As a fan of romance books and movies, I was bombarded by beautiful imagery of love from a young age. Suave men and stunning women danced under the stars or ate at sophisticated candle-lit dinners accompanied by orchestras playing. Sexy dances and picture-perfect kisses were the things love was made of. Men were the princes who rode in on stunning horses to save the day. Love was marked by sweet kisses, tender moments, and grand gestures of romance.
Love was, in a word, beautiful.
And then I grew up, got married, and I realized one truth: Love certainly isn’t beautiful.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my husband, and I think we’ve made a pretty great life together. We’re happy and still just as in love as we were when we met at the art table in seventh grade. We’ve grown up together and grown together, becoming a true team in this crazy thing called life. I believe in love. I believe it is a worthwhile venture.
As a romance writer, I certainly believe in the power of love and the importance of the love story. Love is a deep human emotion we are lucky to explore and to experience.
But I still don’t think love is beautiful, not the real kind anyway.
After five years of marriage, I’ve come to realize that real love is rarely ever picture-perfect or described as beautiful.
Sure, there are rare moments of exquisite picturesqueness. There are the Instagram photos of exotic, surprise trips and romantic dinners. There are beautiful roses from time to time and sweet, tender moments under the stars.
I’ve come to learn, though, that in real love, these are often the exception. In between these moments, love isn’t beautiful, not even close.
Real love, the kind marriages and lives are built upon, is sometimes quite ugly and imperfect. It is a messy conglomeration of real life’s harsh obstacles, frustrations, and challenges. It’s the push and pull of two people trying to row the boat in the same direction, despite different viewpoints and beliefs. It’s the realization that the wedding cake doesn’t last forever, and the champagne rosiness of the honeymoon quickly dissipates.
It’s real life taking the place of bliss, and the mundane routines of the modern world taking the place of spontaneous romance.
It’s ugly screaming over in-laws, money, and who spilled soda in the refrigerator.
Love is dealing with a sewer backup in the basement and vomit on the carpet. Love is overlooking his disgusting socks in the corner of the room as he walks by your five half-empty cups of coffee sitting everywhere. It’s dancing in the kitchen and ignoring the mountain of dishes in the sink or the smelly trash that really needs taken out.
It’s ugly-crying in his arms over the loss of a loved one, the ugly-crying accompanied by disgusting amounts of snot and running mascara. Love is holding each other when life throws one of those hideous obstacles your way and there’s just no way you can paint on a smile.
Love is in the simple moments that no movie would want to capture. It’s in how he remembers you love orange Tic-Tacs when he’s grocery shopping or how he downloads your favorite song on iTunes even though he doesn’t like Ed Sheeran.
It’s seeing each other at your worst, most hideous moments, inside and out, and still saying, “I’m right here beside you, and I’m not going anywhere.”
Love isn’t beautiful. It isn’t perfect hair and makeup, gorgeous flowers, and romantic dinners everyday—not in my world, at least. It isn’t always Instagram-worthy, and it sure as hell isn’t a beautiful stroll in a field of daises under a perfectly setting sun.
Love is hard, it’s ugly, and it’s frightening. It’s sometimes full of moments you wouldn’t want anyone to see. It’s marked by indecision, choices, struggles, and strife.
Love isn’t beautiful, but that’s what makes it one of the most complex and worthwhile ventures of the human experiences. Because the fact of the matter is, love isn’t beautiful, yet we still pursue it. We still venture out on a limb and take the ugly moments with the good ones because we are so connected to that other person. We are so emotionally invested in another human being that we would put down our notion that love is beauty, trading it in for a sometimes bleak and sometimes difficult version.
Even in the midst of the ugliness and the scariness, we still find ways to smile and to find the beauty in even the worst moments. That’s how powerful love is.
Love isn’t always beautiful, but it is by accepting this realistic truth that we can begin to find the true depth of love and the true meaning of it. It is by realizing that love isn’t beautiful that we can better appreciate the experience, the journey, and the connection. It is in the ugly moments, thus, that the truth of our hearts and the depth of our connections truly become meaningful.
And I think that is where the beauty lies.
Lindsay Detwiler is a contemporary romance author with Hot Tree Publishing and a high school English teacher.