A close friend recently asked me how I knew I was in love with my wife. I’ll be honest, if you saw my wife and I together out somewhere you probably wouldn’t be asking me that particular question. You’d more likely be asking, “Do you even love your wife?” If you just groaned, my wife is right there with you. I am not a touchy person, especially in public, but the truth is being handsy isn’t love. It can be an expression of love, but it isn’t “love.” When I was a teen and single, I thought I would be handsy if I had a girlfriend because I was so desperate to get a girl to like me. Little did I realize, at this same time I was developing a solid hatred for public display of affection because I felt increased rejection and loneliness seeing other kids making out at their lockers every day.
I’m well aware if my wife had an affair, the new guy would be waaaayyyyyy better at showing her affection. Am I a terrible husband? No, I’d actually say I’m pretty great at being a husband. And that isn’t bragging; it’s self awareness, which is an important factor in being great. Take that suckers (and that jerkish comment is why I’m only pretty great and not fully great).
- Side Note: It’s sometimes helpful to give yourself a daily grade for how you do something. For instance, I’ve been giving myself a grade as a husband and father for the last three months and I scored a solid 95%. Sure the grader (me) may be biased, but most days there really wasn’t anything I could have done better. I always fulfilled my responsibilities. There were moments I could have been more touchy towards my wife or not taken things as personally when she said something not so nice, but otherwise I was pretty solid. Coincidentally, realizing I was pretty great improved my confidence and helped me be even better. It was a very worthwhile exercise.
So if I think I’m pretty great at being a husband, why would I think my wife could have an affair and find someone who could be better at showing her affection? Because almost all of us can find someone better at showing affection than their spouse. There are essentially three phases in the relationship life: Single, Honeymoon, and Commitment. The honeymoon phase is exciting and feels fantastic because it’s fresh and new. With learning new things about each other and the high risk of it suddenly ending, there’s more of a thrill to this phase. When I was in the honeymoon phase with my wife, I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I wrote her a full twelve song album I recorded for her for Valentines the first year. I was on fire, but that’s the honeymoon phase. If she met another guy, she’d get that same kind of treatment on top of feeling the thrill of being in a honeymoon phase with this new guy. Even if I was 97% as a husband and father, I can’t compete with those honeymoon feelings. The problem is every honeymoon ends whether by breaking up or moving into the Commitment phase, and that’s where a person’s true character is seen. This thrill feeling is why so many people fall for the trap of having an affair. It feels soooooo good because it isn’t love. The honeymoon phase isn’t love; it’s “falling in love.” Love is when you reach the Commitment phase and the reality has set in of who you both really are. This means you essentially treat your partner the way you treat your family. This is when real love can exist.
I know I’m not a romantic, but when this friend asked me how I knew I was ready to marry my wife, I said, “I was ready when I knew what her faults were and I could tolerate them.” That’s what marriage is: I promise to tolerate everything that sucks about you and do my best to limit what sucks about me. My wife almost didn’t marry me because I’m a “selective” eater. I’m like a vegan, but less healthy. That was the main hindrance for her marrying me and a major reason we dated eight years before she was ready to marry me. I, on the other hand, wasn’t sure if I could handle being married to someone so perfect; she was and is like Mary Poppins: practically perfect in every way. (That sarcasm means I’m only getting a 90% for today.)
I know I love my wife because I know what ticks me off about her, but I do my best to be patient, kind, and self controlled to her even if I’m tired or having a bad day. Too many people get married over a feeling or a fantasy, but that isn’t love. That’s the “falling” part. Love is not exciting; it is not always fulfilling, and many times it doesn’t feel good (parents know this well). Love is work. Falling is easy. When you’ve “landed” in love there are always cuts and bruises, but you know that life is better with this person even if it means they help you work on your patience, kindness, and self control.
My wife and I are continually working on our patience, kindness, and self control for each other and that is how I know we are in love. It’s not a fantasy; it’s a reality that’s pretty darn good and one day, with some work and practice, it’ll be really darn good.
This week may you realize what real love is.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people