I recently went through a rough breakup with my (now ex-)boyfriend of over two years.
We'd been through rocky patches a time or two before, but this was the first time it'd felt so... final. This was the first time I really had to step back and admit to myself that I needed more than what this relationship continued to provide to me (truthfully, he did too) -- and that my happiness was my own responsibility.
As all breakups do, this one shredded my self-confidence and made me question all of my preconceptions about love, relationships and happily-ever-after.
It would have been easy for me to turn cynical and jaded about love. And I did, for a while. I allowed that hurt and anger to color my perception. But at the core, I'm a romantic and an optimist, and I think that when you're with the right person -- the perfect fit for you -- there'll be butterflies at times, even if you've been together for decades.
I think that idea of Great Love has been unfortunately misconstrued for a long time. Books, movies and the media in general have exploited the idea, spinning Great Love as either something out of an adult film or your nearest romance novel. This is a mistake, and it creates false perceptions of how relationships work in the real world. So I'm here to debunk a few of the typical Great Love myths with a little bit of reality.
MYTH: Great Love means being starry-eyed and happy forever and ever. If you're unhappy in your relationship, it's obviously not true love.
REALITY: Great Love means seeing that situations are temporary and don't necessarily define the fate of the relationship. In real relationships -- solid relationships -- both partners find a way to look past the problem and remember the person they love underneath it all. The blame game is minimal. Apologies are crucial. And remembering that you're both on the same team is essential. Great Love doesn't mean there aren't problems or rough patches; it means seeing through those rough patches and working with each other instead of turning away.
MYTH: Great Love means grand gestures, rose petals and romantic walks in the sunset.
REALITY: Great Love can mean all of those things, if you want it to. It also means late nights covered in kid-puke, kissing your husband goodbye before he's brushed his teeth and being cool with the fact that your wife's version of "dressing up" on the weekend means she put on her new yoga pants.
MYTH: You should still feel butterflies every time you're around your partner, if it's Great Love.
REALITY: That stuff fades. No, really, it does. And if it doesn't, there may be bigger problems in your relationship. When you're truly in love with someone, that love brings you a sense of peace, calm and security. That's not to say that looking across a room and catching your spouse's eye doesn't still give you a zing once in a while, but if you're walking around with a perpetual case of butterflies, years later, you may want to talk to a doc.
MYTH: When you're truly in love, the sex is magical, frequent and easy.
REALITY: Listen, let's be honest here -- sex in real-world relationships has its ups and downs. Sometimes you're on and your partner's not. Sometimes you go weeks without action. Sometimes you've gotta schedule sexy-time (probably the most unromantic thing ever). Sometimes it's a quickie in the shower before you both run out the door in opposite directions for the day. Great Love means that you keep trying to connect, even if it's quick, even if it has to be scheduled, even if you're not feeling it. It means that you realize a physical connection to your partner is important and you both put in the effort to make it happen on a regular basis. You take the time to learn what works for your partner (and vice versa) -- whether that's helping out with the dishes, giving a back rub or simply scheduling a babysitter -- and then you make it happen.
MYTH: If you're truly in love, all of your happiness will stem from your partner and your relationship.
REALITY: Part of healthy love and relationships is a strong sense of self. If you're not happy, secure and fulfilled individually, you're not going to be any of those things in a relationship. So don't feel guilty about keeping your once-a-week coffee date with your friends, or about going to a football game with the boys. Reasonable individual passions and pursuits will do nothing but strengthen your relationship.
Great Love isn't about the big, flashy grand gestures; it's in the predictable hug at the end of the day, in the way you still hold hands at dinner, in making sure you're touching in bed at night, even when you're upset with each other. Great Love is in going out of your way once in a while to do something thoughtful and loving for your partner, and it's about loving each other even when you hate each other. If you've found this, cherish it -- it is the fairy tale.
Kasey Ferris is a freelance writer and mother of five. She eats too many Oreos and thinks life is much better when you're laughing. Find her at facebook.com/KaseyFerrisWrites.