You see, if I'd married a man who was a crazy romantic and loved setting up secret rendezvous and writing steamy sonnets, I'm sure I'd love it! I'm very romantic at heart. But I didn't.
When the honeymoon was over, I needed to learn to really love the good man I married. The committed, for better or for worse, until death do us part, on good days and bad days, kind of love. Yes, he needed to learn to love me in ways that are meaningful to me too--but I didn't/don't get to demand that or the timetable.
It was sometime during the years when all three of the kids were preschoolers (two still in diapers) and I a sleep-deprived wreck, that I realized I felt pretty despondent about the unromantic state of our matrimony. Actually, there were times I felt downright angry and indignant. I was trying so hard to do all the things I was supposed to do (according to the books I'd read) to keep up my end of the deal. I could have listed all the things he wasn't doing that I thought he should have been doing. This included being more "romantic." He wasn't following my script. At all. The script seemed so reasonable to me. It seemed others were following it.
I was offended.
Offended. Not ticked or annoyed. Offended. In the core of me resentment and a sense of self-righteousness had taken root. It doesn't take a genius to recognize this wasn't headed in a very good direction. I felt a little terrified and helpless.
The kindness and patience of God is abundantly obvious to me because He speaks into the turbulence of our lives. Maybe I was just uninformed. Maybe we just have to learn some lessons through the process. Whatever the case, it certainly wasn't out of my own wisdom that I figured out the key. I needed to forgive him. Not because he said sorry. Perhaps he hadn't done anything wrong. I needed to forgive because through pain and disappointment I had let offense take root in my heart.
I needed to forgive him for failing to meet my expectations.
I was really and truly afraid that by letting going of my expectations maybe I was letting him off the hook...losing control...and maybe somehow losing hope of him loving me in a way that felt meaningful to me. I felt like I was letting go of some of my rights. In a wild and reckless bid for freedom I chose forgiveness anyway.
I never said a word to him about it, but something changed, something shifted, in our marriage that day. What I did was set him free to love me the way that had been in his heart to love me all along. I think it may have become less intimidating to express love to me. I was set free to recognize his love in ways I hadn't been able to before.
He is actually very romantic--it's just not according to the script and I was missing it all when I was angry. I couldn't receive the gifts he was trying to give to me when my hands were full of my own expectations.
I read The Five Love Languages and began to make the translation from his love language to mine. I've learned to see the way he immediately fixes a loose handle on a pot as an expression of tenderness. When he builds something for our home his fingers are fashioning poetry in wood. The twinkle in his eyes now speaks volumes to me--even when he doesn't have words. I learned to choose to express love in ways that are meaningful to him and not just instinctive to me. We're both still learning--'til death do us part. Why don't they make movies about stuff like that?
I've had to lay down my expectations again and again, only to discover a hundred other ways he loves me. Roses may not be delivered today because the calendar says he must or because I've badgered him into it, but someday when his heart tells him I need a boost he'll bring me a bouquet. I'll feel like the luckiest woman alive.
He's a prince among men and I wouldn't trade him for anybody.
I have learned to truly love the person I married.
In fact, I'm crazy about him.
Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm.
For love is as strong as death, its jealousy as enduring as the grave.
Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame.
Many waters cannot quench love, nor can rivers drown it.
If a man tried to buy love with all his wealth,
his offer would be utterly scorned.
Song of Songs 8:6-7