You Have Earned My Love
My husband and I were sitting on a bench outside of an auto shop in small-town Missouri waiting for his truck inspection to be completed. He had his arm on the back of the bench with his hand on my shoulder. I was snuggled in next to him as we talked about being one day away from our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.
The moment could not have been more perfect if we had been on the balcony of a luxury hotel overlooking Waikiki Beach. If we had been watching the sunset over the hills of Tuscany, the moment may have been more peaceful, but it would not have been more significant. Because it was right then that I realized why so many marriages go wrong. Or why so many marriages are more of a contractual business deal than they are a privilege. I was just thinking out loud when I said, “It’s sad that _____ will never know this kind of love. His wife will never be as in love with him as I am with you. She will never feel this way about him. And the reason he won’t, and she won’t, is because he doesn’t deserve it. He has not earned her love.”
Often when couples “fall in love” and get married, they are banking on the emotional euphoria of being in love to sweep them into a lifetime of happiness, romance, wealth, 2.5 perfect children, and the house with the white picket fence. Anyone who has been married more than six months knows that it takes more than feelings to stay married. It takes–big gulp!–the sacrificial decision to put your spouse’s needs above your own needs. It takes the many daily decisions to do what is best for the marriage and your family, rather than what one may feel or want to do personally.
As of today, I’ve been happily, joyfully, would-do-it again-in a minute, my-life- would-be-awful-without-you, married for twenty-five years, so I believe that I have the credibility to reach the conclusion that my husband has indeed earned my love. He has done it in a million different ways. He earns my love when he says that I’m pretty. You would think that after twenty-five years, I wouldn’t need to hear it anymore, but now that some wrinkles and grey hairs have surfaced, it may be silly, but I need to hear it even more. He earns my love every day that he loads up lawn mowers on a trailer and sets out to earn a living in the hot sun, instead of in a cool, dark theater doing what he loves, holding a microphone and singing his heart out.
He earns my love when he counsels our 21 and 17-year-old sons on what a real man is and does. When he quizzes them on the principles of manhood that he taught them when they were small boys, they listen and learn because they have watched him live out those principles, and in doing so, he has earned their respect and love. He earns my love when he gets up from the dinner table and does this dishes. He earns my love when he can make me laugh at myself, and he even enjoys it when I make him laugh at himself.
He has earned my love and respect so thoroughly that I trust him completely. I have never worried that he would be unfaithful. I have never had to second-guess his integrity. He has never lied to me. He has never raised his hand to me. He has never threatened to leave me. He would never consider making a decision of any consequence for our marriage or family without consulting me and valuing my opinion. And the few times when he’s overruled my decision, I may not have been happy about it, but I have accepted his decision because he has earned my love and respect.
He’s had to put up with a lot from me, and I admit it openly. I’m usually even-tempered and pride myself on not being a “silly” woman, but when I get on a rampage about something, I can be a handful. When I started experiencing hormonal changes, he treaded lightly. He jokes that he would get up in the morning, peer around the corner into the kitchen, and wonder if he was already in trouble! Yet, in spite of it all, he has treated me like a queen. Yes, he has, indeed, earned my love.
Now here’s where it gets fun! Because he has earned my love, and I trust him to have my best interests at heart, I want to earn his love–not because I don’t have it, because I do. But I find myself wanting to be a better woman and wife because I want to be as good for him as he is for me. This cycle of living and loving each other, and the two being better together than one is separately, is what can make twenty-five years of marriage a joy!
Husbands, earn your wife’s love. Wives, earn your husband’s love. Don’t take him or her for granted. Show love, speak love, give love, receive love. Last week, we sat with an eighty-four-year-old friend whose wife passed on two years ago. He’s lost without her. He misses her everyday. He told my husband to hold my hand and tell me that he loves me everyday because he would give anything in the world to have his wife back for just one day. That’s true love.
I’m going to give this article to my sons. They need to learn the importance of earning a woman’s love. They’ve watched it, and soon it will be time for them to live it. They must become men of integrity who deserve to be honored the way I honor their father. There is no one I would rather be with, talk to, laugh with, be held by, or cry with. Thank you, babe, for twenty-five years. You have earned all of my love.