This year marks the twentieth Valentine’s Day I’ve spent with my husband Charlie. We’ve been through a lot together: we drank a lot and then got sober (which is almost enough without anything else). We tried to start a family and couldn’t get pregnant. When we did get pregnant with medical help, we lost our sons at six months pregnant. I’ve gained and lost hundreds of pounds (he’s done some of the same). We’ve gotten much older and more tired. And now, for nearly two years, we’ve had my mother living with us and struggling with massive medical issues.
It’s been hard, yo.
But through it all? We’ve stayed in love. Not always madly in love, not always happy with each other, not always connected to each other yet that love is always there.
I cannot imagine any other man in my life. I love my husband fiercely.
So how have we done it? Well, it’s been work, but I thought I’d share with you what we’ve learned so far. These ideas might seem a big general and vague, but they’ve worked for us for twenty years.
Having Faith In Each Other 1 of 7As the child of divorce with a father that had absolutely nothing to do with me I really struggled with having faith in the men I dated. I lived with two other guys before living with my husband, and I had no faith in them at all. I was sure they'd leave me, and sure enough, they both did.
When Charlie and I first got together I tried to dump him every time any stress happened in our relationship. Because I didn't believe he'd stay, I was always pushing him out the door. Luckily each time I did that, he would look at me like I was insane and say, "No. I'm not breaking up with you because the electric bill is late." As a result, I learned to have faith in him. And I do; I feel utterly secure in our relationship.
Look Each Other In The Eyes 2 of 7After we had our daughter, we turned our gaze away from each other and onto the beautiful baby girl in our arms. This only got worse as she got older; kids are attention addicts, after all, and she was always at the center of our lives (as she should be).
We found ourselves growing more distant from each other, and eventually realized that we needed to make sure we always made eye contact as much as we could when we were speaking to each other. It was amazing how much this simple act changed our level of bickering.
Listen To Each Other 3 of 7This one is harder, particularly now that we have both my mother and my daughter talking all the time (good LORD can six year old girls talk). So we try hard to listen to each other when we talk, even when we are telling each other boring stories about things we don't care about.
Really. I don't care about the traffic problems my husband encountered on the way to take our daughter to school, but he likes to tell me. He doesn't really care about the latest news on the social media front, but he lets me tell him anyway. It makes a difference.
Spend Time Alone 4 of 7Oh boy, is this one challenging lately, but we know for sure that when we don't get enough one-on-one time, we bicker at first. Eventually, we argue. Then, we fight. Oddly, the last thing we want to do when this happens is spend MORE time together but is the only thing that will make things better.
Even if it means we fight the first twenty minutes of a dinner out. It passes.
Trusting Each Other 5 of 7I was not always faithful in my relationships before my marriage. My husband was always faithful to his partners until he fell in love with me while he was married to someone else.
But we still have absolute trust that we will remain faithful to each other, even so.
The trust has been earned, obviously, and much of the impetus toward infidelity was removed when we both quit drinking. I travel for work, and he trusts that I will not have a "work fling" (hard to do with other women, since I'm fully straight, but not impossible). He likes watching porn sometimes, but that has no reflection on his love (and lust) for me. It's all about the trust.
Acceptance of Each Other 6 of 7I love people and have loads of friends. Charlie's an introvert who would rather not ever be in a crowd. Charlie loves watching fail videos and fights on YouTube. I like watching awards shows and tweeting about it. We accept our differences.
This hasn't always been easy. Charlie's ten year love affair with trains was... interesting. We chased trains. We rode trains. He talked about trains. LOTS.
Then I got really involved in volunteering for an organization I was part of. Then I started going to church (Charlie's an atheist).
In our twenty years together, we've embraced and abandoned more hobbies and habit and diets and plans and careers without losing site of each other. We love each other no matter how weird our hobbies get.
Love 7 of 7Of course, this seems obvious. But honestly, it's the fact that we have a deep and abiding love for each other that makes our relationship work. Without it, we wouldn't work. Sometimes it can be hard to see the love under the irritation and the ranting and the raving and the stress but it's always there. When I find myself annoyed at Charlie, I reach for that love, remind myself of it, and remember that it is the second most amazing love I've ever experienced (the first, of course, being our daughter).
Hard work, but... it's been worth it. Love matters.
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