How To Stay In Love

Both a lyrical essay and a love poem, Jackson Bliss writes this tender and fiercely beautiful piece about the love of his life


1. Find Your Teenage Courage To Love Again: Love LB with everything you’ve got.  Love her like you did six years ago, back when you were the boldest version of yourself and you weren’t afraid to be stabbed in the heart by the cholos of destiny. Love like you have nothing to lose except solitude, fear and cynicism. The audacity you had then is the audacity you need now. Love is always audacious, the creation of a tiny endangered world for two. The cynics will always hate you for your noisy affection, shooting their slingshots at anything that moves.

2. Drop the Metric Units: When you lived in Argentina together, you taught English all over Buenos Aires like a traveling circus while she made empanadas, cleaned the tiny apartment and did laundry like a champ. Later on, the two of you translated screenplays together for extra pesos, working under the table. As a fiction writer and recent PhD now on the market, you make the dinners, walk the dogs, take out the recycling and water the plants while she works downtown as a pediatric nurse (the best kind). Part of your strength as a couple is your flexibility, your ability to negotiate and warp gender roles effortlessly. You find new ways to love her and you’re not attached to the things that don’t work anymore (or that never worked). Because your love is dynamic and fluid, both of you continuously evolve, a million tiny universes created inside one another, growing inside both of you every instant.

Slowly, you realize you love her for her flaws. You love her hang-ups and her idiosyncrasies. You love her because of these things, not despite them. Because, because, because.

3. Stop Idealizing Each Other: In the beginning, your love is pure, unpackaged and elemental. It’s in your face like a lead singer of a metal band shouting out lyrics you can’t make out. But you can feel the syllables in your chest. Your earliest moments are a whisper, based partially on deficient knowledge. You barely know each other. You don’t know each other’s middle names or your favorite colors yet. You’ve haven’t discovered each other’s quirks, your idiosyncrasies, your secret kinks and repressed insanities. You don’t even know if she’s a dog person or a cat person. But over time you learn all of this. Slowly, you realize you love LB for her flaws. You love her hang-ups and her idiosyncrasies. You love her because of these things, not despite them. Because, because, because.

4. Burn the Fucking Map: At first, your fledgling love is a wisp of snowflakes. Eventually your love becomes a buoyant riff inside your head. An emotional catechism inside your pocket. A cosmology of longing in your hands. Six years later, you’re still crazy in love years after the first rush. Your love is deep and unfathomable. You could get lost in each other.

5. Assassinate Rationalism: Don’t list the reasons why you love her because those are probably the reasons you like her, the things you tell people when they ask you. You love her because it’s impossible to stop, because nothing you do has ever cured you of your brain fever, because you’re helpless when she smiles at you like you’re the only boy in the playground. But your love isn’t rational. Most of the time, you can’t even explain how or why it works. You don’t know why it’s different with her. You don’t know why her sadness inflicts you. You don’t know why her joy infects you. You don’t know why everything got better after she took you to a Peruvian restaurant in Wicker Park and told you to dip your bread in the green sauce, which burned a hole in your mouth. You don’t know why both of you are so childish when you’re together, why you buy LB hello kitty geishas, why she pretends to comb out the tangles in your shaved head. The only thing you know is when she kisses your cheek or when she tells you she’s proud of you, the whole world disintegrates into soft light. The joy you feel is a perfectly strummed chord.

6. Love the Tiny Spoon: Sometimes, you bust out laughing when you notice how small her shoes are, small enough to be kids’ shoes really. Sometimes, when she looks at you with glowing tenderness, it breaks you down. Sometimes, when you talk about her to close friends, you start to cry. Sometimes, through the window you watch her walking to work and it fucking obliterates you. It’s not that you’re weak when she’s gone either. It’s just that you’re stronger when she holds your hand, something you would never admit to anyone, something you didn’t even realize until you wrote it down. Sometimes, when you’re not looking, she tackles you on to the bed and shouts touchdown! She dances while you play video games, makes you watch baby elephant videos and sticks monopoly money in your wallet. And the truth is, you love every spoonful of it because it’s her, it’s her, it’s her.

