Let’s Be Honest About Love — by Laura Houston
I am writing this on Valentine’s Day. This is the day when we are supposed to profess our love for one another. Tradition has it that we go out for dinner, eat candy, give roses, send cards, and now — post our undying love for our boyfriends/girlfriend/spouses/life partners on Facebook.
What a bunch of crap. Proclaiming only the “magic” of marriage or displaying the glowing intimacy of it cheapens it. Mostly because it isn’t honest. Marriage is hard. Falling in love is hard. And if it’s not, then you’re not doing it right. So I must say this because I can’t stand the saccharine of the holiday any more: I did not marry the man of my dreams. And here is why I say such a thing: Dave was not the man of my dreams because I did not know guys like Dave existed. When it came to understanding character, values, and intentions, I was naïve and stupid.
It’s like this: if all you ate growing up was fast food, you wouldn’t be able to conceive of what it would be like to taste a gourmet meal. I certainly didn’t. At one point early in my life I made a list of everything I wanted my husband to be, and I found him. My first husband was all of those things. He was a kind man. He fit the bill even down to the last stupid request that he drank Dr. Pepper instead of Coke. Our immature marriage lasted all of three years. But my husband David doesn’t hit anything on that list. He never made it. But not because he failed, but because he surpassed it. He demands a lot of himself, and he demands a lot of us. He’s a pain in the ass sometimes because he strives for this excellence.
Here is the thing: my marriage to David is not easy. We married because we believed we could become better people by not turning away from the things life laid in our path. We have survived many challenges together: his long, drawn-out divorce, heartbreak, a long-distance relationship, the death of his father, my outrageous foster kids, infertility, job changes, health issues, moving across the country, the illness of my father, family stresses, legal disputes with neighbors, being the parents of twins. And believe me, during the stresses, we turned on each other more than we should have. And I was a crazy bitch for four years during my infertility treatments. Any man who can survive that, well, he’s not just in love with you….he’s got a big set of balls because those hormone treatments make a person dangerous. And this is why I love him. It’s not because of candy, or flowers, or cuddling on the couch during movies. It’s because he can take it. He can take me.
The true moments of love hide in the least expected places. My friend Nicole recently said: “My husband is having a tough time lately. He’s been stressed, surly, grouchy and all around unpleasant to be around. I have to figure out something really nice and special to do for him.” I thought this was refreshing. She’s willing to hold her husband up during a time when he is acting like a jerk. She sees past the ugliness. She’s concerned. She’s not doing something nice for him because he did something nice for her. She loves the guy in a devotional way. She loves him through his darkness.
That’s when love is most powerful.
So on this day for lovers, I am not getting my husband a card or a gift, and I am not making him a fancy dinner. Chances are, I will snap at him sometime in the evening and he will snap back because we will be tired, and we’ll go to bed early and maybe pissed at each other. But I know after all of the stress, exhaustion, and crankiness this relationship is ideal as it is — even with all of its strife. I know this because I did not marry the man of my dreams. I married the man who helps me achieve them. And it’s one of the hardest things I have ever done.