Love is an empty house you move into. Love isn’t always a good home. Homes have dark corners, awkward spaces and places you are just not willing to go to for reasons you cannot fathom. Homes can stay unfamiliar for years. So can love.
In the beginning, we like love to look good. We are sure that if we can make it look great, it will feel great. It feels like a heavy secret when that doesn’t happen. We learn to do something else with looking great. Even when love is a comfortable home, it is never a good idea to stay at home all the time.
Love is a laggard. It doesn’t always turn up on stage according to the script. It goes missing, leaving the rest of the actors to improvise awkwardly.
Love doesn’t do its homework. Love is lazy. Love goes off to pick up its phone in the middle of a conversation. Love sneaks a look at its mobile notifications, as soon as it sees you approaching. How much love does love need? Love is an ungrateful, entitled brat.
Love likes togetherness. Love underestimates how much space it needs. It needs bus rides and highways. It needs distance to sustain itself. It needs to breathe, to run, to go away so that it can return to intimacy and safe embraces.
Sometimes love hates intimacy. It hasn’t attended its classes. It blanks out when it has to perform.
You will realize that you feel love but goddam it, it isn’t working for you. Love will make you claustrophobic. You will embrace it and hold it tight, but love won’t realize that it needs to make space for you. Your allegiance can stay one sided for years.
When we move in with love, love changes its colours. In our personal spaces, some of us express love as anxiety and anger. We destroy love every day. We shoo it away. We refuse to recognize it, for fear of what it might ask from us.
We are threatened by the love we feel. We resent that we don’t feel love like we expected ourselves to. What is wrong with us?
Love means dealing with differences. Accepting contradictions. Learning to listen without relying on words.
In love, you become the keeper of each other’s memories. He will tell you about the uncle who bullied him brutally and then forget about it forever, leaving you to deal with the offensive man when he comes visiting. He will tell you about his crushes. You will tell him about the tree in your childhood home. The cake your mother used to bake on birthdays.
One of you will be the dreamer. The other will be fantastic with logistics. The logistics person will remember that she had dreams of her own too. She will want to hand back his dreams to him.
You will watch each other fight losing battles. You will want to rescue the other from her obsession. You will be judgemental. You will tear each other down. You will bask in glory when she wins. You will feel left out.
Love is uncomfortable.
He will be no good at being ill. He will get cranky and hyperactive and won’t admit that all he needs is to get into bed and get some rest. A simple fever will feel like a volcano is rumbling underneath you.
He will have no clue how to deal with you when you are ill. He will keep forgetting that you are in pain. Instead of being useful, he will yell at you when he discovers the medicines that you stashed away instead of completing the course you had been prescribed. Love involves a lot of yelling. Practise it. When you are weak, it will trigger anxiety in the lover. It makes him feel vulnerable and vulnerability must be stomped over. You will take it personally. How can you not?
Love demands patience. Love needs years to get into its skin and wear it comfortably. Love has childhood issues.
You will trust each other in different ways. You will discover mistrust despite love. It will stun you. Love learns to step back. Trust has to be earned, it cannot be demanded on a platter. One of you will be better than the other with trust issues.
You will learn to ask each other for money. You will be angry and disappointed and swear to never ask each other for money. One of you will be better at dealing with money. One of you will love money by spending it, the other will love it by keeping it close. Money is the third party in your romance.
One of you will write deeply embarrassing Facebook posts. One will be a WhatsApp enthusiast.
One will thrive in clutter, the other will always wipe the bathroom floor dry. One of you will get along fine with plumbers, electricians, carpenters and sabziwallahs. The other will be an intolerable, ill-mannered, defensive, lazy fool. Lead by example.
One of you will be better at waking up the children kindly, and tucking them into bed at night. It will take you years to realize that roles can be switched. It’s quite simple.
You will develop a good cop-bad cop game without realizing it. It will begin to hurt when you realize that one of you is always being seen as hateful and the other is wearing a halo. Remember to reverse your positions in time. Don’t wait for the other’s permission.
One will assume charge of getting all the details right. The other will ask, “Why are we always late everywhere?” Both will frustrate each other. Love makes you weary.
Put everything back in a box and shake it till your bones rattle. The doctor recommends a good shake-up in her prescription for love.
The most significant phase of marriage and love is when the two of you become separate persons again. With your own rhythm, priorities, angst, pleasures and passions. With your own separate dreams to fulfil. It is scary. You will wonder if the love is over.
True love wants the lover to be truly liberated. And that means she will be separate from him too. True love has abandonment anxiety.
It can be healed.
Love reinvents itself. It revives. Love demands diversification. Love more and more, love others, love in new ways. Rediscover kissing in new places. Find new destinations for yourselves to keep your love in practice.
Natasha Badhwar is a film-maker, media trainer and mother of three.