Wealth is often thought of within the scope of physical conquest and the accumulation of worldly goods. While I’m not a millionaire, or neighbor to the Kardashians, I consider myself to be one of the richest men in the world. Last night, I realized the vastness of my fortune: I’ve been in love for ten years. How many millionaires can claim that? My partner and I spent an enchanted, mood-lit evening tended to by the doting staff of The Shore Club, while surrounded by around twenty of our closest friends and family. We laughed, we reflected, I drank what was quite possibly the most perfect Manhattan ever mixed, but most of all, I realized how special the man that I married was.
Gay, straight, or whatever shade in-between, I’m sure that you’ve all suffered your share of heartache. My early twenties, when I really started exploring my romantic options, were a whirlwind of bad dates, crushed expectations and psychologically damaging events. Romance tends to be more of a battle from which we emerge scarred, rather than the sappy and surreal affairs from our favorite love stories. I can tell you what my love story has been like, and while–on the surface–it’s much less glamorous than Rachel McAdams’s flicks, it’s a love deeper and truer than those slickly spun illusions.
I married a man who has one leg. I married someone who others might consider “damaged.” However, I saw in him only strength. In fact, the moment where I fell in love with him was as he hopped around my basement apartment one day, making coffee (and making a terrible mess as he spilled it). When you’re disabled, even the simplest tasks can become mountains to climb. And so his smallest action–to care for me–was seen with a clarity that even my emotionally obtuse self couldn’t deny. Likewise, were my faults–my reticence, social-awkwardness and resilience to empathy–accepted as traits for which I should be celebrated: as something special that could be embraced, and not errors in my behavioral code that needed correction. (Having said that, there’s a long-running joke in the family about me being a robot, who, thanks to my partner, has received emotional “upgrades” to my software over the years.)
Nearly everything that I know of romantic love, I learned from my partner. I used to think that love was meant to make us change into a better version of ourselves, and while I still believe that, I think it’s only half of the equation. Love comes without judgement. Love changes us, by drawing out what is dark and good within us. Our partner should be the mirror in which we see ourselves bare of conceit. That image isn’t always pretty, though it’s what we need to see to grow. Ideally, that portrait becomes more beautiful over time, and less like Dorian Gray’s.
We’ve been through deaths and triumphs. We’ve struggled with poverty, doubt, and then appreciated a success that came from our support of one another’s dreams. Together we’ve faced our darkest selves. It’s only been ten years. With the greatest excitement, I wonder where our journey will take us over the next decade. Sure, we will stumble. Sure, we will fight–with the world, with each other–though what we will not do is doubt. What is love? A certainty that you find only in surrender.
I want to thank my partner, Justin, for being my anchor, for being that one rock to which I can cling in the storm. Without him, I wouldn’t be here chatting with you, and I doubt you ever would have known of the world inside my head. Here’s to a decade of love, and a lifetime more: for me, for you, for your children.