Those Four Little Words “I love you, anyway.”

Since I’ve moved to Michigan, I’ve learned it’s particularly challenging to look outside your window at the gray slush pooling in your driveway and think about love. But think about it we must, because after four months of meteorological punishment, Valentine’s Day is all we have to keep our inner pilot lights lit until the Great Thaw.

I’m not currently in love. But I have been, four times. I’m talking L-O-V-E love, the jump-off-Oprah’s-couch love. The love that sends you into a spiral of Morrissey tracks and Lars Von Trier movies when it’s over. And even though none of those relationships has panned out, I look forward to being in love again. Love is special. What else can kick your guts out four times and keep you on the lookout for number five? Emotional growth comes from learning how to cope with life’s paradoxes, and nothing other than love is this good at simultaneously being the best thing ever and a total pain in the ass.

This is why everyone should be in love before they become a parent. People need to learn that after you have a child, it’s perfectly normal that you would happily throw yourself under a bus to save someone who drives you up the wall.

Being in love doesn’t mean saying “I love you.” (Hell, I’ve said that to a cat.) If you really love someone, you can tell them “I love you, anyway.”

After you’ve lived a half-century or two, you get a sense of how the world works. You realize that, among us humans, communication is a struggle and chemistry is a miracle. To get to a stage of intimacy with someone where your glasses are so rose-colored that you can’t see all their red flags? That’s about as rare as a pig flying over a blue moon while eating his hat. If you can find it, that’s really all you need.

I’m out there, now. Again. And not just for me. Now that my boys are tweenagers, I think it’s important to model a relationship for them beyond the sterile negotiations with their mother. The thing is, though, when you’re out of love and looking to get back in, there’s this whole rigamarole of courting, and deodorant, and keeping up this preposterous façade that you’re a much better person than you really are. It’s exhausting.

When you’re a parent, though, you get to skip all that. Because that love is built right in. As soon as someone hands you that squirming little mess, your heart grows three sizes, and you know you’ve entered a new stage of confinement that you’ll never want to escape.
You know they’re going to put you in precarious situations. They’ll throw tantrums in church and leave wet towels on the leather sofa. They’ll defy and disappoint you. They might even lie, or steal, or break your heart.

But your life will be richer for the adventure, and for the rest of your life you’ll get to say “I love you, anyway” over and over.

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