My sweetheart and I have been together for about ten years now and married for seven of those. Once upon a time, February 14th meant hand-holding and our favorite pastries, dresses and ties and fancy restaurants, and even a spontaneous road trip. Our Valentine’s Day this year consisted of throwing some chocolate at each other in the morning–“don’t worry hubby, I bought some for myself”–followed by the usual demands of the day, a much appreciated take-out meal eaten in the living room while the toddler watched cartoons and I cuddled the fussy baby, and about an eternity of trying to get the tiny humans to sleep. Cue parents muttering “I love you”s in an exhausted stupor and passing out.
Love is different in this new life we’re living as parents of loud, adorable, and occasionally obnoxious little ones, and it may not make the cover of a romance novel, but it’s beautiful in its own remarkable ways.
It’s easy to forget the love that formed the foundation of your marriage among the demands of the day. It’s easy to see your sacrifices and miss your partner’s. It’s easy to criticize and blame in the stress of sleep deprivation and work pressure and financial burdens and parenting worries. It’s easy to follow the contemporary trend of husband bashing and motherhood martyrdom because it IS so hard. Marriage and parenting and paying bills and maintaining your sanity–it is all really, really hard in a never-ending, day-to-day, relentless sort of way.
But I am here to tell you that my husband is the best–and yours might be too–if you’re looking at what really matters. While he’s never been one to recite poetry or line my path with rose petals, there are so many more important ways that my husband says “I love you” every day.
1.) He’s here.
This may not seem like a huge accomplishment to some of you, but anyone who grew up with a parent who was not present will appreciate the heart of commitment that it takes to dig in deep through the messy parts of life. Even on the hardest days when work claims him late into the night or we’re so busy juggling children that we hardly get to acknowledge each other, we have the confidence of knowing that we are a team and we’re both going to be here through it all–to help each other, to lift each other up, and to go for late night ice cream runs when the littles are finally passed out.
2.) He participates.
The really awesome part though is that he’s not just here… he’s HERE. He’s my son’s hero and my quiet helper. He’s the one who makes sure the trash it out on Friday mornings and who sneaks into the kitchen when he can to do a surprise load of dishes. He has some crazy magic power to soothe the baby, and it usually requires both of us to fully translate the toddler’s attempts at conversation. We both have our strengths and weaknesses, but we are both vital elements of this family.
3.) He fills my gaps.
He is the fun one. I’m the “don’t do that it’s dangerous,” “did you eat three servings of fruit today,” “remember to brush your teeth,” and “hurry it’s bedtime” one. We’re not the same, and sometimes that can cause conflict, but in all honesty, our children need both of what we bring to the table. They need to have adventures and learn to take big leaps (well, maybe not too big) and also maintain some level of personal hygiene and health and hopefully survive childhood. The balance he provides for me and for our children is an incredible gift that I’m so glad he shares with us because, let’s be real, sometimes I need to be reminded to have a little fun myself.
4.) He trusts me.
I’m not really sure if I’ve actually earned his trust. I’ve been responsible for a number of unfortunate car “ouchies.” I’ve been known to chase some crazy ideas in my momtrepreneur efforts. I definitely get too creative in the kitchen sometimes, and I’ve had a kid break a leg on my watch. But for whatever reason, he at least seems to think that I know what I’m doing in life. The mutual trust we share is really the engine that powers our little family. It gives us the confidence to deal with issues when they arise and to confidently share this journey as partners.
5.) He believes in me.
He doesn’t go around sporting pom-poms (though maybe I’ll suggest it), but there is no measure for the confidence that comes from knowing your partner is cheering for you. When I wasn’t sure if I should pursue a graduate degree, he encouraged me. When I wanted to make the transition to stay home with our young children and maybe even start a business, he was behind me. Sometimes I take his confidence in me for granted, but in so many ways it is the fuel behind my accomplishments and the cushion for my failures. It may not be roses, but it is his grandest love sonnet.
There a million more personal reasons why I love this guy who has chosen to spend his life with me, but if you have a husband who loves you, who works hard for your family, who partners with you in this sometimes hectic and crazy journey of parenting, I encourage you to extend him a little grace today, give him a little thanks, and hold on tight. He may not show his affection like a modern day Romeo, but true love is found in the every day, steadfast commitment of partners who are prepared to face life together.
How does your partner show his affection? Is he a flowers and chocolate kind of guy? Poetry and sweet words? Quiet and steady in his dedication to you and your family? Comment below and thank your fella for the love he pours into your life–whatever his style is!