We love stories about true love.
They are every bit as stirring for us as the stories of justice and vengeance and underdogs finding victory against all odds: the stories of two people finding each other, two people who were meant for each other, who ultimately may never have known happiness if they hadn’t found each other.
We love the stories, but they don’t tell the whole story. They skip the parts that are like our lives.
Like the fact that they mostly aren’t true.
Don’t get me wrong–true love is real. I’ve been happily married for 19 years, and my wife and I are more in love today than we were the day we married. Our story is going well.
No, the part that isn’t true is the notion that each of us has exactly one true love, that they’re somewhere out there, that our lives can be complete, beautiful, victorious if only we can find them. And when we do, we’ll both know it and fall head over heels for each other right away, even if we resist a little bit at first because it’s too scary to imagine giving up our single lives for a lifetime with another person.
The part that isn’t true is the notion that we’re somehow incomplete without this other person, that until we find them we can only live half a life.
If those things were true, if our true loves were scattered randomly across the globe (or even randomly across town), it would go a long way toward explaining why there are so many unhappy marriages out there.
But I’ve seen unhappy marriages turn around, and I don’t think it’s as simple as that.
Because true love isn’t something you find. It’s something you choose. Every day.
You won’t find a person who completes you, because you have to complete yourself. Once you do that, once you have an idea who you are and why you’re here, you will find someone whose heart sings in harmony with yours.
But in order to stay together, in order to keep enjoying that beautiful harmony, you have to keep singing.
For some, it’s literally that. My godfather and godmother sang beautifully together, every chance they got, until he died. I suspect she still hears his harmony when she sings.
For some, it’s something else. Work, entertainment, travel, kids, money, sex–if it helps you focus on each other, it makes your song stronger. If it distracts you from each other, it makes your song fade.
Some days it feels a lot like work. Some days you really don’t feel like singing, alone or together. Some days your singing sucks, even when you’re singing together.
Some days you fail. And the next day, you get another chance to choose your love.
And sometimes, it’s true, the harmony falls away and you have to choose to be apart. When that happens, you might have to spend years learning how to be complete in yourself before you can choose someone else.
But it will always be a choice. Even when destiny knocks you down with the force of your beautiful, poetic, star-crossed love–you still have to choose to love back. You have to choose to sing.
Because love isn’t something that just happens to us. It isn’t something we find right before the credits roll and happily ever after ensues. Love is a choice we make. Every day.