I always thought that when two people are in love, they love in the exact same way. That everything is equal. I’d subscribed to that mindset through the first year and a half of my current relationship. But then I moved away and I learned a very valuable lesson:
In every relationship, there will always be one person who feels that they love more.
I’m not saying that this is correct, though for some people it very well could be. But it always feels that way for one or both parties. Because love is so confusing and multidimensional and traumatizing. We feel this way because people just show affection differently.
I guess the best way to illustrate is to tell you about my relationship with my partner. He and I have been together for four and a half years. We’ve been through a lot together. We’ve fought through scary situations together. We’ve been there for each other through death, depression, inexplicable fear, you name it. And he’s perfect.
God, if I took the time out to describe this man to you, I’d run out of space… and time. He’s gorgeous; it’s like looking at the fucking sunrise. He’s so smart, too. He’s good at everything that I’m bad at and he always makes me look like such an idiot. And he’s got these adorable freckles all over his back. And that’s why I love summer so much; because I get to see them. Kissing him is like a religious experience. God, it’s fucking insane. And every time he cuts his hair, I go into this state of mourning and I don’t even know why because it’s always perfect, no matter what length it is.
I love everything about this guy. Like, literally everything. Even the things that drive me insane, like when he can’t put down his fucking phone when he’s car shopping. Or how every trip, no matter where we’re going or why we’re going there, ends in us looking at fishing lures. Or that I’m always the one to apologize first, even if it’s not my fault, and he just loves it. If he didn’t do those things – the things that make me want to scream at him – I’d feel like something was missing from him. He’s just so… complete. He’s so perfect and flawed and irritating and beautiful.
And every time I want to tell him how much I love him, I stop. And I revise. And I tone it down. Because there’s always a nagging feeling inside me that says I love him more than he loves me. There’s that little voice that says I should really only go about 75% of the way, or I might scare him off. That maybe I should wait for him to say “I love you” first this time. Every time I get the urge to buy him a gift, I wait and think about whether or not it would be too much. That maybe my gift-giving intervals should be longer? I write him a letter nearly every day, but I almost never send it to him because he’d probably think I was crazy.
I like to think that I don’t love him more, that we love each other pretty equally. I think we just express our affection in different forms, in different waves. For me, showing him that I love him means writing him poems and painting a picture and buying him a puppy and paying a pilot to write “I love you” in the sky. And for him, it’s a lot quieter.
That doesn’t mean I don’t feel his love, because I do. It may not be as out there as I’d do it. But all it takes is a kind word or a stupid voicemail on my birthday (that I never delete)… and he’s got me hooked all over again.
Sometimes, I find myself saying, “He just doesn’t love me the way that I love him.” But then I think about how stupid it is to expect an entirely different human being to think the exact same way that I do when it comes to love. That’s such a ridiculous expectation, right? That almost seems cruel to ask that of someone.
No, I don’t think he’d risk getting arrested to hop on stage at an Ed Sheeran concert and proclaim his love to me on both knees. That sounds like something I would do, sure. But that’s not his style. He’s the kind of person that would say it in the way he kisses my cheek while asking me to get out from between him and the stove. He’d be the guy who would hold my hand for five of the six hours on the road to Idaho, even if my hand gets sweaty. He’s the one who goes and gets waffles because I say, “Waffles sound delicious right now.”
We’re not the same, and we never will be. But the way he says “I love you” makes me really happy. And I think that matters a lot.