Life has thrown quite a few love lessons at me. For the first twenty-something years of my life, those lessons were mainly of pain; so many relationships that ended in heartbreak, unrequited love, incompatible love, love that just wasn’t the right kind of love.
I remember one moment in particular, in Patras, Greece, with my college boyfriend of three years. We were arguing over who was going to struggle with the English-to-Greek dictionary to book a hostel reservation with the monolingual receptionist. Once again, he was insistent that I take on the task. I looked at him, nearly choking on the years of pent-up resentment at his passive personality.
As much as I loved the many wonderful sides of him, I realized in that moment, he would never change. He even said, “I’m sorry, but this is who I am. Either love me for me, or leave me.” It would take many more months of arguing and suffering this mismatched love before I finally ended it.
Breaking up with him was one of the best decisions of my life, but at the time, all I felt was pain and fear. Would I ever find the man that was the right fit?
As it turned out, a love lesson on expectations was in store for me. When I first met my husband years later, I wasn’t immediately crushing hard. He had a thinner build than the men I typically dated. He was handsome, certainly, but had a different look. Also, his personality was near opposite the type I usually went for. He was outgoing, charismatic, funny, a performer, a people pleaser whereas I had always pictured myself with (and pursued) the mysterious, romantically introspective, intellectual, sullen type. He was completely new territory for me. As my siblings like to tease, my husband is the only cool guy I ever dated.
But as I got to know him and his deeper sides, I realized this was by far and beyond, the best match for my personality and needs. He could speak out and fight for me when I needed to be quiet and rest. He could say no to me and put me in my place—something none of my ex-boyfriends attempted. He forced me out of my shell, and filled my life with all different kinds of music and humor; while I taught him the simple pleasures of reading books, adopting cats, volunteering and traveling to new places. We are different in so many ways, yet it is obvious to everyone that knows us well—and to us—that we are meant to be together.
Sometimes, the most surprising love lesson of all is the simplest.
But if you ask me where I have grown the most when it comes to love, it is undeniably as a mother. From the morning I received my daughter in the hospital nursery, I was overwhelmed with joy (the night before, honestly, was a blur). My body had just been through the physical hell of childbirth, with heavy bleeding and painful stitches and sleep deprivation, among other ailments—but I couldn’t stop smiling.
It felt like my heart was ricocheting around my chest. This precious little human came from inside me, and belonged to me, and we would be together for the rest of my life. All my selfishness evaporated as she looked up into my eyes. I would do anything for her. I never thought I would utter the words (and mean them) that I would die for someone else, but I would die for her. And I had only just met her.
Sure, some of this love is powered by hormones in the brain and biology working its evolutionary magic. But two-plus years later, that love has only grown more intense. It is both a self-sacrificing and self-growing kind of love. I put her needs before my own, but have also learned to protect my needs when necessary. I have conquered fears and done things I never thought I’d do, like pushing suppositories up her tush and plucking stubborn boogers from her nostrils (I’ll spare you the really gross anecdotes).
And I discovered a new form of physical, intimate love that isn’t romantic—lying side by side, staring into each other’s eyes, kissing and caressing my sweet little girl—in a way that isn’t sexual at all, but makes my heart leap with love. She has taught me to put my phone away, not to worry about clothing stains, be in the present moment, and treasure it. I love her so much that I fret over our time together. Will we have enough? Will it pass too fast? Will she love me as much?
But if there’s one thing I’ve come to understand as a mother, it’s that I need to take each day as it comes, and have faith. The love lessons I’ve been handed so far have steered me in the right direction. They can be painful at first, but I’m thankful I’ve paid attention. Life is always going to be full of surprises. So I’m just going with it.
By: Libbie Snyder
Originally from Boston, Libbie Snyder resides in Tel Aviv with her husband, daughter and two cats. She is the owner of Snyder Communications, a content writing company that provides copywriting and editing services to high tech companies across Israel. In her spare time, she enjoys yoga, running, reading novels, writing poetry, checking out new restaurants—and when the opportunity allows, travel abroad. You can find out more on LinkedIn and Contently.