When my male friends voiced their doubts in the naturalness of monogamy (why was it always the males?), a part of me wondered if they had a point. From an evolutionary standpoint, one could argue that mating with multiple people would be a successful survival strategy—as far as the species is concerned. More offspring, more chances of spreading genetic material. On the flip side, you might contend that breeding with one person (or even a limited few) and investing more resources into fewer offspring (thereby making them fitter), would likewise improve the chances of survival of your kind. It’s also possible that both impulses are natural, but the tendency towards one or the other may vary among individuals.
Either way, this conversation always left a bad taste in my mouth. As much as I appreciate its logic, logic has never had much of a role in my romantic relationships. Then I must be referring to passion, right? Well, not quite. It’s true that passion (define it as you may) has played a stronger role in my love life than logic (hah!), but first-love fireworks and anything modified by the word “steamy” are only a small (albeit important) part of it all.
For me, love—solid, enduring, life-sustaining, romantic love is more about something subtler, something barely tangible, which has been a surprise for me.
Before I’d been in a long-term, serious relationship, I’d always imagined that the best love would be defined by butterflies and bashfulness, stolen glances and slow, soft kisses. (File under ‘P’ for passion, please!) But no one, not even me, remains bashful around someone who sleeps beside her, someone whose giant T-shirts she steals, and someone with whom she shares kitty litter duty.
Fortunately, once the fluttery feelings faded (they never fully vanished!), I wasn’t faced with relationship doldrums or panic-inducing vacuum. Rather, my feelings evolved, and something far richer emerged. Although “compassion” comes closest to describing my current romantic state, it doesn’t quite capture it all. (And I know what you may be thinking—“compassion” sounds like a relationship death knell!).
When I say “something deeper,” I mean something that you discover and build with someone—that can only exist when you’ve been with them for a while. I’ve been thinking about this lately as I draft my wedding vows. One of my initial thoughts was something along the theme of thank you for letting me into your world. But his current world doesn’t exist without me and vice versa because it’s something we created together—with intention and without intention. It’s that space in a crowded room that only we occupy. It’s the knowledge that where he is, there is a little pocket of home. It’s the strongest knowledge that you’ve ever had. It’s a place without walls, but no one else comes inside.
I’m reminded of the way two lovers’ heartbeats synchronize. The phenomenon isn’t epic in scale; nor is it the stuff of heartrending ballads. In its simple depth, it’s more comparable to a beautiful haiku. Striking, contained, just fathomable.
When I began my relationship with the man who is now my fiancé, I often asked myself, How will it last? But I never asked this because I believed we wouldn’t last. Aside from believing in the naturalness of monogamy—at least for some of us!—I have a knowing that he is where I should be. I’ve asked myself this question because I never had a way of answering it in any remotely eloquent way. But I think I have at least a partial answer now:
We last because we created a world together—or perhaps this world happened to us—but we both want to be in it. We are free to leave it, and in all probability, we might be just as successful at fostering our kind were we to move on to other members of the species. We have that choice. We don’t need our world for basic survival. But we choose it so that we may survive at another height where the air is a little softer, a little sweeter.
How do you define love in your long-term relationship?
Also see: When Mr. Right Isn’t The One
Photo: Foto_Michel via Flickr