This is the time of year when men try to demonstrate their love to the women in their lives. Surely it’s Jacob’s fault. He loved Rachel so much that she was worth fourteen years of work. How can any man compare to that with roses, chocolates, or a nice dinner out?

When we were dating, my husband sure gave it a good try. Tomorrow is the 27-year anniversary of the day my husband and I met in a church basement over a foosball table. The day after that was our first date. And less than two weeks later was Valentine’s Day.

What does a guy get for a girl he’s been dating less than two weeks? My husband got us tickets to a concert for a band that he loved and I didn’t particularly care for. I was underwhelmed by the tickets—but I loved the idea of having a boyfriend who wanted to take me out for Valentine’s Day so I said nothing. That afternoon, we were at his apartment. The doorbell rang. The man who walked in was carrying a dozen red roses and a guitar. He handed me the flowers and sang James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend.”

Sigh. A dozen red roses. A serenade. I felt so . . . special. I didn’t feel loved, because we hadn’t gotten around to saying the L word yet. And that is when I learned that my husband doesn’t fully understand the value of silence: “Well, that ought to take care of Valentine’s Day for the next ten years.”

Signs of Romance

Before I married, I had an idea that marriage would be full of lifelong romance. I never saw that in my parents’ marriage, but I was sure that my marriage would be different. Our first Valentine’s Day assured me that I would be set with this guy. For much of my marriage, I viewed all those signs of romance—the viral proposals, flowers, and chocolate—as signs of love.

If you’d asked me what love looks like, I would have said that looks like pink hearts and heart-shaped boxes and a big bouquet of red roses and maybe some red lingerie.

I grew up in the era of “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” and learned that flowers are a sign of love, and when the flowers stop coming, the love must be over. At one point in our marriage, if we’d had a Valentine’s Day without even one flower, I would have worried that it meant that Big Guy no longer loved me.

My husband gives me flowers and chocolates only on rare occasions now—and never with ceremony. He recently brought me a single rose home from the grocery store. “It was cheap,” he said. “Only two dollars.” (Remember what I said about my husband and the value of silence?) And sometimes there will be some Dove chocolates in a bag along with the groceries. But there are no flowers delivered in a van with pretty flowers painted on the side. I haven’t been serenaded since that afternoon in 1987. Chocolates are never wrapped in pretty paper. I haven’t gotten a love letter since the early 90’s, and my husband has never written me a poem.

The signs of romance are gone from our marriage. I used to wonder, Does that mean the love is gone, too?


I measured my husband’s love by the signs of romance. Fortunately, love doesn’t always look like I used to think it would. Romantic gestures aren’t the only way love looks.

As Valentine’s Day approaches this year, I know that we won’t have any grand romantic gestures. On top of my own job loss, my husband has learned that next week will be his last day at his job. Our finances aren’t in a good state, and we face some decisions that will be difficult to make and even harder to carry out. I’m not sure that either of us will feel much like a nice dinner, not to mention a restaurant, flowers, or fancy chocolate.

In “The Real Truth about ‘Boring’ Men — and the Women who Live with Them: Redefining Boring,“ Ann Voskamp writes about the extravagant romantic marriage proposals that go viral. She writes, “How a man proposes isn’t what makes him romantic. It’s how a man purposes to lay down his life that makes him romantic.” I’ve been thinking about that a great deal.

What I used to think love looked like has pretty much gone from our lives. Under the surface, however, I see deep romance. I see love.

How has Big Guy loved me?

  • He has supported and encouraged me as I built my career and now as I work toward a new understanding of what I am here to do.
  • He held my hand while I had surgery to bring our first child into this world.
  • He supported me while I gave birth to twins.
  • He didn’t tell me until later how scared he was when one of those babies almost didn’t make it.
  • He used to dump the dirty diapers into the washing machine for me.
  • He gives me a hug whenever I want one.
  • He lets me take him to the emergency room when I think it’s necessary, even if he doesn’t agree.
  • He has made decisions that I haven’t been brave enough to make.
  • He stayed married to me even when I withheld love in the form that he most needed.
  • He brings me ice cream without my needing to ask. With chocolate syrup.
  • He held a bedpan for me after I had surgery.
  • He holds me when I wake up from a bad dream and tells me it will be okay.
  • He always makes sure we have at least one jar of the mild salsa, even while he and our sons are enjoying the stuff that burns.
  • He hasn’t let his pride get in the way of doing what our family has needed.
  • He delights in my pleasure.
  • He wraps his arms around me when we pray together.
  • He shares his heart with me.
  • He walks this journey of life with me.

