Personal Post: My Love Journey
"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage." – Lao Tzu
To many, I wouldn't be considered an expert on love. I'm relatively young, I was previously engaged, and I'm not married. However, I have experienced all kinds of love, and I've witnessed dozens and dozens of inspiring, loving relationships. As a wedding and boudoir photographer here in Green Bay, I have gotten to know so many incredible couples planning their weddings and ladies looking to create an empowering, memorable gift. I can say without a doubt that every relationship is different, but there are overriding themes and thoughts that seem to apply to most of them.
People make choices based on their love of a person, place, thing, or idea. You love the Packers because you grew up in Green Bay. You take a job because you love the benefits or the growth potential or the beliefs of the company. You vote for someone because you love what they stand for (or maybe because you don't love what the other candidate is offering). You commit to spending the rest of your life with someone because you love them. For the sake of this discussion, I'm going to focus on love between people, specifically significant others.
I think that love, and arguably, a lack of love, is the driving force of the world. It has the power to change people, move them, and make them do both good and bad things they never thought they would do. I'm a hopeless romantic, just ask my best friends. I've approached every relationship with hope and possibility, no matter how the previous relationship left me feeling. I've experience three different kinds of loves in my lifetime: easy loves, painful/challenging loves, and the right love. Unless you're like my associate photographer, Steph, and you've married your high school sweetheart (kudos to them, they're seriously great together), most of us will be in more than one relationship in our lifetime.
My entrance into the dating world in middle school and high school started out with easy loves. I thought heart was going to jump outside of my chest the first time I held someone's hand, and the smallest passed note/text message/romantic gesture sent me head over heels. I couldn't believe that someone could care about me that way, and it was kind of the coolest thing ever. I learned a bit about relationships, but since these were not the right love, these relationships eventually ended.
Heartbreaks are never easy. In fact, I would say my first heartbreaks were the easiest because I was at the furthest point from finding my right l0ve. When we get closer to finding the person we're going to spend our life with, the hurt along the way is exponentially more painful. It's a mathematical equation of sorts.
Throughout my dating history, I've run into a couple painful/challenging loves. There are important things to be learned from these relationships, but it isn't easy. The painful and challenging parts didn't come right away. Painful or challenging can range from physical or mental abuse, to manipulation, to inequality, to lack of communication, to infidelity, to whatever hurts you the most, not that I have experience all of those challenges. Every relationship is different, and we don't know the battles fought behind closed doors or the burdens carried on someone's shoulders.
These painful and challenging loves were difficult for me because I loved those people, and thought that because I loved them, I had to make it through, or forgive them, or stay in that relationship. Love shows us the strongest and also most fragile parts of our lives. It felt like no one else could possibly understand the relationship I was in, and that I had to justify myself and my relationship to those around me. There is this "Us vs. The World" mentality that was seductive and drew me in, as toxic as it was. I know I didn't want to admit to my friends and family that I had been "wrong". I became so entangled in these harmful relationships that ending them felt like giving up on the other person. I love fiercely and with my whole heart. What I didn't realize at the time was that by being so focused on trying to "fix" the relationship and help the other person, I had given up on myself and what I needed and deserved. If someone makes us feel small, insignificant, or like we deserve more, we dodeserve more.
One of the most beautiful parts of my life was the months following my hardest breakup. It was a time of self discovery, wondering, and exploration. I felt free, and I didn't feel guilty about having those feelings because I had fought my way to get to that point. I was actually focusing on what I deserved and what would make me a better person, without worrying about how that affected another person. You see, I was unknowingly stepping into more of myself and preparing myself for the right love. The secret is, if what you truly deserve and what makes you a better person negatively affects your significant other, then you either have some communicating to do, or you're not in the right relationship.
Then I met someone. This person that I had crossed paths with almost a decade earlier, someone I thought would have no interest in me. But a voice inside said, "Why not?" It was quickly obvious that this one was different. I was terrified of being hurt and putting myself out there again, but like all the relationships before, I approached it with hope and possibility. Boy, was the risk worth the reward. It was as though my soul was saying, "Oh, there you are! Yes, this feels right." The amount of time we've been in in this relationship doesn't do justice to the quality of the time that's been spent in this relationship so far. To me, it feels like we're woven from the same thread, and each bout of laughter and silent gratitude and secret shared solidifies another stitch in this beautiful patchwork of life. I am so appreciative of the trust, patience, and friendship this man gives me. I am constantly in wonder of the depth and breadth of his love. I'm continually striving to be the person that Andy deserves, and I know he does the same for me. I can't wait for the next chapter of our lives.
There are those out there who were blessed with the right love from the start, and there are those who may never find it. Many of us live somewhere in between. My love journey has not been the easiest path. But I would do it all again to get where I am today. This has been my greatest adventure, and I am just giddy to be on this road with my best friend. I love you, Andrew. Have a wonderful Valentine's Day, everyone. Whether you're with the right love, no love, or anywhere in between, know that you are loved no matter what. I'm sending you all hugs and positive thoughts, today and everyday. I appreciate you and your kindness.
P.S. I want to let everyone in a painful or challenging relationship know that there is hope and you're not alone. If you ever need someone in your corner, someone who's been there, I am here for you. It may feel like no one understands, and that no one can help you. If you need someone to listen, or you need an escape, please reach out to me. It can be scary and lonely being in that place. I've got your back.