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True Love, Downside and All

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There is such a thing as true love. I know this because I’m the impossibly lucky stiff who’s got it. My wife and I have been married 20 years this coming October, and it’s been wonderful beyond words (but I’ll try, of course). I’ve never seen a couple as close as my Darling and I are. To summarize our relationship, it’s quite like O. Henry’s short story “The Gift of the Magi” – my happiness is more important to her than her own happiness is, and vice versa. And it doesn’t stop there.

When one of us leaves in the car to go to the grocery store or to the mall or on some other miscellaneous errand, we spend at least a couple of minutes hugging and kissing and telling each other to be safe because we need each other so much. This used to drive our kids nuts until they began to realize just what my Darling and I have together.

We hold hands almost all the time wherever we walk, and I make it a point to pamper her in public and private – and she does the same for me. We’re so close that it’s almost like being twins – she often knows what I’m thinking, whether it’s a name or a song or an experience, even though we haven’t mentioned the name or heard the song or had the experience in many years, if ever. It’s a bit frustrating for our friends and family who’d like for us to visit them, and perhaps they think us a little snobbish for doing so but rarely, but we’re simply too busy paying attention to each other to be able to spend much social time with other people.

This is the second time around for both of us, and we’ve both told each other many times “I love you because you really do love me.” This was a lesson learned from our previous relationships – that love and trust must go both ways. It takes work, a lot of effort, lots of kisses every day, and telling each other several times a day, “I love you,” sometimes where others can hear, and sometimes in a breathless whisper that only she can hear. And for the husbands out there, a piece of advice:  Plant roses, lots of roses, and when they bloom, go to the effort of making little arrangements for her of whatever flowers you may see in your yard. That way you’ll usually have nice flowers available (roses are ridiculously easy to grow) and she’ll always appreciate them and reward you with a kiss (and sometimes more). Oh, and they’re free – but never mention that part to her. There are two times a wife (or girlfriend) should get flowers: at required times (birthday, anniversary, holidays, I’m-sorry-I’m-a-dolt), and more important, “just because,” which is always the best reason and the best time to give her flowers and/or chocolate!

Is our marriage absolutely perfect? Of course not. We do have the occasional argument, and after a day of so of stony silence my Darling and I will share a cup of coffee and talk about it and she’ll let me know just why I was so wrong – which is almost always the case (I am a husband, after all). But we have never argued over money, not even once. I guess this is because even when we’re running a bit short on funds, money just doesn’t mean that much to me.

That, and she’s a lot better with money than I am, which I suspect is true in most marriages; the wife will waste money on the mortgage, utilities, diapers, and food, whereas the husband will buy Really Important Things like computers and HDTVs and a four-wheel-drive truck that will never be used for its intended purpose. From the very beginning, we’ve always shared the same bank accounts and have kept nothing from each other – I can trust my Darling to manage the money well and she can trust me to listen to her on financial matters (even if I do sneak the occasional trip through Starbucks).

If I could point to a single trait that keeps us so close, it’s that we both believe strongly in the importance of humility. It was Cicero who said that humility is the greatest of all virtues, and the parent of all the other virtues, and I think he is right. It is this that enables us to be “us” instead of “me” and “you.” We do have pride, but we both try to keep it on a leash, to use pride only as it should be used. We also try to help each other with right conduct – on deciding what’s the right thing to do even if it’s against our own self-interest. Of course I have to be very careful about how I let her know that there’s a more appropriate way to do things, but this has been a wonderful way to teach our sons the value of diplomacy.

All this would seem to indicate that she’s the boss, but that is not the case. I am without question the head of the household, and I try to implement what I learned in the military when it comes to authority within the household. On a ship, the Captain (CO) is in charge, but it’s his second-in-command, the Executive Officer (XO), who gives most orders and makes most decisions concerning the crew and the operation of the ship. The wise CO allows the XO pretty much free rein to make those decisions and lets the XO know that he (the CO) has his back. The wise XO comes up and discusses all significant decisions with the CO first, and the CO will normally buy off on most or all of those decisions. By doing so, for good or ill the CO takes responsibility for all decisions that the XO makes, but still has the opportunity to personally approve of or deny any significant proposals by the XO. This is how a wise CO keeps from micromanaging the ship, keeps himself above the petty squabbles that are part and parcel of shipboard life.

So it goes in our household. We talk and talk and talk about all the decisions she wants to make, and I’ll normally tell her to go for it –and she knows that I’ve got her back, because if anything goes wrong, the final decision rested with me. This way we protect each other’s pride, we support each other’s authority, we keep each other happy, and we remain “us,” the best team there ever was!

But what’s the downside of true love that I mentioned in the title? The deep, abiding fear that something will happen to her and she wouldn’t be there for me anymore. Or worse, that something will happen to me and she’d have to go through life without me, because I wouldn’t be there to love her, to protect her, to be her “shock-absorber” in life, to make sure she’d never go to the restaurant or to the movies or to the beach alone, to rub her feet when she’s tired, and to keep her warm at night. I promised her that I would always be there for her and I will try with all my might to be there until she draws her last breath, even though it means I’d live the rest of my life without her. Just thinking about this makes me get teary – it always has – but the reader should bear in mind that I’m too macho to ever cry, honest!

True love is real, but only for those couples who are willing to love and trust unconditionally. In your search to find your own true love, remember that while you might well have one or even several broken hearts along the way, there’s someone out there for you –someone who wants your happiness more than their own. Just bear in mind that even in a great love, there will be pain, there will be a downside. But it’s worth it – with God as my witness it’s worth every tear you’ll ever shed!

So don’t be too afraid of taking a chance, of risking the emotional pain of a broken heart, because on the merry-go-round of life, if you keep reaching out, sometimes that brass ring will be just beyond your grasp; but if you lean some more, reach out a little further, and your timing is just right, you’ll have something precious beyond words.

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About Glenn Contrarian

White. Male. Raised in the deepest of the Deep South. Retired Navy. Strong Christian. Proud Liberal. Thus, Contrarian!
  • Glenn Contrarian

    And “naturally the man” doesn’t always work. While many women like for the man to take charge, there’s many of them who want to do their own thing, too.

    For instance, if you’re interested in the Bible, Proverbs 31:16 – She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard

    I don’t see anything there that says she has to get her husband’s permission first. Just something to think about….

  • Glenn Contrarian

    CJ –

    I am in charge – read the paragraph about the relationship between the CO and the XO. I am responsible for all decisions whether I make them or she does.

    It’s sorta like letting a horse gallop where it will – if it’s going in the direction you want it to anyway, why tell it to do something else?

  • CJ

    One thing that bothers me in this beautiful article – one person has to be In CHARGE (naturally the man). I don’t get how the rest of it fits with that