Love and Marriage

My personal journey to find the meaning of true love;

Growing up, most people learn about “love” from their parents (parent figures.) If this is the case, I learned that love means you avoid your spouse a lot and fight in private often. That was my impression of what love was like for adults. Of course, my sister and I felt very loved from our parents and rarely SAW them fight, but we couldn’t help but notice the issues they had with each other. I had a very happy childhood because I knew how much my parents loved me, especially my Father. He would always take time out for us. I have a few negative memories of him, but the positive memories definitely outweigh them by a landslide. Love was good and real and I felt safe.

After Dad passed away, my mom’s new boyfriend (later turned husband #2, then later turned ex-husband…currently her Facebook friend who lives across the country who still occasionally calls her to vent about his personal problems)  moved in with us less then 6 months after his death. Needless to say, it didn’t go well; especially since he was quite abusive. I then learned love didn’t exist and in this life you need to put yourself first in all matters. You can imagine how this effected all other relationships in my life. I became selfish, kind of a bully, learned to keep people at arms length. Honestly, to this day I have a hard time letting people in all the way.

I had a high school sweetheart, we were together a little over three years. I loved him as much as a teenager can love someone else. We moved in together. We had a great relationship as far as being basically kids went. We would have probably died for each other. You know how teenage relationships go, lots of high drama and fast paced emotions. Lots of power struggles etc…  love was an abstract concept I thought I understood, but not really. After we broke up, badly; we both did what teenagers do: make horrible mistakes that hurt the other person more then necessary because we didn’t know how to deal with the emotions we were feeling. To this day, my deepest regret is the pain I caused him in my selfish and childish actions. He and I are currently good friends again; but that took a long time and is an entirely different blog posting. Suffice to say I am blessed to have him as my friend and couldn’t be prouder of all he has achieved and have learned that you can love someone romantically at one time of your life and then in another time will find that you love them very much as a part of your life but not in a romantic sense but because they are a good person and it is very natural to continue sharing a bond of close friendship with them.

Around the age of fifteen or sixteen I found my natural ability to relate to animals and understand them lead me to places of peace and calm. I got my first job at a humane society and being there was the most positive place in the world. I learned a lot of lessons there; some of them hard. I learned I could love an animal even when it was afraid and trying to bite me. I learned I could usually gain that animals trust and love back and that was the most amazing feeling in the world next to seeing them achieve a forever home. I learned that even when you love someone, sometimes the powers that be decide they have to die and you can’t do a damn thing about it but sob. I learned that trait that all Taurus’s eventually learn: that hard work at a steady pace is fulfilling and peaceful and right.  I fell in love with my job and knew from that time on what my path in life was to be.

I followed that path for years. Vet clinic, dog control, zoo. My degree is in Zoo Technology (Animal Management) and I worked through college too with the animals and teaching kids about conservation and animals. Professionally, I was filled with love. My animals continue to teach me how much I can care for another creature, even if it doesn’t show affection and love back or is even emotionally capable of having those feelings; reptiles show appreciation very differently then mammals do haha. The animals were my first lessons in empathy, real empathy and giving of myself. However in my personal life, “love” came in the form of mooching off boyfriends and being non-committal. Didn’t really care much about most other people except a few.  Didn’t let anyone in all the way.

That is; until taking a hiatus from the zoo and returning to shelter work to ground myself again, the bassist from my high school sweeties band came by the shelter to pick up his brother who had been volunteering. Let me tell you, it was not a good day for me. It was the end of the day, I was tired and smelly and we had just euthanized a hard case. I was not in the mood for chit chat. I just wanted to go home and wash the day off. Then in pulls this jerk from high school, the guy who was always getting my boyfriend in trouble. You know the type. You hang out with them, same circles and all, but are always a little leery because they seem to bring trouble no matter where they go. I had successfully avoided eye contact until his little brother says “Hey, why don’t you come say hi! You guys went to school together, right?” Great. Commence with hurried awkward chit chat; during which he tells me he has some court appointed community service he has to do (big surprise, I thought sarcastically to myself) and I hear myself offering to put in a good word for him at the shelter. As soon as he pulled away I regretted it. I did NOT have to put up with him for over 200 hours and did not want to have to deal with the possible professional backlash when he skipped on his commitments or made an ass of himself. At least there is plenty of grunt work to do around a shelter and as long as he didn’t hurt anyone or let the animals out he could pick up poo and spray kennels and wash dishes for 200 hours.