In a couple days, as we watch Superbowl commercials together (and maybe some of the game, too) Big Guy and I will celebrate the 27th anniversary of the day our journey of romance and love began.

Jacob and his fourteen years of work for Rachel can’t even hold a candle to that.

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12 Thoughts on “How Love Looks

  1. trixie1466 on January 31, 2014 at 1:36 pm said:

    Helping with a bed pan takes real love. (Unless you’re a nurse, lol) It’s easy to buy flowers and cards. Good job big guy.

  2. I think a lot of women struggle with this particular issue. I know that I had a friend who was getting ready to get married and she would complain when her fiance wasn’t constantly making romantic gestures. I explained to her that once you have been together for a while, the security and deep love you gain is way more awesome than the googly “butterflies” of being newly in love.

    The trick is being able to survive the transition. Accepting changes within your marriage is essential for it to flourish.

  3. ElovesC on January 31, 2014 at 2:18 pm said:

    “And that is when I learned that my husband doesn’t fully understand the value of silence”
    That could be the story of my life, open mouth, insert foot. I believe It’s a “man” thing.

    Sorry to hear about the added job loss. 🙁 I will add extra prayers for both of you .

  4. I used to do tons of romantic stuff. Massages with no strings attached (multiple times a week). Flowers, Candy, Cards, given at home and at work. Coffees. Notes in lunches. Notes on the mirror. Notes in the snow. Notes with driveway chalk. Compliments. Whenever I leave or come home, first thing I do say hello/goodby, kiss, say I love you.

    I once even sang the “our” love song in front of hundreds of people at a wedding (the bride and groom didn’t want that glass clinking thing – if you wanted to see them kiss, you had to come up and do something with the word “love” in it – but she knows it was “our” song).

    After 12 years I realized something. For every 100 romantic things I did, I would receive 1 back. If that. Thats when I realized it was hopeless, that there is no give and take. There’s just taking. Thats when I decided, I’m not going to put myself thru it anymore, and not do it anymore.

    You know what the sad part is? 10 years later, despite what I just wrote in the previous paragraph, I’m STILL DOING THOSE THINGS ABOVE. I can’t help it – I’m still in love with here, and I’m a romantic at heart. Even if those feelings (any feelings) are not reciprocated. I just tell myself that at least I have someone to give romance too. Some don’t even have that. Is that a blessing? I guess.

  5. Perhaps the blessing is that you still have within you the feeling that make you want to do these things and the hope that they will be reciprocated.

  6. English Dave on February 2, 2014 at 1:57 am said:

    A few weeks ago you asked if anyone wanted to be prayed for. I asked and you prayed. My wife said yesterday that she felt a corner had been turned, I’m not sure yet, but we are happier together. Just day a great day doing normal stuff and finished with good sex.
    You have asked for pray. I have already added you to our home prayer time, as ‘Chris and her family.’
    Our church has a pray list where those in need have their names include as part of our weekly service, Not explanation of reasons for pray is asked for, or given, just the person being lifted up to God.
    I never include people on this list without their permission, so I am asking.
    Would you like a middle of the road Church of England congregation to add you to their prayer list?
    You will stay on till you ask to be removed? If the answer is yes, how would you like to be known?
    The forgivenwife may raise a few eye browse!
    I will keep praying for you, the Big Guy and your family anyway.
    Please don’t feel obligated, if you would rather not, no problem.
    God bless you all
    English Dave

    • I’m so glad you and your wife are experiencing this good change in your marriage.

      As for prayers, thank you. The prayers of others sustain us when we don’t know how to pray for ourselves. Although listing me as the Forgiven Wife might be a good way to reach some wives in your church who need to make some changes, you can list me as Chris Taylor. (It isn’t my full name, but it is my real name. It’s on my Google+ profile as well as a few other places.) Thank you for praying for us.

  7. Having a non-romantic husband myself, I also seem to attend more to the small gestures and deep love moments in our marriage. And hey, I have my own hubby-with-my-bedpan story. Yep, that’s love.

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