published Friday, May 13th, 2011

Leber: Who said love was easy?

I’ve always known it wouldn’t be easy. Love, that is.

I remember being a teenager, probably 18, and hearing two of my older cousins, both still in the first few years of wedded bliss, say something I’ve never forgotten: “Marriage is hard.”

Amen.

I’m not married, but I have been in a devoted relationship longer than most of my wedded peers have actually known their spouses (insert me, throwing tomatoes at the brides, here). I feel like I know what it takes to keep love alive.

I’ve always kept what my cousins said in mind. And by doing so, the challenges that arise aren’t as shocking as they might be were I to be living with the illusion that love is all about rainbows and butterflies.

A dear friend asked me recently how, after more than a decade of romance with the same man, I’ve managed to keep things easy. All I could do is laugh.

“Are you kidding me?” I asked her. “It’s not easy. We fight. There are ridiculous challenges. It’s definitely not easy. It takes work.”

So why, she inquired, keep at it? Shouldn’t the best relationships be simple?

What’s simple, I told her, is knowing whether the person, and the relationship, is worth the work.

“That’s what’s easy,” I said. “Knowing I want to put the effort into it. Knowing he does, too.”

And with that knowledge, he and I have been able to face the challenges set before us by the recession, different backgrounds, hundreds of miles of separation, opinionated family members and, most of all, our own weaknesses. Many times it’s exasperating.

“I am going to smack you,” I’ve threatened him (idle threats, I’m not actually an abusive woman).

“I want a divorce,” he’s informed me (I think he missed a step or two there).

But once we’ve gotten past the violence and the alimony demands, we’re able to start working toward resolution. Oftentimes, we don’t find one as quickly as I’d like. Frankly, I’m not a fan of loose ends.

But I’m learning to cope with them. Too often, young people give up on love too quickly. And why? Because it’s not exactly what they imagined, because it’s not happening on schedule, because it’s not quite perfect on paper, because it’s not all rainbows and butterflies.

Because it’s not always easy.

Can I ask one question, though? Who ever said it was supposed to be?

Contact Holly Leber at hleber@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6391. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/hollyleber.

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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