In Sickness and In Health

There is a nasty bug traveling around in my neck of the woods and, for the first time in several years, I caught it. After twelve days of soothing my fever, snot, and persistent irritability, my boyfriend began began developing symptoms. Oops. We were both gifted the full post-Christmas shebang: fever, chills, sneezing, cough, sinus drainage, fatigue, and poor appetite. This super-cold is dropping friends, family, and coworkers for weeks at a time–I’ve never seen anything like it.

I spent all weekend piling my boyfriend under mounds of warm sheets. We ended up shoving a heated throw blanket inside a sleeping bag and then covering it with two wool blankets and a heavy winter comforter. The look on his face after that was one of pure contentment and comfort. I made him hot and sour soup, snuggled with him when he was too feverish to get out of bed, and put aside my plans to keep him company, just as he did when I was sick.

By the end of the night, he was thanking me every ten minutes for taking care of him, even though he’d done the same for me. The conversation digressed. He mused about how great of a team we are (true), how it feels more like we’re been together for just one year (not five!), and how these periods of selflessness and vulnerability often feel like the truest and most pure form of love.

As synchronicity would have it, a top post on Reddit asked what the most unromantic thing that has happened in your relationship that is actually a stronger indication of love than others might think. The vast majority of people agree: selflessly caring for one another when it’s not particularly convenient often solidifies budding love. There are so many sweet and touching stories in that thread, several of which I recognize from my own relationship.

My boyfriend is scheduled for a craniotomy early tomorrow morning, though we’ll postpone the surgery if he’s still running a fever. I’ll drive him to the hospital at 5am, go into work early, and then pick him up from the hospital to take him home. It is supposed to be a simple, straightforward procedure with one of the best surgeons in the country. Despite that, he recently drafted up a will: if there are complications and the surgery does not end well, he’s leaving me everything. Though that is the worst conversation in the world (it sucks to think about the person you love dying), there is a beauty in hearing, “if anything happens to me, I want you to be okay” and in playfully responding, “you better not fucking die–it’s your turn to scrub the toilets!”

Love is not always idyllic. Love is not perfect. In fact, love is often the acceptance and forgiveness of imperfection. Love doesn’t care about bald spots, jiggly hips, bad breath, lifted toilet seats, and cleaning up projectile vomit. Prior to meeting my boyfriend, I don’t think I realized these things. Yet, across the years, we’ve been presented with mood swings, bad gas, dry-heaving, scary diagnoses, and countless opportunities to help one another. I think love–true love–is a willingness to say “yes” to these chances to help; to prove through our actions that we truly do care.

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