In the beginning of a romantic relationship, everything is tingles. You get butterflies in your stomach just looking at them. Your heart skips a beat at the mere sound of your name on their lips. You are on fire for them. Your eyes turn into hearts and your tongue rolls out of your mouth and your words all turn to “A-WOO-GA.” (Some of this I know from experience, and some I learned from TV.) We call this combination of feelings “love.”
In the beginning, we’re sure we could never possibly love one another more than we do now.
Sometimes, when people stop feeling the butterflies, they worry they’ve fallen out of love. It’s hard. That tingly new feeling feels so good that it’s hard to imagine how a relationship could feel good without it. But here is the secret everyone in a long relationship knows:
The really good stuff comes after the butterflies.
The butterflies and tingles come along with newness and fear; fear of losing this incredible thing you’ve found, fear that it’s so good it must be a dream, fear that this wonderful feeling will go away. The butterflies and tingles are there to plant the seeds, but love is the beautiful thing that takes root and blooms.
Love is when it’s 4 am on a weeknight and your partner, who has work in three hours, is sitting on the bathroom floor while you have the worst stomach bug of your life, not because there’s anything he can do besides rinsing out the trash can every ten minutes or so, but because he doesn’t want you to be alone or scared.
Love is when it’s 4 am on a different weeknight (Love really loves a good 4 am on a weeknight, in fact) and your toddler cries and you get out of bed to settle him, even though it’s not “your turn,” because your partner has had a rough week and deserves to rest.
Love fills your gas tank or gets your oil changed or puts air in your tires so you don’t have to. Love wipes the stubble out of the sink or puts the toilet seat down for the 400,000th time. Love says “sweet dreams” before bed every night, even on a night when you’re so sad or angry or exhausted you can’t see straight. Love does the same goofy bit for decades just because it makes you laugh and love is the fact that it does still make you laugh every single time. Love gets out of bed thirty minutes early despite very much not being a “morning person” to get your favorite coffee. Love looks straight into the eyes of grief and anger and disappointment and fear and uncertainty and the way your husband can’t seem to brush his teeth without getting toothpaste all over his face every single time and love does not shrink away or hide or waver.
The butterflies come and the butterflies go. The flutters and tingles ebb and flow and ebb and flow. But love is the thing that holds fast and stands strong. Love outlasts the sunny days and weathers the hurricanes and is there to greet the sunny days again. Love is the part after the butterflies, and love is the really, really good stuff.