The Dirty Secret to Lasting Romance (Or Ode to My Sweaty Valentine)

I have a stack of Valentine’s Day cards from my husband from years past. Reading them makes me laugh.

For at least the first fifteen years of our marriage, he would sign each one with the year and the signature, “Love, Your husband, Robert.”

I don’t know if he was worried that I would forget his role in my life or confuse him with my non-existent other husband of another name. His romantic formality was slightly odd, a bit worrying but mostly endearing. I treasure those cards now.

My cards to him are all signed “Love, me.” I figured if he didn’t know who “me” was, we had bigger problems than a confusing Hallmark card. And I never include the year. Who cares? Not like anyone is going to try to write our biography, right?

We’re different, he and I. Really different.

That’s God’s little cosmic joke. People search and search to find a soul mate, that one person who is most like us in the world, the one we can talk to about anything. Five-minutes after the wedding we realize we’ve wed our total opposite and already have a grocery list of topics that are definitely NOT up for discussion.

Our differences go beyond greeting cards. I’m a woman of words. Rob is a man of action. We express our love in different ways but we’ve learned to translate. When it comes to love, we are bi-lingual.

For instance, I know that while it’s a challenge for Rob to string together more than four complimentary words in a row, his countless hours of work, his sacrificial assistance to others, and his willingness to run frivolous errands for me at two in the morning are as eloquent as Shakespearean sonnets.

He, arguably, received the short end of the stick on this one. He’d like a wife who irons his shirts, brings his suits to the cleaners, and spends hours removing stains from his collars. I write him lovely notes and blog about my love on Valentine’s Day. He has to translate, too.

Through the years, we’ve sent one another romantic cards, sexy cards, sarcastic cards, humorous cards, and cards that play music. Cards are nice but they’re just paper ballots in the voting booth of love.

What really counts is that Rob and I have found the secret to lasting romance.

Romance isn’t found or forced in roses, candlelight, soft music, or dinner reservations. Romance is forged in the bellows of adversity, years of struggling to understand another perspective, hours of shared joys, responsibility, triumph and trauma and the gritty living out of the day-by-day commitment to the be there for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.

It’s about looking in the mirror every morning and saying, “Remember, you’re no picnic either.”

It’s about living out Christ’s command that if we love someone; we are willing to lay down our lives for that person and then, doing that. Laying down our lives, our schedules, our plans, our expectations, and our newspapers to be there for the other. Really be there.

After almost twenty-three years, Rob and I know the truth of King Solomon’s love song:

“Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned.” Song of Solomon 8:6-7

The other night, when he arrived home, dirty, sweaty and covered in plaster dust, from working sixteen hours to literally create a new home for us, he asked me if, knowing everything I know now, I would marry him again today.

Of course, I let him sweat it out for a minute (after almost 23 years, you have take your fun where you can get it!) but then I answered “Yes. Of course.” And I meant it.

Marriages may be made in heaven but they’re worked out here on the muddy planet we call home, this outpost of heaven where we all struggle to remember our former glory and continue to live a way of life that seems like a distant memory. Every marriage that survives with love and friendship intact is a bellwether on the trail back home.

It’s not about the perfect card, candlelight, diamonds, violin music or five-star dining in exotic locales. It’s about showing up every day, come what may, and saying “I do – again this morning, and again this morning, and again . . .”

To my husband, Robert, 2011, Happy Valentine’s Day. Thank you for still being here. I love you more with each passing year.

Love, me.

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    The Conversation

  1. Jennifer says:

    I love this one! So true! Well, except for those last couple of lines. I don’t claim those. 🙂

  2. Karin says:

    That’s so sweet! 45 years in a few months! We’re total opposite too and really need to be that in order to be each other’s helpmate!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, I love you too…your husband, Robert

  4. A refreshing read. You are very blessed (both of you)!

  5. Vicki says:

    Amen sister-great post.
    Now let me give you all a tip. Not putting dates on those cards you give your men is a good idea. My hubby always forgets those cards after a year-so my REALLY favorite ones-you know the ones I have REALLY cried over when I read them in the store-I give them to him again in a couple of years.He has never yet guessed-don’t any of you DARE tell him!