Slowly, very slowly, without actually realizing anything was happening; we started talking. A lot. Turns out, his mom owns a horse rescue (who knew?) and he was really good with the animals. Most people like animals and get along with them really well. But some people really have a way with them. It is hard to describe. Just a natural talent for understanding and communicating with them on their own level. I will never forget the first time I saw my husband working with a fearful dog. He knew exactly how to treat him and talk to him. He was so kind and gentle, I hardly recognized him. In retrospect, I think from that moment on I was probably hooked; although I hadn’t even realized it myself yet. I didn’t notice we spent a lot of our day working side by side, talking and laughing. We actually, much to my surprise, had a lot in common. I didn’t pay much attention when he would call me at home the night before and ask if I was working the next day and what time. I didn’t notice he went over his court mandated hours and came in to the shelter almost every day. It took a fellow shelter worker to point out to me one day while he was sweeping in the hallway and we were doing dishes that he “stares at you almost constantly.” I quickly peeked out in the hall and he too quickly turned around so as I wouldn’t notice. We went out to a movie, and I didn’t have a terrible time like I had been anticipating. I took him on a test run to visit my brother a few hours away, we even got stuck in a blizzard that first drive, and we enjoyed the entire time together; and yes he was a perfect gentleman the whole time!

It was; and truthfully still is, one of the most bizarre and wonderful things that has ever happened to me. Usually it goes: see cute boy, crush on cute boy, hit on cute boy, date cute boy, get bored with cute boy, dump cute boy. Rinse and repeat. This happened so naturally. I really wasn’t even looking for anybody at the time, I was taking a hiatus from everything not just the zoo field.

As it turns out; and he may be cranky I am revealing his secret online, his whole tough guy thing was pretty much just a front. He is probably one of the biggest soft touches I have ever met. I have never seen him turn his back on a stray animal, he is a generous and caring father and hardworking and loving husband. He has so many amazing qualities. We have gone through a lot of hardships together. Too many to name, but as example when we first began dealing with his alcohol addiction it was one of the only times I ever thought of leaving him. He has been sober for over four years now, but that first year and a half was something I will never forget and pray we never have to go thru ever again. I wasn’t perfect either of course. During that early time right before we got serious about his recovery I was having an emotional affair dabbling in physical. It came down to; for both of us, are we going to make this work or not? We chose to make it work. He enrolled in an outpatient program for addicts (alcohol and drug rehab) and I said goodbye and cut off contact with the guy I had been hanging out with. I miss him sorely as a friend, but it was not a good idea to continue being around him.

That early trial prepared us well for married life and taught me that love cannot be selfish. Love requires give and take and sometimes requires hardships. Love cannot just be all about one person in the relationship. I grew up a lot during that time. It was probably the first time in my life I made a conscious decision to work hard at love and to learn to be open and trust. The trust was the hard part. Sometimes it still is. He had broken my trust and I had broken his. I also learned that you really truly cannot stop loving the people you really love and you don’t get to pick who you will love. It is just something that happens to you, not because you make it happen but because it just happens. You have to work at it once you have it yes. Why? Because life is hard and people get stressed out because life is hard. At this point I thought I had learned everything there is to learn about love. I have the love of my life and we are married and very happy together.

Oh was I wrong! Our first child, the absolute light in my whole world, has shown me how much you can really love somebody. How far you can be pushed and still be willing to give them the world and all of yourself and more just to have them smile. Having a child is really something that can’t be described. I have never ever in my entire life cared about anyone so much, even myself. I have never wanted so bad just to see somebody smiling at me, or worked so hard to make someone else happy, even just for a few moments. I can’t even describe in words how much she has taught me about how much I really didn’t know about how much love I can really be capable of.

I wonder what I get to learn about love in the future?

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