WHAT DOES IT MEANS WHEN YOU SAY “I LOVE YOU”?
Sometimes when I tell my wife I love her she asks me, “Are you sure?”
This happened recently, and I realized perhaps we were working from different definitions of the word “love.”
In many ways, my wife’s life is a miracle. Her parents struggled to have children for years, and suffered through more miscarriages than anyone should have to endure. Eventually the doctors told them that having children was not in the cards for them. They began fostering children, and finally adopted a baby boy. They’d given up all hope that they would ever have children of their own.
And then a few years later my wife was born. Baby Melissa Anne vanSpronsen, 8 lbs. 3 ounces.
The doctors were confounded. Her mother was overjoyed. Her father was proud. By medical standards, it apparently should have never happened. An apparent medical miracle.
Melissa’s parents divorced when she was young, and she grew up bouncing back and forth between households but never feeling like she fit in anywhere. Sadly, her older adopted brother turned abusive and left her family with wounds that are still healing. Melissa and I met in our early twenties, fell in love, and got pregnant while we still lived a thousand miles apart. It made for a heartbreaking, tornado-of-a-start to our family and our marriage.
The thing is, you’d never know most of those things if you’d just met my wife. Not because she isn’t open about them, but because she chooses not to let tragedies of the past control her life in the present. She’s a wonderful person that a friend recently described as “refreshing to be around.”
Considering some of her story, my wife’s sense of humor is amazing. In fact, laughter is one of the most vital things in our household. Recently she’s been keeping track of how many times I’ve laughed in a day. She tells funny stories about her middle and high school years. Like how she skipped her entire freshman year faking mono, because she hated high school. Or how she wore overalls almost every day with a bathing suit underneath, or socks with sandals. And if you catch her in the right mood, she might sing along to an 80’s song like “The Final Countdown” and do an interpretive magic show (excuse me, illusion show.)
All joking aside, my wife is also incredibly attractive. Although if you mention that, she’ll likely make a face at you, or make a joke about how she used to wear socks with sandals or overalls with a bathing suit underneath.
Looking back thirty years, my wife has a beautifully redemptive story. God has been kind to her and to our family. I can’t even begin to tell you what a amazing mother she is. I tell her often that comparatively, I don’t think she got a fair shake in life. And yet she’s taken that and lives a full life full of friends and family. She’s endured many hardships that I’ll likely never have to. When I stop to think about it, the way my wife lives her life is incredible compared to some of what she’s been through. It’s really inspiring.
Anyone who has been married knows that you inevitably have these moments where you think, “Oh no…I’ve married the wrong person.” You get mad at each other, say something stupid, maybe even wish that you could bail out on the other person. But then something happens. You start to remember that their story is just as important as your story. You remember both the good times and the bad times. You realize that you have a shared history and a life together. And you remember that you “love” them.
So you apologize. Or in our family’s case, often my wife is the bigger person and apologizes first. So then we both apologize and realize that being right wasn’t more important than showing love to each other. We have some tears and honesty and long conversations. And then somehow the next morning, there is a tighter bond and a deeper story.
So to answer your question, Melissa: Yes I do love you. Sometimes I “feel” that way, sometimes I don’t. But feelings come and go. When I say I love you, I mean something different. I mean that I’m so happy that you’re alive, and I find deep meaning and growth in our marriage, and look forward to continuing to grow together. And that doesn’t come and go. That’s constant, that remains.
Until death do us part, I love you.
Happy 30th birthday Melissa, my beautiful miracle of a wife.