This is a re-post from last year revised to reflect the unceasing march of time, but today on my 18th wedding anniversary, it bears repeating. Steve DeVinney, you are the best! I’m not sure if it’s that the words don’t exist to adequately describe my love for you, or if it’s simply that I lack the talent to string them together to effectively get my point across. Nevertheless, here you go.
On July 1st, my husband Steve and I celebrated 21 years as a couple. He is without a shadow of a doubt the love of my life. I learned long ago that letting go of expectations and efforts to control a situation often leads to a much better outcome than anything I could design. That bore out in 1990 when what started as a reluctant blind date (I only consented after being told it wasn’t a date), with a guy who was secretly hoping to meet a tall brunette (I’m a petite blond), turned out to be an essential fork in the road of my life that I have looked back on over the years with shaky relief that I managed not to miss it.
Like any couple two decades in, we’ve grown used to each others’ habits, insecurities, quirks, charms, etc. We’ve learned to focus attention on the things we like about each other and to have a reasonable perspective about the things we find irritating. For example, I overlook his habit of almost always dropping his clothes on the floor two feet from the hamper and focus instead on what a stellar husband, father and all-around great guy he is. I’m not sure exactly how exhaustive the list of things he overlooks in me is, but I will just say that patience is one of his best qualities.
I think our relationship works as well as it does because we really like each other. We also respect each other, give each other room to be individuals, and we talk – about everything. If something is coming between us, we hash it out and listen to what the other has to say. Sometimes one of us grudgingly comes around to the other’s point of view. Sometimes, we just maintain our positions while appreciating the fact that we understand each other’s rationale or inherent wackiness a little better. We compromise when possible, and adapt and move on when it isn’t. All of these seem to be key ingredients to engineering a relationship that’s built to last, but there is another really important element, and that is making a concerted effort not to take each other for granted.
With everyone tending to full slates of obligations that require a “divide and conquer” mentality, it’s far too easy to slip into phoning it in where a relationship is concerned. Why is it that when everyone says “it’s the little things in life that are important”, it turns out to be the little things that are the first to go when we get busy? When we mostly see each other at the groggy edges of the day, I sometimes forget to pause, really look at Steve, appreciate him for all that’s wonderful about him, and then to do the most important part, tell him that I noticed. And just as it’s important for me to take care of myself, it’s equally important that I do my part to take care of us as a couple. I once heard someone say that whatever you focus your attention on becomes the most important thing to you. It’s so true.
EVERYONE wants to be adored. I think that all any of us want is a partner who really sees us, knows us, understands us, and lets us know from time to time that they took a few minutes out of their day to pay us some small kindness as a nod to the fact that we matter to them. While Steve and I have regular date nights where we can escape being parents for a little while and take time just for us, I wanted to dedicate this post to him because not only is this my small kindness for him today, it’s a permanent record of how I love him and how important he is to me. It’s my open love letter to him.
The day after our wedding, I told Steve that marrying him was the best decision I had ever made. That remains true today. I’ve never met any man that I would rather be with than him. That is the straight up truth, and I hope each of you feel the same way about your current partner or the one you find in the future. When we met, it was immediately obvious that he was different than the guys I had dated. He was sweet and attentive, quick to laugh and funny, polite and well-mannered, and just “good people” if you know what I mean. He was tall, cute, and slightly gawky – a preppy geek. He was such a far cry from the “bad boys” that I was drawn to at the time that he took a little getting used to, but it didn’t really take long for me to start appreciating how great it was to be with a capital-N nice guy.
Here’s what I want you to know about this man. Of all the human beings that I have met in my life thus far, he falls into the extremely rare category of “good to the core”. His integrity is beyond reproach. He is honestly one of the nicest people I know (nicer than I am, for sure). If a friend, or even an acquaintance, needs something, Steve is often the first person to step up and offer help. His generosity astonishes me, whether he’s giving time, money, a shoulder to cry on, his effort, or his labor, he goes all in – again and again and again. He’s very comfortable in his own skin, so much so that I’ve never seen him succumb to the urge to take someone else down a notch to make a point, even when he would be completely justified in doing so. It takes a really big person, emotionally speaking, to operate that way. He is FUNNY and witty, and only growing more so with age. He makes me laugh a lot, and that is a beautiful thing. His humor is never cruel, and he has a gift for telling the unpopular truth in an amusing way so that it can be heard without hurt. And as if that weren’t enough, he is really smart. At 43, he still has boyish good looks, but to me, he’s more handsome than ever these days and I think that is because all of these other amazing qualities are what the physical package is wrapped around, and there is no denying how appealing it all is when considered together.
If I’ve given the impression that the past twenty-one years have been a complete bed of roses, let me clarify. Much of the time has been great, some of it has been mediocre, some of it has been hard as hell with tears, frustration, and heated arguments. But the thing is that a relationship is the proving ground where you test every supposed enlightened thing about yourself. After all, how enlightened really is the Buddhist monk who can only be peaceful when sitting alone and unprovoked in a cave? And if there is one major lesson I’ve learned from all of this, it’s that anything really worth having is worth the hard work it takes to get it and to hold on to it.
When I’ve had a tough day and he showers me with a little of his sticky-sweet adoration, it feels like he’s just thrown a life preserver in my direction that lands within arms length just in time. I can barely believe that I am the one he chose to love. The power of having that one person in your life who is completely, dependably, happily in your corner rooting for you can not be underestimated. I hope you have such a person in your life too.