52 Love Stories

Stef's Faux Pas relationships
That’s me in those pictures, standing next to some dark and handsome man (not all of them were tall). If you and I were sitting down for coffee and I showed you these pictures, you’d ooh and aah, and tell me what a great couple we made. You might say how “in love” we appeared, and I’d smile and nod, but have no words to respond.

There were lots of pictures. Lots of smiles and arms wrapped tightly around my waist. Lots of things that, from a distance, looked like love, but mostly never came close.

If you’d asked me five years ago if I thought I knew what love was, I would’ve gotten defensive. I’ve had boyfriends. I’ve been proposed to. I’ve been introduced to parents and was taken on tropical vacations. I’ve been given flowers on Valentine’s Day, and I have a box full of sappy cards telling me how great I am.

“Yes, but do you know for sure what love really is?” you’d politely ask again.

My face would crinkle up and I’d become annoyed, asking you (even more politely) if we could talk about cake instead.

And then, five years later, I’d think about what you asked. I’d be crumpled up on my couch one night, numb and confused, after just telling a man who said words like “we” and “one day,” to leave and never give thought to returning. I’d be wondering why I just sent him away, and then wonder even harder about why, at the age of 33, I have never allowed myself to commit to anyone. I rationalized that it was because I was just too busy or hadn’t found the right fit, but I suspect that, all along, I never really believed in love.

But then one day I saw the strangest thing. I saw long-time partners and married couples who were laughing and holding hands. I saw people who, despite lots of difficulty and all sorts of un-pretty stuff, still chose each other at the end of each day. I saw people who didn’t look disenchanted, but instead, looked like they were enjoying each other’s company. I saw faith and hope and trust and connection.

I saw 52 Love Stories.

This is pretty much where the story begins. The story of 52 couples who have agreed to teach me about love. They opened their hearts, their homes and their Skype accounts to me. Some I know, some I don’t. Some are old, some are young. Some are gay, some are straight. Some have been together a handful of years, some have been together longer than I’ve been alive. The stories are different, but the theme is the same: these couples believe in love. They experience it in different ways, and even when that love can be a little unkind, or gets a really bad haircut, they still work to keep everything going. To a girl so used to running away when things get scary, the concept of riding the wave is quite new. It’s also very inspiring.

Inspiring enough for me to devote 52 weeks of my life to learning more about other people’s relationships in the hopes that, one day, I’ll finally be ready to create one of my own. Until then, I’ll interview a different couple each week for an entire year, because I think a year is the right amount of time to change your mind about something.

I want to change my mind about love.

More than that, I want to change the pictures. I want to be the girl with her arms around someone, completely unafraid. Smiling and nodding because I finally understand what all the fuss is about. And the next time you ask me if I know what love is, I’ll be able to give you a much better answer. But I’ll still want to talk about cake.