“I left a toxic relationship, loaded up whatever I could fit in my two-door coupe, and moved to a state where I knew no one.”

Story by Stephanie Hanrahan

Pretty soon social media will be overflowing with hearts, and flowers, and all sorts of mushy feelings.

Bless us, we love a good commercialized holiday.

But my heart is with the ones that are single. The ones who are searching and unsettled.

My loyalty lies with the wife who sent her spouse to work today without a kiss, because there’s so much distance between them right now it’s insufferable.

I stand with the ones who know “soul mates” and “best friends” are fluffy and fun, but the sexiest thing alive is someone who rolls up their sleeves and commits to the hard work of marriage—paying the mortgage, picking the kids up from school, getting up at midnight to fix a beeping fire alarm.

Love is not always bright, and shiny, and full of clichés, but we seek it out anyway because even though potentially painful, it’s equally powerful. Love can change us. Especially if we are generous enough to give it to ourselves.

And exactly ten years ago, that’s what I did. I left a toxic relationship, loaded up whatever I could fit in my two-door coupe, and moved to a state where I knew no one.

A lot would happen once I hit Texas—one of which was I met and married my husband—but that’s not the real love story here.

The true fairytale is that I found myself—through a lot of happy hours and a lot of therapy. I did the work on loving myself so that eventually when Prince Charming did roll around, he could love me too.

Love is messy and hard and beautifully rewarding—but it’s also work.

So on Cupid’s day, take some time for your significant other—and for yourself too. Kiss your kids, call a friend, eat the chocolate, but don’t compare. Don’t let someone else’s highlight reel or beautiful bouquet fool you into believing their love doesn’t require sacrifice too.

Long after my move, and my marriage, my greatest gift of love came in a way I never suspected, but always needed—the imperfectly perfect package of these two: My children with autism. Turns out, no candlelit dinner or heart-shaped chocolate in the world could compare to sacrificial love.

True love looks different for everyone, but the best part? There’s an abundance of it. You can find it everywhere—even in divorces and diagnoses, heartbreaks and hardships.

Love can be found, even after this glittery day is long gone.

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