The Key to Keeping Love

It’s 5:25 a.m., and I’m screaming at my fiancé as we sit in the car outside of the gym. In the back of my head I’m thinking, “Why are you doing this? Just stop and apologize right now.” My mouth, however, is on a different continent than my head, so it just keeps on going — loudly.

My windshield was covered in ice this morning, and I asked my fiancé to scrape it off before we drove to the gym. He told me to turn on my windshield wipers first, but I said no because ice would ruin their blades. He refused to scrape my windshield; I refused to do it myself, so I drove with a partially obstructed view.

Yes, that’s what I’m yelling about right now.

Suddenly, using the word “crazy” to describe a female doesn’t seem so sexist after all.

Without a mouth to wrangle in, my head has time to do quite a bit of thinking. The first question to tackle: How did I get here?

It’s an easy answer because I’m pretty sure that stress, anxiety and succumbing to the pressures of life are what got me here; I’m not in a great place right now. I spent most of my spring break applying to paid summer internships and for-credit fall internships. I also spent most of my spring break scrolling through my Facebook feed to find that all of my friends were beachside, basking in the sun. So with no tan and still no internships secured, I’m starting to panic. The break just ended, and now that I’m back in classes, I have my normal workload on top of the internship search, and I feel myself cracking – obviously.

But why do I take it out on him?

Why? Because I know that he loves me unconditionally; I know that he’ll forgive me. Plus, I want him to be exactly what I need all of the time.

Is that fair?

No, it’s not fair. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I’m not what I need to be for myself, let alone for him. I’m just a human, so why do I think my fiancé should be perfect?

Don’t I get grumpy? Don’t I get lazy? Don’t I get angry? Don’t I do or say the wrong thing?

With all of these questions swirling in my head, I know one thing is certain: I need to stop my mouth before it costs me dearly.

* * *

It’s a popular belief that true love is hard to find; it’s so popular that countless movies have been made to show how difficult it is to find “the one.” I’ve watched Jennifer Anniston, Ginnifer Goodwin and Drew Barrymore search desperately for love in “He’s Just Not That Into You.” I’ve watched Katherine Heigl try on all 27 dresses in an effort to support her friends’ love lives while failing to spend time finding her own. I’ve watched Molly Ringwold mope around as an insecure high schooler in “Sixteen Candles,” hoping to attract the attention of someone who barely knows her name.

Like them, I used to believe that true love would never come my way. I didn’t wear 27 different dresses or loan my underwear to a freshman, but I did try the online dating thing, and I did waste my time with more than a few duds. And yes, it took me until I was 18 before I had my first real boyfriend, but he’s my fiancé now — sometimes life works out nicely.

So no, finding love isn’t the hard part. It’s keeping love that’s hard. After the women in those movies finally find their true loves — despite much time and strife — the movies end with neat little bows tied around the plots because the couples are in love now, so everything must be perfect. But as the couples walk into the sunset and the movie credits appear, viewers never see what’s just beyond the horizon: darkness.

Maintaining a romantic relationship isn’t all sunshine and flowers; it’s hard work. It’s even harder when a couple lives together. Then, because of proximity, it’s easy for one person to become a target in times of anger or crisis. But how many times can I explode all over my fiancé before he calls it quits? I don’t know, but I definitely don’t want to find out.

The only way to prevent that horrible outcome is to practice the key to keeping love: patience.

I have to be patient with myself. My type-A personality, while it pushes me to do my best, is often my downfall. I’m too tough on myself, so I’m upset if I find that I’m not where I’d like to be. I’d like to already have my internships secured; I’d like to be a better fiancée — a fiancée who doesn’t scream because of ice on a windshield.

I’m disappointed that I took my frustrations and stresses out on him, but I can’t just continue down this rabbit hole of despair, or else I may never find my mouth. I have to tell myself that it’s okay if I screwed up because, after all, I’m only human.

So is he, which is why I also have to be patient with him. I would think that having the world’s most patient significant other — the No. 1 role model for patience — would help me do so, but apparently that’s not the case. Still, he is patient with me every day.

He gets out of bed in the morning to make me breakfast so that I have time to shower and pack a lunch before class; he comes home from a full day of work and makes me dinner because he knows that I have homework; he rubs my tired feet at the end of the day even though he just wants to sit on the couch and not have to move; he spends an entire day shopping with me because I have a meltdown over my lack of cute clothes. He is patient.

I would love him without all of his seemingly small but truly grandiose gestures of patience. In fact, I did love him without those gestures. I dropped the L-word first; I dropped it back when he told me that it was too soon for us to be holding hands in public. But because of his patience, my love for him has grown deeper and stronger.

So in these moments, I have to pause and think, “What would my fiancé do?” He would step back; he would breathe; he would be patient with me.

I just have to hope that when I take that pause, my head and my mouth don’t go their separate ways.

This time, though, my head found its way back to my mouth.

“I’m sorry. I was a jerk, and you don’t deserve to be treated like that,” I say.

He pulls me in for a hug and tells me that it’s okay; he is patient.

I’m learning to be patient, too. It’s the only way for me to be the wife that he deserves; it’s the only way for me to love myself; it’s the only way for him and me to be truly happy.


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