I'm guilty of putting love into a box -- a box that says a man really only loves his wife if he shows her his love in very specific, planned, romantic ways.
He's got to take her out on dates if he loves her. He's got to write her love letters like he did while they were dating. He's got to send her roses. And light candles during Saturday-night dinners. And buy her sparkly, shiny rocks to adorn her fingers and wrists as symbols of his love. Oh, how, I've mistakenly grown up putting love into this box, this perfect and rigid box. And, oh, how I've been heartbroken when my husband hasn't loved me inside the box, wondering if he even loves me at all.
It's been a process, but I'm learning to love and embrace love outside of the box. I'm learning daily about loving and living beyond that little space in which I've so frequently tried to trap affection and heartfelt emotion.
I'm learning what love played out -- outside of that box -- looks like. And it's beautiful, breathtaking.
It's forfeiting your Saturday mornings to get up with the kiddos while your wife sleeps until 10 a.m.
It's single-handedly bathing and putting two little ones to sleep while she escapes for a bit after a long day bound to the house with a cranky toddler and teething baby even though you've been working all day, too.
It's driving all the way to her mom's house after a long day of work during rush hour with two irritated children just so she can cram as much time as possible with her family into the weekend.
It's rubbing her back every night while she's pregnant for hours, attempting to make her just a little more comfortable.
It's wearing a silly cowboy hat to appease your two year old enough to let his mommy take a picture of him while he's smiling.
It's walking out the door every morning to go to a job that isn't as exciting as maybe you'd hoped because it provides for her and your little ones.
It's entertaining both kids and a dog during the Superbowl so she can sit alone and just breathe out the craziness of the day.
It's holding her when she cries or doubts or fears or stumbles or falls and assuring her that you've got her back this time and every time.
And it's being here. Being present. Being attentive. Being brave enough to love her outside of the box even when she doesn't understand what that looks like or how much it means.
And the roses? Well, the roses, really, are just the punctuation at the end of an action-packed sentence that you've been living for the past four and a half years of marriage.
Thank you for teaching me how to love outside the box, John. My heart will always be yours.