7. Slow the Fuck Down: Every now and then, you watch her sleep as the morning sunlight sneaks through the blackout curtains and cast oblong shadows on her face. When inspired, you smell her skin and kiss her cheeks. When you rub her hair, she sighs in her sleep. Sometimes, you spoon with her under the covers even though it hurts your back, which makes her clasp your hand in her sleep. Zoe and Gogo! (your two dogs) protect her on either side like warm little sentinels. Sometimes, her eyelids flutter as she sleeps.  Sometimes, you kiss the shadows of her face before sneaking into your office. After you do some yoga, meditate and work on your novel, she stutters into the office with her face smushed from sleep. She sits on your lap and hugs you, her skin still warm from the soft voltage in her dreams.

8. Go out on Dates Every Week: Even when you were losing your shit during your field exams, you still dropped grad school at least twice a week to conjugate your existence and share the gift of food. Even when you were chained to the couch, reading abstruse books for your dissertation, you still went out to cafés with her to watch the sunlight crashing into Venice Beach. Even when you’re busy writing the next great Asian American novel or fiddling with a Garage Band track or breaking your thumbs on your Xbox, the one thing you don’t negotiate are your dates with LB. She’s the only person in your life you can probably take for granted (because she loves you as passionately as you love her) and she’s the only person you will never take for granted precisely because it’s her and precisely because it’s you.

9. Open Your Mouth: According to Hindu tradition, words have vibrations. The word love is both an act of affection, an act of confession and an act of healing. I love you.  Te amo. Je t’aime. You tell her these things all the time because you want to capture that moment before it dies, before you forget the sound, before your cell phone rings, before zombies smash through your window, before the world burns up from the inside out. Sometimes, it feels crazy or monomaniacal. Sometimes, you’re not even in the mood to tell her. But when she asks you to, and often when she doesn’t, you tell her. The world is your witness. You tell her all the time because it soothes her, calms her down, because it tells her where she is and who you are. You don’t want her to forget that she’s loved. You don’t want her to live one day not knowing how much you love her, how fleeting the soft syllables are, how quickly memory erodes into chaos. You know it’s supposed to get old. You know it’s vulgar, redundant, even annoying to tell her as much as you do. But the act of telling is also the act of doing, your own piecemeal mantra. Your love for her is a gospel that you preach whenever she loses faith in the world. It’s the way you save your self from the plague of old age and the termites of regret. It’s the one perfect thing you can do every day of your life that will always matter.

10. Create a New Language: Every day of your life, you try to find a different language to express what you feel for her, telling her without the words: You tell LB every time you make love in the afternoon, every time you hijack her Facebook account and stick garlic cloves in her lunch bag, every time the two of you walk around the streets of Japan in the winter and take your shoes off in Millenium Park and play with the dogs on the bed, every time you take a picnic together on a beach in Edgewater, every time you ride the El holding hands, every time you write her stories with emoji and hug her when she laughs, every time you spend hours and hours thinking about how to make her birthday stranger and sweeter, every time you watch Friday Night Lights and Breaking Bad together until you’re hungover, every time you write her a ballad on the piano and text her when she feels lonely, every single time you make green tea after dinner and dance with her in your underwear, you’re telling her everything you’ve ever felt for her in an instant, everything she’s ever wanted you to say since the beginning.


Image credit: provided by author

Other articles by Jackson Bliss:

About Jackson Bliss

Jackson Bliss is the author of The Amnesia of Junebugs, The Ninjas of My Greater Self, Dream Pop Origami + Atlas of Tiny Desires. His essays + short stories have appeared in Tin House, Antioch Review, Kenyon Review, Fiction, Quarterly West, ZYZZYVA, Fiction International, Stand (UK), Huffington Post UK and African American Review, among others. You can find him at and on Twitter.


  1. David Wise says:

    11. Find a hot wife.

  2. November says:

    Life is easier without relationships.
    I read all this stuff and feel depressed.
    The pain, struggle, and constant compromise/work is NOT worth it, imo.

  3. So sweet! I love this list! But, I disagree with one thing–I think when you love someone you tend to idealize them a little. After all, you can’t help it–you’re in love! :)


  1. […] was hard not to be entranced by Jackson Bliss’ exquisite, lyrical essay How To Stay In Love. I smiled stupidly as I read his piece for the first time, feeling a delicious recognition, and […]

  2. […] piece was originally published in The Good Men […]

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