do you love in details or broad strokes?

My mother bought the home in which I was raised because she liked the wallpaper in the bathroom. They’re too small to be deal-breakers, and they’d never make any cockamamie list you could ever dream up in a diary, but it’s the details that get us. Whether he’s your perfect match in the broad strokes (sharing a similar upbringing with aligned goals), or he’s Funnel Cake wrong for you (he’s only motivated to put your needs before his own when he fears loss), we often make exceptions (lose him or love him) because of the details. We dump the dude who’d make a perfect husband because he sucks his teeth after a meal. We stay with the guy who’s all wrong because of our “meet cute” story and because he loves the same ugly dogs we do. We kill or wed over the details.

Aren’t these tiny nit-picky quirks, though, what make things feel so right, or so wrong? Key insight: I’ve been mistaken all this time. We don’t love in the details. We fall in love in the details, but we stay in love in the broad strokes.

When he’s tired, Lucas picks his nose and sucks his thumb, singlehandedly. It’s a relatively unimportant offense, but I’ll admit, this particular peccadillo had me at hello. The way Linus crosses his doggie legs, letting one paw dangle while he lounges, he’ll always be my true love (he still lives with my sister Lea, and they’re still mad lovers).

I don’t love Phil in the details, I don’t think. I love him for broader things, for his loyalty, for what an involved father he is, for his soft jelly center (he really is a mush, but yeah, sometimes it takes far too many licks to get to the center of that tootsie-pop), for the fact that he puts me first and that he’d truly prefer to be at home with our family than anywhere else, for his honesty (especially when I won’t like what he has to say), for the fact that if he says he’s going to do something, he always does it (totally 100% reliable). Broad strokes. But when we get to the details, I kinda want to roll my eyes. It’s not, as with the infamous toothpaste compatibility example (cap on or off, squeeze from the bottom or top?), a matter of incompatibility, nor is it the classic romantic-comedy be careful what you wish for, where what at first seems “so cute” becomes the dreaded “Please, dear God, make it stop!” It’s not just that the smaller quirks no longer intrigue and delight me, and it’s not that they bother me more, now that I’ve been exposed to them day-in-day-out. No. Know what I’ve learned? The crap that used to bother me still bothers me, but so much less so. The fact that the man still locks the bathroom door and runs the sink water just to PEE is still totally paranoid and “Wha?! I’m your wife!” But, whatever. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Pick your battles. End with a cliche.

With time, I’ve learned that it’s the broadest strokes that cover the canvas of our lives with love.

4 Responses to “do you love in details or broad strokes?”

  1. 3 teens' mom Says:

    I love this post. Mom and dad are nearing their 53rd anniversary, and they love each other with broad strokes. Last night, mom fell and shattered her eye socket. This is after 7 surgeries in the last year. We spent the night in the ICU with her and this morning I’m sitting here in exhausted stress as we wait for the surgeon to come in and tell us what’s next.

    But through it all – there is amazing love. Mom’s first words upon waking up were ‘where’s my sweet baby?’ referring to my dad. He was right there, propped up on his cane…exhausted beyond measure, but speaking in a calm, strong voice as he soothed her

    The worst part is they were finally back on their feet, the parentals, after a year of hell. We sat outside on the deck last night and gloated that we had survived the long winter and cold spring, and had come out of it healthy, wealthy and wise. Not two hours later, dad called and we were rushing her to the ER.

    We’re fragile – love the ones you’re with because in just a blink of an eye, life changes.

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  2. stacy Says:

    The sound of a man peeing is one of those things that completely grosses me out. How considerate of him to run the water! Seriously–that made me smile.

    As for this “We stay with the guy who’s all wrong because of our “meet cute” story and because he loves the same ugly dogs we do. We kill or wed over the details.” I did that because, well, when will I ever get a story that good again? Life doesn’t just hand out fairy tales! Now I’m reeling from a break up wondering if I will ever meet cute again. Sigh.

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  3. kathy tauber Says:

    Beautiful and touching.

    Reply

  4. Gordion Knott Says:

    >The fact that the man still locks the bathroom door and runs the sink water just to PEE is still totally paranoid and “Wha?! I’m your wife!”

    I’m a dude, and I do the same thing. It’s not about avoiding an embarrassing situation. It’s about creating the right degree of privacy and a sound loop, so that the complicated machinery of male plumbing can be put into motion. He’d do the same thing, most likely, around anybody, not just you.

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