you my favorite line from Shakespeare in Love. (“I will have poetry in my life. And adventure. And love.”)
I could tell you my favorite part of When Harry Met Sally. (The whole thing.)
That being said, I’ve been “to the moon and back” enough times to have changed a bit of my mindset regarding love. I think I’m more of a post-hopeless-romantic romantic. Which is kind of like a hopeless romantic, but maybe like a grizzled, war-veteran version of one. I thought I’d share some thoughts that reflect my views as a post-hopeless romantic. You can call them lessons if you’d like, but I’m honestly not sure how wise they are or not. I’ll let you take from them what you will.
I don’t listen to love songs the way I used to.
I love Taylor Swift as much the next red-blooded American man (is that a thing? …probably not a thing), but lately, I can’t bring myself to listen to much of any music that’s super romantic. I say that as someone who historically hasn’t considered sappy love songs a guilty pleasure — they were simply a pleasure.
Part of my aversion is because I know the power music has over me. It pulls strings and works its way into my system in a way almost nothing else can, almost like a drug. I don’t trust what those songs can do.
More than that, there’s a disconnect between what my heart wants to feel and what my head knows. It’s easy to sing about love. It’s hard to live out love the way these songs present it. I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to listen to these songs again down the road, but right now, I can’t reconcile my head and my heart enough to do it.
I don’t daydream or imagine what it would be like to be with someone.
Let’s go ahead and daydream about a certain girl for a moment, okay? The problem is, even in a best-case scenario, if you end up with that person, it won’t be the person who’s starred in your dreams. Daydream Girl and Real-Life Girl are not the same person. In a sick twist of irony, you would have Real-Life Girl, but she would never be as good or as charming or as agreeable as Daydream Girl.
By staying grounded in reality, you actually do yourself and Real-Life Girl a massive favor — you can appreciate Real-Life Girl for exactly who she is, and you’ve not burdened her with any imaginary expectations of what she should be.
For the record, I do think the above is a helpful approach for just about anyone who’s in a relationship or is thinking about one.
I don’t believe anything Facebook or Instagram tells me about couples, love, or happiness.
Even with the best of training, I might still see a bunch of photos of a couple doing something (playing with their dog, playing with their kid, playing in the Caribbean, smiling perfect smiles and living perfect lives) and for a split second, I’ll think to myself, “Man. They have it all.”
Which is a load of crap.
Ain’t nobody perfect — no person, no couple. Everyone has their issues, no matter how delightfully curated their photos are. I’ve seen some of the happiest-looking couples go through the roughest, darkest stuff behind the scenes. I’ve actually thought of certain people, “If there was ever a perfect couple, this is it,” only to watch them fall apart later.
When my feed is showing me perfect picture after perfect picture, I remind myself that it never tells the whole story. In fact, sometimes it tells a completely false story.
On the social media note, I’m not impressed by your proposal or your wedding.
I can’t help but feel like people are playing an ever-escalating Battle of the Best when it comes to proposals and weddings. If your proposal was off-the-chain cool and has all the makings of a potential viral story for everyone to gawk over on social media, that’s fine. If your wedding approached Kanye-levels of dopeness, hey — you do you.
But I need everyone to know this: the “wow” factor of any proposal or wedding has exactly zero value in the economy of marriage. Please enjoy the proposal and have fun at the wedding, but realize that on Day 2 of your marriage, those experiences have devalued more than when you drive your new car off the lot. They will not carry you into year twenty, year thirty, or year fifty.
“Healthy” is sexy.
Drama is not sexy. Being healthy is sexy.
A lot of people want drama. They want the excitement. They want the rollercoaster. They’ll deny up and down that this is the case, but they keep getting back on the ride.
But the more healthy you are, the less nonsense you put up with. It means less games, less mind-reading, less insecurity, less blaming and finger-pointing, and more trust, more openness, more comfort, more peace. Sounds pretty sexy now, doesn’t it?
Being healthy means a lot of unsexy work, though. It means a lot of self-evaluation. It means a lot of uncomfortable honesty — with yourself and the people around you. It means books, conversations, counseling, and lots of falling and getting back up. Being healthy or becoming healthier is as much of a commitment in and of itself as any relationship is.
Maybe the best thing I can do is to help my friends have healthy relationships.
Or, conversely, the worst thing I can do is to be so wrapped up in myself, what I want, what I have or don’t have, that I lose sight of one of the most important truths of a relationship or marriage:
People need community. Couples need community.
There are some freak couples who don’t apparently need anybody else to keep their relationship thriving, but for the most part, the healthiest couples are the ones who have the support of a community: family, friends, church, co-workers, people like that.
Something that’s brought me the most joy and fulfillment is to support my friends through their ups and downs. I don’t lose sleep over my relationship status. I’m more than happy to be the third wheel or fifth wheel or seventh wheel. I’m more than willing to share what I’ve learned from my own mistakes if it can help in any way. I love being able to walk alongside my friends and watch their marriages grow stronger, and if I can do anything to contribute to that, I’m in.
Maybe it’s because I’m still that hopeless romantic at heart. Even if it means rooting for someone else’s relationship whether I have one or not.
This new hopeless romantic likes friendship more than flash, values what is more than what should be, likes being behind the scenes more than in the spotlight.
Maybe that’s not so bad.