Thursday, February 19, 2015

In the End, He has to Know I Loved Him

A couple of weeks ago, Chris and I were both getting ready for our day side by side. Our bathroom is plenty big for two bodies to move easily around in, with two sinks and open floor space. But Chris likes to move fast while I move a bit slower, and he often feels that I slow him down when we share the bathroom in the mornings. He made a comment about me being in his way, and I replied back that since I had been there first he was the one in the way. Then I reminded him that we have been together for almost 24 years, and that bathroom sharing between two people as in love as we are is part of the deal of our relationship. He stopped shaving and exclaimed, "Twenty-four years! That is a long time!" I replied, "Yep, long enough for you to be used to sharing a bathroom!" 

In 1996, Chris and I made our relationship official after five years of dating. In June of that year, my grandparents celebrated 50 years of marriage. Fifty years of marriage is a huge milestone. In the end, my grandparents were married for 65 years before my grandfather passed away

A few months before he passed, he had a conversation with my husband. Chris later shared part of that conversation with me. He told me that my grandfather turned to him and said, "You know, I think I spent my life married to a woman that didn't love me." 

It kills me every time I time I think of it. Sixty-five years is a long time to spend with someone that you don't think loves you. 

My grandparents raised me. I was a witness daily to their interactions with each other. I know all too well why he would make such a comment to my husband. My grandfather worked six days a week running his business to support my grandmother and their five children, and then later my cousin and me. He came home from work and tried to talk to my grandmother, only to be snapped at and criticized. I remember many times when he would he say something sweet or teasing to her, and she would ignore him. There were so many times she would start yelling at him, and he would ask, "Millicent, why are you yelling at me?" 

The weight of what he must have felt crushes me still. 

The early years of my marriage to Chris were not easy. I came into the relationship with low self-esteem and no knowledge of what a healthy relationship looked like. We have worked hard to make our marriage successful. We always planned to be married forever, like my grandparents and Chris's parents, but we weren't sure how we would be able to love each other forever! We could have easily just gone through the motions of a mutual partnership without any love, affection, or happy feelings for each other. 

I can't speak for Chris, but I can tell you the three things that I needed to understand to help me love him better.

1. He is my husband, and he is my friend. We were so busy the first few years of our marriage with jobs and a baby that we didn't make time to hang out and have fun with each other. The crazy thing is that we made time for our friends! Once we became intentional about date nights (whether in or away from our home), our relationship improved. We remembered how much we enjoyed each other's company. Plus, I learned to like football, and he agreed to eat out occasionally (something that he is not fond of doing). 

2. I have to tell him what I need from him because he can't read my mind. Seriously, I spent many of our early years pouting on the couch because he didn't do x,y, or z. Mind you, I never mentioned that I needed him to do those things, but I was sure that I didn't need to tell him. He should just know! How I expected him to know, I have no idea. 

3. It is important that I tell him not only that I love him, but also what I love about him. It is nice to hear, you know? And although he may or not need a regular reminder of my love for him, there are some days that I need to remember the reasons that I love him. Saying them aloud to him helps us to both feel the love. 

These three things seem like things that every girl should know when she gets married, but I did not. And I am sure that I was not the only one, nor will I be the last. I wish I had known them in the beginning because so much of the hurt and anger could have been avoided. 

This year marks the 24th year of our relationship, and we will celebrate 19 years of marriage in October. I always look forward to my wedding anniversary. We had a budget wedding, without professional pictures (proof above) or catering (although we did have yummy food thanks to friends of my family). Our wedding was not glamorous, but it was special because it marked the beginning of a lifetime of choosing love. 

I love my children, deeply and truly, as a mother should, but children are meant to leave, to love others and build lives of their own. The love I feel for their father is so very different. The love builds, moves, and soars. It is a promise and a choice. 

I chose love on my wedding day and continue to choose to love every day. At the end of his days, I want my husband to know that he spent his life loving a woman who loved him back. 

 Linking up over at the Blessed is She Blog. Marriage is the topic today. If you haven't checked out Blessed is She yet, you need to do it asap! The daily devotions have made reading scripture easier for me. Seriously, go check it out and sign-up to receive the daily devotions in your inbox!
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