You know the couples I’m talking about. The ones constantly posting starry-eyed Instagram photos of their adventures together, gushing about how happy they are. The ones who got engaged at the top of a waterfall, with epic drone footage to prove it. The ones whose lives seem so extraordinary, compared to what might seem like the daily drudgery of your own ordinary life.
In our comparison trap of a culture, it is easy to see our own love stories as bland and even inadequate. Let’s face it: next to a couple who got engaged at the top of a mountain as the words “Marry me?” exploded in fireworks above, my own simple engagement story probably pales in comparison.
Our culture tends to glorify these singular epic acts of romance as being #relationshipgoals or whatever. But what I’ve come to realize as my marriage has blossomed over the years, is that grand displays of affection aren’t what really count, when you lie down next to your spouse at the end of a long and trying day. When it’s been four days since you took a real shower, and the house is in utter disarray, and the kids have finally settled into their beds for at least the next twenty minutes. In those quiet moments alone with the person you’ve pledged your life to, no Instagram-worthy photo op matters. After all the fanfare dies down, what is it that actually makes a relationship epic?
In my relationship, the most meaningful things have always been the little things. The quiet moments together at the end of a long day. Thank you’s whispered. A cup of coffee in my hand before I ask. A clean kitchen on a Saturday morning before I’ve gotten out of bed. Forgiveness. Mercy. The acknowledgment of my fears. The encouragement of my dreams.
These things aren’t grandiose gestures that can be performed at just any stage of a relationship. They’re perfected over time. Learned. Earned. Through the day-in, day-out living of life alongside another person.
Love itself, I believe, is a grand gesture. The choice you make, day after day, to die to yourself and prioritize another person, is miraculous. In a culture that constantly demands we “find ourselves,” satisfy our needs and desires immediately, and run away from anything that doesn’t make us blissfully happy at all times, real, unconditional love is a marvel.
When I look back on the past 7 years I’ve spent doing life with my husband, I’m completely blown away by how much our relationship has shifted, grown and flourished. And at the same time, I shouldn’t be surprised. Because that’s a lot of days and hours and minutes. It’s thousands of conversations. Hundreds of fights. Countless moments side by side, trying to figure out life together. What we have was hard-fought. It has been vigorously tested and ruthlessly defended. There has been so much beauty, and also so much struggle—oftentimes side by side, one laying the groundwork for the other. It is nowhere near perfect, and there is still so much to learn. But in those still moments at the end of the day, I’m overcome with sheer gratitude for the marriage I’ve been blessed with, because through it I daily experience the love of Jesus.
The next time you come across a social media post, article or news story touting someone else’s public display of romance as #relationshipgoals, remember that real love is most often found in the small things. It is found in the things that seem plain and ordinary. Things you won’t likely post to your Instagram, because love doesn’t manifest as a cry for attention. It shows itself in consistency and loyalty, in kept promises and spoken truths, and so many other intangible gifts. It looks like Jesus.