Until last year, I believed my partner was the only person on the planet who would make me feel complete and that our love, the bedrock of my life, would always be consistently the same. Last May, everything I knew about love shifted when we decided to separate. After 11 years depending on the stability of this connection, I was devastated to imagine life without it. Now that I’ve settled into this once unimaginable world, I see that love can take many shapes and an old love can even transform into something else entirely.
I first realized this last summer when I told my co-worker that my husband, who had recently moved out, came over to sort through our apartment together. We wanted to fairly separate our possessions so we patiently asked each other who-wanted-what while crying and hugging and pausing together along the way. She was awe-struck with how beautiful this exchange was and recognized that our love was still there. “Love takes many forms. The struggle is when we think love only looks like one thing and we force ours to fit that one shape. Love can be shown and shared in many different ways,” she said.
Through that conversation and the connections I have made in the past year, I have learned that love takes many forms and marriage is just one of them. We idolize marriage as the ultimate form of love and aspire towards finding the idyllic partner who will give us all the love we will ever need, forever. When we expect one person or relationship to give us everything, we devalue the small acts of love and kindness in our lives that can be just as powerful when given due weight. In fact, sometimes we can’t even see these other types of love when we don’t think they are as important or necessary.
Love can transform
In my relationship, the hardest part of separating was knowing whether it was the right decision while still feeling love for one another. We realized that our love hadn’t diminished, it had just taken a new shape, a form that could thrive better outside of marriage, outside of the restrictions of a partnership where both of our priorities wouldn’t be met. It’s now up to us to honor and develop this shape in a way that’s best for our new lifestyles so that we can continue supporting one another as we move forward on separate paths. I don’t know what this new shape is called or even what it will look like in the future, but I like not labeling it. I like not having any more expectations; without expectations there will be no demands or disappointment – just love, with the flexibility to welcome it’s transformation.
Love is all around
As soon as we let go of what love is supposed to look like, we can see how much love is already in our lives or could be if we expanded our vision of what it is. Love isn’t just romantic, love can also be platonic. Love isn’t just family, it’s also found in friends. Love isn’t just marriage and partnership but also how we respect ourselves and care for our individuality.
Love is smiling at a stranger, it’s locking eyes with a friend in deep conversation, it’s feeding someone who is hungry, it’s flowers blooming on a tree. Love is seeing someone for who they really are and them seeing you in return.
Photo credit: Roman Kraft