I told John that I love him first.

The first time I told John I loved him was the first time I told anyone, other than my family and my best friends, that I loved them. It was the first time I said it out loud for a very, very long time. It was the first time I said it to a romantic partner.

You remember these things. I remember the first time I thought I might love him, and the first time I knew I did. And then the first time I wanted to tell him but couldn't say it, and when I did tell him, it was simple and easy, and it was like taking a breath of fresh air after holding it in for so long. I didn't even need him to say it back — I just needed to tell him. An emotion that big that I couldn't hold it in my heart of hearts for any longer.

Love is not hard. Loving someone, falling in love with someone is easy. It's letting your guard down, that's the tough part, the vulnerability and shedding skin, the layers you didn't want people to see. And the relationship — that's the hard part. Falling in love is easy.

Slightly more than four and a half years later after I met this gem of a man, a courthouse wedding, six months of living together later, and now as I watch the rise and fall of his chest as he lays next to me in bed, it still feels like a breath of fresh air every time I tell him I love him.