Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Dear Husband, I Don't Love You Like That

Dear Husband,

You know that I'm not generally one to put the ups and downs of our relationship out there for the whole world to see, but this is pretty serious, so I'm making an exception.

I have something important to tell you.

Remember when we were young, when we were first dating? Remember how exciting that was? Remember how thrilling it was just to see one another? It was like we couldn't get enough. How many times did we see the sunrise because we couldn't bear the thought of saying goodnight?

Ours, like most new loves, was a relationship based on wild desire and hazy dreams. It was bright and white and consuming. In my mind there was nothing so wonderful as what I felt for you. Surely no two people had ever felt that way, at least I couldn't imagine it. I never wanted it to change. I believed that "happily ever after" would have us riding off into a continuously setting sun of raging passionate beauty.

But I have to tell you . . .I don't love you like that anymore.

It's true. I don't feel that white hot burn to be with you. Perhaps it is because we've laid beside each other 8,158 nights. I've heard you snore and you've heard me make that annoying sound I make when I have an itchy throat. I've seen the unattractive you that rages with temper and avoids doing taxes and leaves dirty dishes next to the computer.

Of course, you've seen the me that lived through the 3-day stomach virus, smelling like vomit, and the postpartum me that could barely get dressed and forgot to brush her teeth. You've seen the me that can't keep a clean house and loses important mail and dumps entire pans of baked ziti all over the kitchen floor. So you probably don't love me like that anymore either.

The sunset we rode off into wasn't as pretty as I had imagined. Instead it was full of dirty diapers and screaming babies, budget strings we couldn't make meet and late-night trips to the emergency room. It was broken appliances and crazy stressful family holidays and you working 3 jobs so I could stay home with 4 kids who drove me crazy. It was having the lights turned off because we couldn't pay the bill and hocking my diamond engagement ring to get them turned back on. It was sleepless nights with colicky babies, and toddlers with night terrors, and worry about teenagers staying out too late. Life has been messy and hard and utterly complicated. Maybe that's why all of the fairy tales end at the altar, because the very real and very exhausting stuff that comes after isn't the kind of material that sappy Lifetime movies are made of.

We've changed. Time has a way of doing that to people. We aren't the naive optimistic young people we once were. We've been too busy muddling through to be those people. We've somehow managed to raise one kid all the way to adulthood and self-sufficiency, and there are three more hot on his heels. It's been cluttered and dirty and chaotic. It's like we've been through a long hard battle (even if the battle has been dotted with the most sparkling and beautiful moments imaginable) and I'm tired.

Perhaps that is why I don't love you like I used to.

Instead, I love you like a battle buddy, like we are two warriors who've seen the wreckage of abandoned dreams and heirlooms broken by careless children, allies who have come out on the other side with a deep trust that comes from shared experience and obstacles tackled. I've got your six. I know that you've got mine. I don't even have to check to make sure you're there. It's like we know which direction the other is going before we even move. There is a sense of teamwork and dedication and confidence that can only be built over time, over 8,158 days of folded laundry and spilled milk and averted crises.

And I'm glad that I don't love you like I did in the beginning. That raging blaze would have consumed me. I would have lost myself in it, reduced to ashes. But this love, the love that we've created while riding side by side into this sunset, it warms me. It is like the glowing hot embers that temper steel. It makes me stronger, better than the person I once was. This love is different, like the soft hot coals of a hearth fire.

I don't love you like I used to. I don't love you with passionate, burning, consuming desire. I love you in a way that is warmer and softer and truer. Like warm wool socks. This love is comfortable and comforting. I love you like my favorite sweatshirt, the one I've had for years, the one that is frayed around the edges but has so many memories, so many stories it could tell. I love you for our shared history and the life we've made together, brick by beautiful brick. I love the glimpses I get of you in our children. They have your hands and your curls and your temper, and they are all the more precious to me because of it.

And I want you, not because of passion or desire, but because of faith and confidence and an intimacy forged over years. It hasn't been easy. This isn't a microwave popcorn kind of thing. But it's been worth every minute, no matter how harrowing some of those minutes have been.

So this is what we have now, still riding into the sunset, although maybe a bit more disillusioned than we were in our youth, and armed with something much more powerful and precious and rare. I'll gladly tend this fire in my warm wool socks and worn tattered sweatshirt. I hope you don't mind. It's comfortable and lovely just as it is. This is what "happily ever after" really looks like. It's a mess, but it's splendid.

The sun is still setting. Let's keep riding into it.

Your wife and battle buddy.


Jen F. said...

This is some of your best work. A little sappy, a lot of true, and it makes me cry just like your ltym piece did. I love your writing. Miss you!

Jen F. said...

This is some of your best work. A little sappy, a lot of true, and it makes me cry just like your ltym piece did. I love your writing. Miss you!

Unknown said...

Alice, this is worthy of being read at anyone's 25th 35th 40th and 50th anniversary. Great job

Unknown said...

Loved it! It's as simple as that and more people need to realize this is how it is! This was truly one of your best.

Robin Follette said...

mmmm Words spoken in our house two months ago: "I don't love you the way I used to. It's different, more meaningful...and I'm not giving up on us because I love you in a different way." I had to do the math. Around 10,950 nights minus some nights when we traveled alone. It's a long time. Nothing stays the same. Thankfully it gets stronger when you have to dig in and fight for love.