I sit here, unable to think of a title better suited to this post.
Over the last two weeks or so, in a couple different arenas, there has been talk about my husband and I. Some have questioned whether I ever loved my husband. Others ask what it was that made me fall in love with him. There’s talk of if I can possibly still love him or be in love with him.
Talk of love (and being in love) between a husband and a wife can take on many forms. It seems to depend on who is asking and who is answering, as well as the context of the question, the length and condition of the marriage and so on.
Do I love my husband? Unequivocally, yes.
Am I in love? No. It’s hard to admit that.
I met my husband and I was fascinated by him. He pursued and I resisted, unsure of what a relationship would be like with someone with a disability. Cautious because of the age difference and the fact that he was divorced.
My relationship with him was unlike other relationships I had. Looking back, perhaps I thought different was better.
Here’s something I wrote to a friend shortly after he asked me to marry him:
He is an exceptional man. He is kind and caring and considerate. He tries to make himself a better person and to better the people in his company. He loves me, unconditionally. He has embraced my family as his own, treating my sister and brother like the younger siblings he never had. He is intelligent, very able to keep up with me intellectually. He loves to read and learn. He enjoys children, he has this calm way of dealing with them that I admire. I honestly believe he will make a great father someday. I love him. We compliment each other and we are truly a good pair.
There are many things I am able to see now, after much thought and perspective. I see that I chose a man who was quiet and calm because the men I had loved who were passionate and emotional had failed me or left me or didn’t love me back. I know that I clung to his love because I needed to be loved that much. Even if he was wrong for me, he adored me. We all crave love. We all want to be needed and wanted and loved. To have the kind of love that great stories are built around.
We’re raised with these idealistic pictures of love. Fairy tales, movies, even my own parents marriage perpetuated the idea that you need an all consuming love. I didn’t think there was anyone else who would ever possibly love me as much as my husband did. In some ways, I think I still believe that. I know so many people waiting for love. Who would kill to be loved the way my husband loves me. I don’t doubt and never have doubted his love. I just know he’s unable to demonstrate that love, and that his version of love and mine aren’t the same. Is it fair to stay when maybe someone could love each of us the way we need to be loved? Is it a sacrifice I can make, to stay simply because he loves me?
I don’t know when I realized that I wasn’t in love with him. I could try to point out a time when things changed, but it was subtle.
When I was sick, I gave a lot of consideration to the idea that life is short. I saw how my husband had withdrawn, retreated, transformed into someone I hardly recognized. I realized that I was not okay living a life without affection, emotion, passion, or okay, lets face it, sex.
I know that “love bears all things” but I wonder if there’s only so much strain you can put on two people. Surely there are marriages who have endured things worse than we and come out stronger. Yet, we have only seen each obstacle damage our relationship.
I do love my husband. I love him and we were happy and in love once. Yes, the love I have now seems familiar and comfortable, it’s often mixed with feelings of obligation. But, I can still think of reasons to love him.
I love him because he picked me up off the bathroom floor when I hemorrhaged and lost the first pregnancy.
I love him because he helped me scramble when I was trying to start my business.
I love him because he brought my mom flowers, gave my dad his first shot, threw the football with my cousins, remembered all the aunts and uncles by voice and name the first time they met. Because he took my sister to the theater and helped build my brother’s bar. Because his family is important to him.
I love him because he stopped me from breaking all our dishes the afternoon I found out our IVF was unsuccessful.
I love him because he took the job here in Nashville to try to make a better life.
I love him because has had most of the same friends for twenty, even thirty years.
I love him because even though he’s blind, he doesn’t let that dictate what he can and cannot do.
I love him because he came up with the idea of naming all the children embryos we lost and came up with a way to honor them.
I love him because he called our friend to get an oncologist recommendation when I was too frightened to speak.
So, when you ask why I haven’t just left, why I’m not divorced already? That’s why. Maybe I’m in love with memories. Maybe I’m afraid no one else will ever love me, much less the way my husband once did. Maybe I can’t say goodbye to a man who loved me through hell, even if I feel I’m living there now.
When is love not enough? Love doesn’t fix everything. Love may be all we need, but we need to be loved in return. Love is an action, not a statement. “They do not love that do not show their love.”