A Valentine’s Day Love Letter to my Husband
Almost fourteen years ago, I walked down a candlelit aisle toward you, carrying a bouquet of roses in my trembling hands and you gazed at me as if I was all you’d ever dreamed. We whispered forever, vowing for better or for worse, having no earthly idea of what that really meant. We have some idea now, don’t we love? Then, we only knew thumping hearts, and dreams spoken between breathless sighs in a world where happy endings always came true.
I had no way to know that sometimes marriage means dancing under the moonlight on a private balcony on a honeymoon in Paris. And sometimes, sometimes marriage means waking to your husband swaying in the corner, your lifeless baby in his arms, as he quietly sings her the ABCs because it’s the only “lullaby” he knows. Sometimes marriage means both of your hearts silently breaking in a dim hospital room.
And you, my love, you had no way to know that sometimes marriage means strawberry waffles and laughter on a Sunday morning. And sometimes marriage means a wife who slams doors and collapses in tears, and screams at you out of pain and grief and then hopes you’ll find it in your heart to comfort her anyway.
You’ve always found it in your heart.
We had no way of knowing, did we?
We had no way of knowing about the fights and the silence, the turning away and the bitterness. We had no way of knowing the fathomless depths to which love can go, the private jokes that are only ours, the familiar hand that grasps in the darkness, and the way our mattress dips where we meet in the middle.
We’ve met in the middle again and again, haven’t we?
And that’s really what marriage has to become. For true love isn’t about candlelight and roses. God, I wish it was. True love is always at least a little bit about sacrifice, about forgiveness, about turning back when you’ve turned away. We had no way of knowing.
We had no way of knowing about the five babies who would come as I gripped the hospital sheets and screamed through the pain, and your eyes widened and you fed me ice chips like you were the CEO of Ice Chip Feeding—the five babies who would once again change everything, each in their own unique way.
Sometimes I think back to the things I first noticed about you. The way you boyishly glanced at me and looked away, and glanced back at me again. The way your full lips parted over those perfectly straight teeth. The way your dark hair fell over your forehead and the way you brushed it away. The way you looked at me as if I was the only girl on earth.
You say you saw me first, and yet, I swear it was me. I saw you walking toward my friend and I and noticed in a glance how handsome you were. I braced myself because I thought my friend was prettier than me, better hair, better everything and I just knew you’d approach her first. Why wouldn’t you? But when you walked up to us, you looked straight at me and never looked away.
Just as you’ve never looked away since.
I told you once about the boy I dated before you, the one who told me I wasn’t the prettiest girl in the room. “I think he was joking . . . I guess . . .” I’d let the words fade away as I offered an uncomfortable laugh and shrugged my shoulders. But you must have seen the hurt on my face because you lifted my chin and looked right into my eyes and said, “He was wrong.” I wanted to look away, but I didn’t because I saw your whole heart right in your expression and I swear to you, it healed me more than a thousand therapy sessions ever could.
Sometimes marriage is about not letting the other person look away.
How is it that I deserve you? How is it that you still look at me the same way you first did? I’ve never quite figured that out.
And I wonder . . .
Did we really love each other then? Did we know each other then? Do we ever really know the one we fall in love with? Do we ever really know how they’ll handle piled laundry and the baby screaming in the wee hours of the morning as we’ve finally drifted off to sleep? Do we ever really know how they’ll deal with lost jobs and lost dreams and lost keys on a Monday morning when it’s raining outside?
I like to think I had an idea. I like to think I saw something in your eyes that told me you’d grit your teeth and stay, a glimpse of the man you’d become. I like to think it was more than that I just got wildly lucky.
But I’ll always consider myself wildly lucky anyway.
I want to thank you for looking past the ring of soap scum in the shower, and the burnt dinners, and the way I put emptying the dishwasher in front of spending a few minutes in the crook of your neck sometimes.
I want to thank you for the way you wore the same clothes for years and years because you wanted to spend any extra money we had on me and the kids. I want to thank you for driving a totally uncool mini-van, and shoveling snow, and scraping eggs out of the dirty pan I left in the sink . . . two days before. I want to thank you for knowing how to say sorry in a way that lets me know you love me more than your own pride. And I want to thank you for graciously accepting the apologies I owe you, and never, ever making me feel small.
I want to thank you for being proud of me, for making me feel like you see every part of who I am and love me anyway. I want to thank you for being so much more than I ever dreamed and I want to thank you for making me feel so deeply, deeply loved.
And I want to thank you for always leaning close whenever we go out—no matter who we’re with, and even after all this time, all these years—and whispering in my ear, “You’re the prettiest girl in the room.”
I love you to the very edges of my heart. Your wife