When I was a newlywed, every thing that my husband did or did not do was a direct reflection of his love for me. No pressure there.
But I had jumped into a delicate situation. My new husband was a widower and the cause of his late wife’s death was tragic and unexpected. It was a movie with an unhappy ending and I arrived to help pick up the pieces.
The problem was that I thought I was stronger than I actually was. I wanted to be the helper that flew in on a cloud of fairy dust to sweep all the hurt feelings into a manageable corner of their hearts. I hadn’t anticipated that my own heart wasn’t as solid as I had come to believe.
It’s not until you are in a safe place in your life, that you are really able to survey the actual damage you may live in. Damage from the past that you may have unknowingly carried with you from relationship to relationship, be that friendships, romances or family.
My damage involved bad decisions, incorrect childhood interpretations and parents that did the best they could while moving across the world to find that safe harbor for themselves and their daughter.
On the first Valentine’s Day I shared with my new husband, I was still trying to find my way across the tightrope of my life with the safety net that my new husband’s love had unexpectedly provided me. At that point, I hadn’t even really known this was something I needed – nor that it was even there.
Once the euphoria of this handsome man loving me had started to wear off, I started to feel like my old self. My old self demanded proof that my partners and friends actually loved me because I had been tricked before. My old self believed all my damage made me unlovable. Plus, I was also stepping into the shadow of the unshakable love between a dead woman and the man who had fiercely loved her.
When my new husband gave me a generic pink necklace he had bought off the internet for our first Valentine’s Day, it was all the evidence I needed that, indeed, he did not really love me, that he would never look at me in the same way he looked at his first wife in the pictures I had found, that I deserved the second class love I was getting as punishment for my past mistakes.
Now, my new husband had no idea why his gift sparked the outrageous lecture about thoughtful present selections and lazy gift-giving. All he knew was he gave his new wife a gift and she
freaked out was unhappy.
It took a while for me to see how unfair I was being, how the feelings I was reacting to had nothing to do with him but were the ghosts of people long ago. I had to walk on that tightrope for a while and fall many times and realize he was still there and I was still okay. We were still okay.
Today, 10 years later, I woke up to a completely unplanned Mother’s Day. It was the first time he hadn’t orchestrated a huge brunch for all the mothers at our house because his sister would be coming into town next weekend and Kyle would be home from college. So, he postponed his annual tribute to the moms in his life with his cooked eggs, fruit and salmon until next weekend.
So instead, this year, I got to sleep in, read a little in bed and receive the little handmade gifts that my children thoughtfully made for me. Somewhere around 10, he realized he had to go to the grocery store to buy ingredients to make breakfast. And then I got to sit in silence and write about this memory I had and the realization that came with it.
And this is the realization: My husband doesn’t have to go big anymore to make me feel big. I don’t need that constant proof that my husband loves me. After all these years of me falling, of us figuring out how to talk to each other, of us saying the worst thing we can think of and having the other still be there, after all these years of building together the patchwork of our love and mistakes, I already know.