Last weekend my beau, Ian and I had plans to go to the Edwardian Ball. We’d already bought, borrowed, or created our Gorey-esque costumes. We’d taken a fun dance class in which we practiced romantic waltz moves with names like “pretty pattycakes” or “little windows.” We even spent the afternoon cruising around the vendor faire beneath the ballroom, trying on top hats, old-fashioned glasses, and steampunky jewelry.  We were excited and ready to have a grand time together at the ball.

And then we got into a snit. Maybe you know what I’m talking about? Out of nowhere some offhand comment leads to a “what did you mean by that?” which leads to the god-awful “You always…” or “we never.” A slight veering off the giddy path of love leads into a tangled forest of misunderstanding and emotional bruises.

So this was about twenty minutes before we were supposed to be happily dressing for the ball. A snit. A glitch. A pall. Oh no!

Instead of joking and sharing affectionate touches as we donned our whimsical clothes, we were avoiding each other’s eyes and side-stepping to ensure body parts didn’t bump. I needed his help zipping up my dress and wanted his opinion on the tilt of my hat, but was too haughty and proud to ask.

I heard a voice in my head say, “This is no fun. The whole night could be ruined. I don’t want this. I want to have the night we thought we were going to have.” And with that simple thought, the thorny tangles of the evil dark forest melted away and I was able to turn to Ian and say, “I’m sorry.  I want to connect. I want to have fun getting dressed together. I want to go to the ball and laugh and dance and be in love.”

He made that frowny-funny face that always makes me laugh, and then opened his arms and let me in.  And then we told each other how annoying it was to be so mad and yet to also love. We let ourselves snit and glitch and pall — with humor and the underline of love.

I told him how mad I was still, but damn, he looked handsome in that moustache and tux shirt. He told me how frustrating I was, but I really looked beautiful with my hair pulled back like that. We left the house, he hailed a cab, we arrived at the event and before we knew it, we forgot to even snit-n-glitch-n-pall. And we were just us again, laughing and dancing and being in love at the ball.

So, this story seems appropriate as we near Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day can evoke thoughts of love and hearts and sweet things. Happy couples walking hand in hand on the beach to the soundtrack of “if you like pina coladas…” Valentines Day suggests kisses and caresses and loving glances.

Yeah, that mushy stuff is great. Don’t we all love it! But what I hope my snit story illustrates is another aspect of love: the ability to be in love and offer love when the beach house falls through and we’re stuck in our messy apartment that smells like litterbox. When he says the wrong thing or misses my point. Or when I am too distracted to remember to ask about his meeting. I want to talk about Valentine’s Day when he surprises me with tango lessons and I’m so tangled up in my head and with my two left feet, that I’m crying with frustration instead of gaily wrapped in his embrace. I want to talk about Valentine’s Day when he has the flu and the heat doesn’t work right and we’re not quite sure how to find the magic.

This is where the phrase, “love the one you’re with” comes in.  And when I say it, I mean it as in, “who am I at this very moment? And who is the person I’m with at this very moment?” How can I love myself even though I’m sitting on the bed in my underwear crying and how can I love the person who is next to me, distant and resentful? How do I wake up to who we really are and remember to turn to love, even though it is like walking through thick sludge to get there?

It is easy to love when we’re feeling in love. It is easy to love when the stars align and we’re both healthy and the tub is clean and the restaurant seats us at a private corner table. It is easy to love when we don’t get lost and his shirt isn’t stained and I don’t forget the shitake mushrooms.

But the question is, can we love the one we’re with when either —or both— of us is not quite exemplifying that star-quality at the moment?  Instead of teaming up with monkeymind in the dark tangled forest, letting ourselves imagine how much better off we’d be with our ex or that stranger on the bus, can we underline the moment with love and see what happens? Because what I think we’ll always find, is our prince was there, all along, just beyond the snit.