Not many people marry their First Love, but marriage is still all about falling in love for the first time.
Or maybe not.
Not everyone marries their First Love. Actually, it might be more accurate to say that outside of romantic comedies almost no one marries their First Love.
That’s probably good. Even in the age of Facebook, I have absolutely no idea what Donna from my 2nd grade class is up to these days. We never sat in a tree together, much less k-i-s-s-e-d or married. And, no offense to Donna, but not marrying her isn’t one of my regrets in life.
Alright, I know. Most of us aren’t thinking of a 2nd grade crush when we think of our first romantic relationship. Instead we’re thinking of our first adult heartbreak or what “might have been.”
Still, first loves that can be among the most important parts of being married. I think these first loves can be divided into two types.
The first of these are the loves that couples introduce one another to or discover together for the first time. A lot of the interests I had when my wife and I marriage, almost 15 years ago, have been replaced by new interests. And a lot of those interests would never have crossed my path were it not for my wife (for example, science fiction stories, sports, art, and, well, our kids). Some of these loves we discovered together. Some we introduced to one another.
All of them can be traced back to times or places that we shared.
Take sports, for example. I never watched sports at all as a kid — except once every four years when my stepfather, who is Spanish, and I watched Spain’s national soccer team exit the World Cup early. The summer I fell in love with my wife, I talked her into watching the 1998 Spanish team with me. It became a tradition we’ve repeated every four years since. In 2006, after our 3rd World Cup together, my wife suggested we try watching football. At the time, I didn’t know the rules for football any better than a 2012 replacement ref, but now we’re die hard New England Patriots (and Celtics and Bruins and Red Sox) fans. These days we’re both armchair sports analysts, but neither of us would have that hobby if it weren’t for one another.
The second way in which first loves can be important to a marriage is a bit different.
My wife is not Donna from the 2nd grade, but she’s also not the woman I married. And I’m not the man she married. Rather, we’re the people we’ve become after the years we’ve spent together. The ones who’ve taught one another to love sports and art and science fiction stories. The ones who morphed into the couple that’s raising our kids.
We’ve changed one another and have grown together. It didn’t just happen today. It didn’t exactly happen yesterday or last year either. Somehow, it happens constantly.
When it comes down to it, none of us are married to our First Love — even if we are lucky enough to have married, and still be married to, the person we first fell for.
Instead, every morning we have the opportunity to wake up again to the love we married as if for the first time. We have the chance to wake up next to the person who’s become a part of us and who we have become a part of — to the person who grows and changes with us. That can be true whether it’s Valentine’s Day or an anniversary or any other day of the year.
It’s not always easy. Growing and changing together means being conscious and careful about the directions we grow. It means choosing to embrace some things and turn away from others. It means paying attention to who each individual in the marriage is and who they’re becoming.
The reward is great, though.
After years of marriage, it can be tempting to romanticize the memory of a First Love — maybe from high school or college if not from the second grade. But sometimes couples do better to focus on falling in love with new things together and loving one another every day as if it were for the first time.
For more on marriage from this author, check out:
For more on the moments couples first fall in love, check out:
Don’t Be the First To Say “I Love You”, by William Dameron