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.