how the real & raw, boring & bearing kinda love revives Valentine’s Day

Dear Husband,

How many years has it been?

How long has it been since we say ‘I do’, or how many Valentine’s Day have we been together through?

I’ve kept all the cards you’ve written and tossed all the envelopes away.

In our almost two decades together I’ve lost count on the number of times we’ve fought — and then made up afterwards.  

You always seal a fight with a kiss: we’d polarise, and later on compromise; because you believe we should both win, and lose — to each other and for each other.

You want us to rise with new dawns feeling hopeful, and joyful.

You don’t shake when I rattle to bring the roof down, and stay up on nights when I need to talk about all things haunting me — without them battling you, or them belittling me. 

You think I’m your priority, and so as long as it bothers me, it concerns you — and that makes me feel known to a depth beneath my skin, validated beyond my worth.  

Thank you for walking the whole length of our hallway after a day’s worth of work to land a kiss on me first, then the kids.

And I believe you — you’ve never recycled through your cards like I’ve never had to cycle through your love, because those words scrawled in ink tell me: we’ve grown to love larger.

And marriage is this mystery of our two strands woven into one.

But oneness is hard, and supernatural.

Because it’s never the differences that tear at us, but our failure to rise and mend the gaps that have kept us at bay, and indifferent.

And you?

You’ve always edged closer, bent lower, reached farther, so I’d never had to feel so lost in the gulf between us. 

You’d reach me throughout the day with your emoticons, then ask me at the end of your day about my day, and my heart — and hearing me, you address my needs whether I’m goofy or grouchy.

But if I may?

Be a little honest?

(Not that you wouldn’t have known it, anyway…)

That in those early years when we first wed?,  whenever you laugh so loud till I fear all the neighbours and their kids would wake; I remember the singular question that always begs my answer:

What if we are all we’ll ever get?

What if this is the best there is to it? 

What if you and your laughing hysteria what I will grow old with, and die with?

We’re so different…

You talk your thoughts and I tinker silently with words. You buy a shirt and wear it straight while I’ll hang it, launder it, then wear it.

Tell me —

Were you okay when you first discovered that I wasn’t that great after all?

That your shortish wife with her shortish nose has a shortish temper?

That she scrambles hard to look and feel just enough, and drops more than enough ball in a lifetime in her court? 

Are you okay with me?

And will I be okay with you?

Will we be happy with each other? And with life?

My girlfriends and I sat over dinner one night and I listened to how they talked about sticking it through — like marriage is this survival of the fittest, or a torture chamber for the loveless.

That lady on TED — I’ve listened to her a couple of times now, my sister insisting that what she says is true.

She said that for anyone who’s ever loved, we need to rethink the case of infidelity.

Because infidelity doesn’t just start and stop with the sharing of your bed with another…that it can be the sharing of your deepest emotion, your most inner ambition, your greatest desire with a ‘romantic ideal’ — ‘who you’d turn to, to fulfil your inner, inward, endless supply of needs’. (Esther Perel) 

And these endless supply of innard needs?

They are wrapped within us and a part of us, making us often believe that love that thrills is love that fills.

We want something more…or someone more? 

We want adventures.

We want an enlivening of old desires.

Perhaps a sense of purpose.

Or destiny.

We want to feel awakened, appreciated, loved, admired for the new aspects of who we think we are  —

And maybe, something more or someone more could help us be that, feel that, live that.

Perhaps ‘the other person’ can help us connect us to that depth of us.

But I’ve been thinking it through —

That any moment we start thinking elsewhere, else’s life, else’s satisfaction — we are toying with recreating a romantic ideal whom we think will recreate us somehow, and this won’t fulfill us.

That only when we turn to Him — the One who knows us and fills and fulfills us can we live full and overflowing.  And we can live so satisfied in Him that we are most satisfied with life, and with each other.

Perhaps it’s true — this true love we most often long for?, may be the very one living under our roof; the ones we are stuck to, sticking through and sticking with.

That it’s when we learn how to love right that we become right.  That in dying daily we live truly loving.

So yeah, this is the deal:

 I choose you, like you choose me.

(I mean, who else would I have take the trash out mid-week when I’m knee deep in the dishes?)

And since you’ve realised that my button nose isn’t really a respiratory disease after all, you can breathe happy that it now runs in all your healthy kids, and that we can be content about our small days talking to little people about really little things every little time we have — because what appears so ho-hum and boring may very well be what’s healing and stable and necessary for what’s breaking through for us. 

That when we marry for holiness rather than happiness, something happens …

Every romantic fantasy can give way to a love rooted and robust, gritty yet giving. 

That we can start to love with no expectation, just all acceptance.

So yeah, I think we’ll never have to worry about us getting sick of each other, because we can grow to meet each other’s needs, be what each other needs — love exclusively and be fulfilled inclusively.

We can be all that we need each other to be.

So for all those Valentine’s Day past —

When you find me disenchanted in the discrepancies of the hard and the high, in transitions of the rock to the ladder, and when life turns sour and soft hearts shatter, thank you for saying only what every sinner turned saint needs to hear: “Precious…

Thank you for not fizzling me up with fond and fascinating promises that a thousand deliverables can never keep – because you know:

true love isn’t what is sweeping me off my feet, but one that’s always showing up even when I’m shutting out.

One that will always be there, when I’m sure at times — you can’t wait to be out, and one who’d eat my food often charred with coals. 

So thank you for pretending to bow your head in thanksgiving, knowing that you won’t die with the mouthful—

Because when you make painful faces to the kids like that, you’re telling me loud and clear that love that satisfies is in the character, and that raises the calibre … and this is love that changes you: it takes you somewhere, it make you someone.

And this is better, and will always be better. 

“Hey, come right here,” you’d wide open your arms, instruct me to tuck myself right in, every night.

No matter the state of our hearts or home, and after the last light’s flicked off, and all that happy chatters subsided, you’d always whisper it right through to me:

“I.love.you” – and meaning it, even when at times you may not be feeling it.

And you’ve taught me this: 

Revivals of quiet marriages may be the revolution we need more than our society’s redefinition of marriages.

We need not redefine our love, we can simply revive our love.

We need not look for anyone or anything else, we can be that anyone or anything, to each other, always.

Man turned husband — we’ve grown closer through every Valentine.

And when all the butterfly feelings fade, and every bottom falls out, we will always be able to trace those lines that make us us — and really live knowing:

It’s okay that we’re poles apart — because a chord of three strands isn’t easily broken…

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