Let’s be real. Relationships aren’t easy. Marriage isn’t easy. Love isn’t easy. Is love a many splendored thing? I think so. But, it’s also a complicated thing and a challenging thing and…sometimes - it’s the thing that holds up a mirror showing us the parts of ourselves that we like the least. How we respond to what we see in the mirror is up to us.
Modern love and dating is changing by the day. The pressure to succeed personally and professionally is at an all-time high while most of us are finding that access to leisure time is at an all-time low. We’re forced to choose between the career that inspires and motivates us and the one that pays the bills…and the student loan debt. The freedom to choose how to build our lives is becoming more available while the pressure to conform looms – not to mention the additional stress we carry as queer women.
As we navigate the tension and chaos that we’ve accepted as our version of normal, many of us are also looking for love or looking for ways to keep the love we’ve found. Myself included.
I found the woman I believe to be the love of my life 8 years ago. We were introduced through mutual friends and I was less than impressed. I was a young, uptight know-it-all. I knew exactly what I needed in a partner and this heavily tattooed, seemingly arrogant, butch girl working the door at a gay club was not it. Char was a free-spirited artist with no career to speak of – sleeping on couches, in hotels, and sometimes in her car. Although I was certain she wasn’t the woman for me, I was even more certain that I needed to get my feet wet in the dating scene. My recent break-up had left me with limited self-confidence; I knew it was time to meet women and date around. My friends introduced me to Char to help me do just that. Who was I to look a gift horse in the mouth? After all, I was only 26 and in no rush to meet my future wife. What was the harm in getting to know her?
Needless to say, the Universe taught me a big lesson in how little I knew about what was best for me. The more time I spent with Char, the more I realized I had pigeon-holed her as an overgrown child with no goals, no ambition, and no depth – based on nothing more than her appearance and profession. I soon learned how wrong I had been about her and that I should probably be less worried about the flaws of others and work on my own tendency toward being judgmental.
I’ll spare you the long version, at least for now. But as you would likely assume, over the next few months we developed a mutual respect, which turned into affection, which turned into love. Even as I write this, I realize how much I learned about myself during a short period of time upon meeting Char -and that this would be an indicator of what was to come. In the 8 years since, my relationship with Char has taught me so much about who I am and who I want to be. Though the lessons learned haven’t come easy, I know this is how I want to live – challenged, pushed out of my comfort zone, growing even when it’s uncomfortable, and becoming a better version of myself with the passing of time. Am I accrediting my wife with my own personal growth? Absolutely not. But, having a teammate, a cheerleader, a foundation, and a safety net has certainly been an important piece to forming me into the person I’ve become.
If I’ve learned anything through my relationship and marriage, it’s how much more I have to learn and how little I actually know. I’ve realized that regardless of how evolved or enlightened I become, there will always be more work to do. I don’t claim to have all the answers on love and relationships, but Char and I have done some really difficult work on ourselves during our time together and I’d like nothing more than to share it with other women seeking love and, once it’s been found, seeking to hold on to it.
While I’ve typically erred on the side of privacy when it comes to sharing what goes on behind the closed doors of my marriage, I’ve come to realize the power in sharing with others like us. And I’m ready to share that with you.
So, let’s talk. Let’s go deeper than the social media highlight reel version of relationships. Let’s tell the truth about the days we consider running away from the lives we’ve built and the days we can barely stand the sound of our partner’s voice. Let’s get real about what love and marriage actually look like. I’m ready if you are.
Follow Emily: Instagram - @emilymcg618 Twitter - @EmilyAMcGaughy