As previously seen on Wit & Delight
Editor’s Note: Our December theme on Wit & Delight is about relationships of all varieties—past and present, distant and close, trying and comforting. In that spirit, we’re resharing this 2019 post from contributor Brittany Chaffee. In it, she describes the particular kind of mundane beauty that is boring love. It’s an article that’s resonated with all of us here at W&D; we hope you feel the same way.
The best kind of love is the boring kind.
We grow up thinking love is frenzied. Rabid. Raving. A movie reel of running into water holding hands and rapid making out and biting lips and hot feelings and mascara and late nights and early mornings sipping coffee talking about the future in long, desperate threads of passion.
If you need an example, I wrote the following in my diary when I was seventeen:
“Kyle Knox [name changed to protect, let’s be honest, myself] left me a comment on MySpace the other day. I haven’t talked to that boy for a year. And he is the hottest boy on the planet still here to this day. I miss him. I really do. I miss sitting in class and staring at every move he makes. It’s the only sense of entertainment I got during the whole entire school day there. And it was amazing. I wish we were madly in love. Can’t get enough of each other love.”
High School was a rage storm of connecting dots and encoding relationships. I talked about nothing but boys. Pages and pages and pages were dedicated to prom alone. I imagined falling for someone deeply, like trust falling into a waterfall. I expected feverish love to happen like the snap of a finger: “CRACK! You’re exquisitely in denial of ever loving yourself as much as you love another human! Much congrats!”
Of course, relationships don’t work that way. They take the work. They take the openness and patience and silence. The work doesn’t need to be erratic and packed tight with short extremes of hot and cold. The work takes time. The work can be boring. It can be warm.
My love is all of those things. It takes the work. And dammit, it’s a boring, beautiful thing.
I got engaged in May. We had been together for six years. We drove down the coast from Portland to San Diego. He asked me on the balcony of our hotel, while we were sipping Ballast Point and I was reading him snippets from my road notebook. The moment was perfectly us. We were alone. The engagement wasn’t a spectacle. And I cried so hard in happiness, I thought he was going to change his mind. Afterward, we ate crappy pizza in the Gaslamp District and stared at the ring and chuckled at each other under fluorescent lights. “Now, what do we do?” I remember asking him at some point in the night, and he looked at me and laughed, “Pay off that thing.”
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment we fell in love. To me, our moments fused together, the small fragments of their picture a stitch. One day the moments needled an entire blanket, suddenly warm enough to cover both of us. Joan Didion wrote in A Year of Magical Thinking that she didn’t believe in the general notion of falling in love. She simply knew when she wanted to have someone near her; spend her life with that person. So, maybe love is a timing thing. Maybe love is about space. The right kind of “love” is so constant and stable and simple, a wordsmith and spirit like Didion finds its effortlessness difficult to define.
Passion fades. Spontaneity can get us in trouble. Constantly asking “What should we do next?” will pill a relationship like any bad sweater rubbing against your pits. Good love is boring. Good love is sitting in silence after work on a Tuesday, elbow-to-elbow at a stale dive bar watching a Celebrity Bowling Championship sharing a pizza, finding comfort in car rides because you listen to good music loudly and he tries to rap and you laugh with him. These moments are stable and reliable. They’re secure. They’re boring.
Passion fades. Spontaneity can get us in trouble. Constantly asking “What should we do next?” will pill a relationship like any bad sweater rubbing against your pits. Good love is boring.
One thing I really love about my fiancé is that he’s very comfortable in this kind of love. (Writer’s Note: Calling him fiancé is super weird to me and kind of sounds pompous? The word is perfectly complementary to a middle finger proving to everyone else that you’ve fallen in love. No? Anyway.) He doesn’t expect me to be his bombastic lover. He expects me to be me—sweatpants and a Pete Hamill novel with the slippers I can microwave so their lavender beans can warm my toes throughout the winter. Of course I can surprise him here or there, but he’s happy when I’m doing my thing. And he’s even happier when he’s doing his thing.
My favorite example of this happened right in the beginning of our relationship. My love language is “physical touch” and his is “acts of service.” He’d rather start my car in the morning than spoon me for hours on end. Despite that, we still cuddle. One day during a cuddle session, he rolled over to get up for the bathroom. I pouted a little bit at the blank spot on the bed and he said, “Brittany, you need to fight your own battles now.” It made me laugh; now looking back, I realized how right he was. Even if he wasn’t trying to make a point.
It isn’t anyone else’s responsibility to keep me entertained. That’s my damn prerogative! Also, it’s not my fiancé’s responsibility to give me constant romantic hedonism—we’ll leave that to The Bachelor. Grandiose declarations of love and travel and gifts should not be love’s expectation. Love’s expectation should be respect, and their time—listening, sharing stories, being quiet, supporting, making coffee for them in the morning, folding the towels, taking out the garbage. The boring stuff.
I’m not saying you can’t have any surprises in a relationship. Or to remain completely quiet. We argue. I have my opinion. He has his. We have stupid moments where we should have thought through a decision together a little differently. But we find ways to sprinkle excitement into our relationship, too. I’m not saying that’s not important.
Being boring gives the bigger moments in a relationship even more gusto. When we do decide to take a trip, we’re dazzled by what a new place gives us. We watch the world in an entirely new way together. We’re enlightened and happy, thankful to take a break from the mundane. These moments are so powerful against the gray backdrop of everyday life; travel makes us better, more grateful, closer to home.
The best kind of love is the boring kind. It has to be. It’s meant to be.
Samantha Irby wrote it best in her book, We Are Never Meeting in Real Life:
“Real love. . . . It’s not a game you don’t understand the rules of, or a test you never got the materials to study for. It never leaves you wondering . . . what you could possibly do to make it come home and stay there. It’s fucking boring, dude. I don’t walk around mired in uneasiness, waiting for the other shoe to drop. . . . This feels safe, and steadfast, and predictable. And secure. It’s boring as shit. And it’s easily the best thing I’ve ever felt.“
Brittany Chaffee is an avid storyteller, professional empath, and author. On the daily, she gets paid to strategize and create content for brands. Off work hours, it’s all about a well-lit place, warm bread, and good company. She lives in St.Paul with her baby brother cats, Rami and Monkey. Follow her on Instagram, read more about her latest book, Borderline, and (most importantly) go hug your mother.