To Nurture Love: the ‘Work’ in Teamwork and the ‘Re’ in ‘Rediscover’
If you have been in a relationship, you may understand that romantic love isn’t something static. The relationship is a living thing. Over the time, you don’t feel about your partner the same way you feel about him or her when you first laid eyes on each other. There is of course this “honey moon” phase when you are dazzled by each other’s halo. You are so in love. And in there you don’t see his or her imperfections.
After this honey moon phase is when things get interesting. I think love isn’t real when the Culprit fires his arrow; love becomes real when the effect of the arrow wears off. And your love will change, it will either begin to grow or begin to die.
Rapha and I have been in a long distance relationship for 2 years. On 10 Aug 2014, Rapha took me to Frankfurt International Airport. We both cried – Rapha never hides his emotions from me. But we whispered: “We will be okay.” We kissed each other goodbye. I wrote this article in 12 Jan 2015. 5 months had passed since that last kiss.
Our love, despite thousands of hours and miles that separate us, has gone from strength to strength. We are each other’s best friend, lover, partner. When we think about our future, we feel excited and hopeful. We video chat every day, laugh in every chat, at the end of each chat, we say goodbye to each other with longing in our eyes and bright smiles on our faces: “I love you, so much.”
It hasn’t been always roses and butterflies. There was one time when I lied on my bed; holding in my arms, not my boyfriend, but my tablet. I couldn’t even see his face because my internet was too weak for video call. Tears flowing down my pillow: “Why are we doing this to each other, Rapha?” He replied: “I don’t now, Mili. Why?”
I don’t see myself as doctor love, much less an expert. But I want to share our story with you, in the hope that it will invite you to rediscover love or to love again.
To love is to work together as a team.
It is the most intimate and challenging kind of teamwork. A good team create solutions. “Be solution-oriented” may sound like the most unromantic love advice. But really, the unromantic moments of solving problems create space for romance.
We are honest to each about how we feel. We don’t assume that the other person knows how we feel. (Assumption is the worst poison for relationship)
“I feel that something is not okay. I feel that our recent chats haven’t been with the energy they used to have,” we talk about how we feel. Not to create a drama about it but to solve the problem together. “Do you feel the same? What do you think might have gone wrong? What can we do about it?”
At the beginning, as a woman, I became paranoid every single time this kind of conversation arises. Assumption screamed in my head: “Oh no! He can take it no more! We are done! It’s over!” But Rapha, sensing my paranoia, always reassured: “Okay, let’s be clear. I don’t want to break up. I want to talk about this with you because I love you.”
Love is action. Taking action to speak up and confront relationship issues demands courage. But we fear that saying “I am not okay” will destroy the relationship. So we stay silent and secretly hope that the problem will resolve itself as long as it is hidden.
This is toxic. Avoiding problems is denying your right to love and be loved. So address your problem when it is still small; don’t wait and feed on it until it become a monster. This is a chance for you to test and invigorate the strength of your relationship.
Rapha and I do our best to nurture a positive and solution-oriented vibe. We try not to take things personally; even in this seemingly most personal context. We brush our egos aside. Neither we defend ourselves, nor do we blame the other person. It is never about who is right, it is about getting it right. We analyze possible bottle necks, brainstorm solutions, define next-steps. “So next-steps! What I will do is…” This is the most romantic thing I know.
To love is to rediscover each other.
This is something so important to learn, especially when we are young. When both you and your partner are dabbling through the first waves of the ocean that we call life. As we look upon the stars shining over our ocean, and look down at the deep dark blue water caressing our naked bodies; we know that this swim will transform us and help us understand what we are made of.
As naturally and innocently as Bambi learning how to skate on the frozen lake. We change. Sometimes, most of the times, our change becomes too much for our partner. I’ve been in relationships when I changed and my partner just could not bear it.
“Oh I’m so happy. I hope we can be like this forever!” Does it sound familiar? We all dream of permanence in romantic love. But that’s just not how relationship works. The only way it stays static is to put you and your lover in a block of concrete. It’s a living thing, either growing or dying, depending on what you feed it.
Your love will grow if you feed it with a sense of wonder.
“Rapha, I’m no longer the girl whom you fell in love with in Moscow, or whom you kissed 4 month ago in Frankfurt!” I exclaimed during our usual chat one afternoon.
“Uhh… What do you mean?”
By the tone of his voice I could tell he was in shock. I explained:“I mean it. I’ve changed so much and learned so much more. I’m different now. I feel that you need to get to know me better!” I demanded.
I had no idea what I was doing then. But I was sure that every cells in my body demanded to be rediscovered.
Remember the movie 50 First Dates with Lucy, the girl who has short-term memory loss and forgets everything – including her boyfriend – the very next day? And Henry, the guy who loves Lucy so much that he marries her, and decides that they will fall in love again, and again, and again, every morning, for the rest of their life?
Lucy and Henry’s story is a bit extreme. But in a way, this is it. This is love: to fall asleep at night letting go of all your past judgments towards the other, to wake up in the morning looking at each other anew with a sense of wonder, and to give love regardless of what the other person has become.
I don’t see change as a threat, and don’t see love as a chain. Rapha travelled to London last weekend. Whenever each of us travel, we give the other person a lot of space so I didn’t talk to him in the last 2 days. Now I can’t wait to hear all about his adventures. It is wonderful to fall in love with someone who you know so well, yet suddenly become to you so mysterious.
Who are you? I don’t know. But I love you. I want to understand the tinkles in your eyes.
A sense of wonder is evoked when each person in the relationship has the complete freedom to follow the adventure her heart demands. And when her partner loves enough to let her go, looking forward to discover her one day when she's back, all over again.
- Hey Rapha! I decided to go to India for 3 months and write my first book there. Come and visit me, will you?
- Of course, Mili!
Why do we do this to ourselves? We do this because of love and love needs no reason. No matter if we will grow old together or life will separate us; our relationship has given us a window to look into ourselves and realize that a man or a woman can be intensely in love and perfectly free, and a chance to learn to be fearless in the most vulnerable terrain of life.