Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Valentine

When I met M, I was 19 years old. We lived on the same floor of our college residence hall. We were both dating other people. We became friends.

As the relationships with the other people fell apart, our friendship grew. Aw, who am I kidding? In part, our other relationships disintegrated because we were--inch by inch, cribbage game by cribbage game, hilarious food service dinner by food service dinner--falling in love almost without realizing it. Knowing there were guys like M in the world opened my eyes to how futile and oppressive my relationship was, and gave me the strength to give my boyfriend the boot. Turned out that M had the same idea.

We started dating two months before I turned 20. We got engaged nine months later, and got married three months after I turned 21. This summer we will celebrate our tenth anniversary. Today is our eleventh Valentine's day as a couple.

I won't be getting flowers today. M is going to a UW basketball game in Seattle with his dad; he left this morning for work at 7:15 and I won't see him until around midnight.

Am I upset? No. Really. No.


Why won't I be getting flowers? Because this generous, loving, hilarious man is working extra hours after school to help make ends meet so I can stay home with Mr. D and Baby E this year. Because his weekends are taken up with home projects and quality, loving playtime with our children. Because he knows I'd love coffee, a book, a movie, a margarita--or YARN--more. Because he rushed home--through the rain, on his bike, covered in road debris--last night so his perfectionist wife could be early to SAT Prep class and get the whiteboard all ready. (Good thing, too, because I burned out the bulbs on TWO overhead projectors in a five-minute span, but I digress.)

In the almost-twelve years I've been with M, I've learned about love as a verb, as an action, as the motivating force of one's life. He loves me enough to hold me accountable to my goals, to snuggle against me at night, and to understand when he's temporarily supplanted by needles and yarn. I'd give up all the flowers in the world to keep his practical attitude about our money, his imaginative, artistic creativity, and the way our sharp edges have worn each other into the smoothness of a long-term love.

I never love him more then when I see him with our children. The picture at the start of this post is Mr. D, age 6 months or so, after his bath, in absolute hysterics at something Daddy is doing. M's gentleness, his tenderness, his good humor and patience shine through in every interaction with Mr. D and Baby E--he makes me a better parent through his example.

A close family member is going through a separation and divorce right now. The relationship and subsequent marriage was never completely stable, but we all hoped it would work out. It didn't. There were lots of reasons for the relationship's demise, but I place much of the blame on both partners' reliance on the wrong kind of love. This person put an immense amount of faith in a romantic ideal, in love's supposed power to magically erase practical problems like debt, addiction, emotional instability, and inability to communicate...unfortunately, the love of hearts and flowers--L-O-V-E as noun, as state of being--has no power over these circumstances. It withers like newsprint in a campfire.

Only love as verb, as action, as motivator can overcome the hurdles we all face in our relationships, and that's what I've learned from my years with M, that's what I hope to continue learning and practicing for the rest of my life. I rejoice that my partner is truly that, in all senses of the word: emotionally, physically, financially, creatively, intellectually. I wish everyone this joy and this journey.

Happy Valentine's Day.

1 comment:

Kim said...

So wonderfully stated. I hope that we (my DH and I) feel the same after another 5 years and after babies. I think we will.