I adore those early days of romance that make up novels. The “meet-cute,” which in real life is sometimes not so cute, the getting-to-know you phase where each meeting is breathlessly fraught with anticipation and longing, and finally the glorious moment when the couple decides that it’s True Love, and they will live happily ever after. In books, that’s usually where the story ends. Because, really, before the “I do” is romance. After the “I do” is women’s fiction.
I’m firmly in the women’s fiction point of my life right now. After fifteen years of marriage, several moves, two children, and many trials, my husband and I have gone firmly beyond the butterflies-in-the-tummy phase. There are very few foot-popping kisses when he walks through the door at night. Half the time, I’m embroiled in homework or bath time and he’s exhausted after having worked a thirteen hour day. We’re lucky if we manage a “Hey there” before the kids are in bed. Romantic, huh?
But the romance of this stage of our life is not in the private dinners or the romantic greetings or the thoughtful gifts. It’s in the meeting of each others’ needs in the messiness of life. It’s the nights where I’m already so tired I could cry and I still have hours of work ahead—and he disappears with our younger son, only to reappear with him bathed and ready for bed. Or the mornings where I bring him coffee at the office so we can have for a five minute chat and a quick kiss good-morning. And in those rare moments when we can sit across from each other at a restaurant table without kids, I think, “Wow. After fifteen years of marriage, this person is even more amazing than I remembered.”
So I love writing those early stages of love when everything is exciting and new, but in my own life, I’m exceedingly grateful for the romance of the everyday. The messiness and chaos of a shared life together. The in-sickness-and-in-health, til-death-do-us-part bits.
Because to me, the first promise of love that endures to the commitment of forever is the meaning of true romance.