This week it’s a special Valentine’s night edition of the podcast! We talk about my most romantic memory ever, Elvis, aging, Valentine’s Day, and more. Plus, a song!
A few days ago, we discussed romance on the podcast. A friend of ours posed the question, “Melissa, what is the most romantic thing Chad has done in the past year?” I sat there in silence, desperately trying to think of one huge romantic gesture that I could point to. I tried to remember if he had sent me flowers or had written me a song. I tried to recall some way that he had swept me off of my feet during the past year, and I couldn’t think of a single example. We moved on and finished the podcast, but for several hours afterward I was still troubled by the fact that I couldn’t think of any big thing Chad had done to romance me this year. Because I knew that I FEEL romanced. But, what exactly is it that makes me feel that way, even without a major romantic milestone to look back on?
And, then it hit me. What has romanced me this year isn’t flowers or nights out or even the beautiful diamond ring that Chad splurged on at Christmas (although I am never one to discourage or turn down diamonds). What has made me feel cared for this year is something that goes much deeper than gifts. Unfortunately, we women are so easily convinced that our husbands aren’t doing enough. We compare them to other men or to fictional characters, and we completely discount the ways that they make us feel on a daily basis. The truth is that while I was searching for some grand romantic gesture, I realized that one reason that I’m truly happy and feel loved and adored by my husband is that I decided years ago to try not to miss what’s right in front of me every day.
Like the way that he reaches over and grabs my hand when he’s driving. Or the way that he texts me What are you doonin? because that’s how Emerald used to say “doing.” The way that he saves the last of the whip cream for me. Or the way he picks up my favorite drink when he’s at the grocery store. The way he holds me close at night and makes me laugh even though I’m half asleep. The way he always asks if I’m getting sick when I clear my throat. The way he tells me that things aren’t as fun when I’m not there. Or the way he overlooks it when I snap at him for no reason.
Those are a few of the little things that actually end up being big things in the end.
And that doesn’t even include all of the other ways that he loves me, like working hard for our family, pointing me to Christ every day, adoring our kids, trying to keep his mind and heart pure, spurring me on to follow my dreams, helping me see my own gifts from God.
Oh, dear married friends, what if we quit letting movies and the internet convince us that we need a rose petal-filled bubble bath or a weekend in Europe or a candle-lit dinner in some fancy restaurant? We don’t need those things to be happy in marriage. We just need to be kind to each other. We need to be devoted to each other’s happiness. We need to do those little things that speak to our spouse, but even more importantly, we need to ACCEPT the little things as the most romantic offerings of all.
Someday when I’m sitting in a rocking chair looking back over our life together, it won’t be the big trips or the diamond rings that I remember most. It’ll be all the little things. The small gestures that he makes every day to communicate how much he loves me. If you’re searching for romance in your marriage, chances are you’re ignoring the most romantic things about your life. Stop and think about it, and appreciate all of the little ways that you are being romanced every day. I promise it’ll make marriage more fun and meaningful if you do. Be grateful for what you have and stop pining for a version of marriage that Hollywood dreamed up. Most of the people who wrote that stuff are divorced. Just saying.
Romance is real. And, it’s small. And, it’s glorious. Don’t miss it.
Today I ran across a sweet post written by a marriage blogger. It was a series of fruit of the spirit-themed date nights for couples. It’s an ingenious idea, really, and everyone who was discussing it in the comments seemed excited about the prospect.
But, I laughed.
I was imagining Chad and me setting out to complete the series of date nights, and I estimated that we would be finished sometime in the spring of 2026. I wonder if a spiritually-themed date night series loses its effectiveness if it takes you nine years to go on nine dates?
Needless to say, we don’t date much.
I can’t remember the last time I put on a pretty dress for a night out. We’re in the thick of life with three fun kids and a vibrant church, and there’s no time for date nights. Yet, almost eighteen years into this thing, our marriage has never been stronger. We have never been more spiritually in tune. And, we’ve never truly liked each other more.
A good marriage doesn’t depend on how many date nights you plan.
Marriage is really about the day-to-day, nitty gritty, in-the-trenches stuff. When you depend on each other every day, trust each other every day, and laugh with each other every day, a measly one hour meal in a chain restaurant kind of pales in comparison.
So, if you are not in a phase where dating is much of a priority, take heart. There are plenty of opportunities all around you to love with reckless abandon, to sacrifice willingly, to live out your vows every single day. Don’t believe the hype that only marriages with frequent date nights are good and healthy and happy. There are plenty of us out here who are more in love than ever before, even without a calendar full of scheduled romance. Date when you can, but don’t fail to appreciate the romantic importance of just living every day together as friends. You could be missing the miraculous love that’s right in front of you. You live together. Don’t waste the time you could spend laughing and loving each other because you are so convinced that good marriages only happen in a corner booth someplace.
As we say in Texas, that’s just bull corn.
Marriage is miraculous and fun, with or without date nights. Just keep loving each other. And, someday, if you find yourself in a corner booth someplace, enjoy that, too. Don’t ever lose sight of the fact that you are so, so blessed to be facing this world with your true friend.
On a marriage forum I recently saw a woman describe her dilemma:
My husband and I have been fighting so much that I texted him and asked, “Do you love me?” He answered yes. But, then I asked him, “Are you in love with me?” And he answered no. What should I do?
I wonder where we got the idea that there is a difference between loving your spouse and being in love with your spouse? Love, in the present tense, is happening now. It is on-going. When you say I love you at the altar, when you pledge to stick close through sickness, through lean times, through the worst times, through heartache and hurt and even boredom, you are saying that you vow to love now, to love then, and to love until death separates you.
That kind of love can’t be measured in how many butterflies you get when you lay eyes on your spouse or in how many romantic dinners you’ve gotten in the past year. It can’t even be measured in how many arguments you have or in how often you really don’t have much fun together. The love you vowed to pour out on your spouse is immune to the not-so-fun times. It’s immune to the arguments, to the money struggles, to the long nights with sick babies, to the devastating news. The love you promised to give is selfless. It’s Christ-like. It’s completely unconditional.
That’s a love that doesn’t balk at some extra pounds or some extra years. It doesn’t run away. It doesn’t lose interest. It’s a love that says, I don’t have to feel in love with you at this moment to know that I love you.
Don’t sit around and wonder if you’re still in love with your spouse or if your spouse is still in love with you. Just love him. Just love her. Go above and beyond to shower your marriage with the kind of love that you promised you would demonstrate for the rest of your life. Real love goes so far beyond the feeling of being in love. Make your marriage a picture of sacrifice and blessing, and stop trying to decide what your feelings mean. In-love feelings come and go, but real love goes on and on.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Originally posted October 5, 2013.
When Chad and I fell in love, it was the most life-changing, heart-stopping, breath-taking experience I had ever had. I enjoyed every minute of the long-distance sighing, the love letters, the thousands of emails, and the short amazing visits when he had saved enough money to drive home from Nashville to visit me at college. Everything about it was beautiful and romantic and I was the center of it all, totally adored, completely wrapped up in this really awesome kid’s incredible affection for me.
When I say kid, I mean that quite literally. When we were married, I was 21 years old. He was 24. We were totally living on dreams and promises that we wouldn’t let the world ruin all of our idealistic notions of what it’s like to be married.
But, that darn world. The pesky thing called real life! Man, those two just wouldn’t leave us alone. We had to go to work. We had to pay bills. We had to spend at least eight hours of every day with our co-workers when all we really wanted to do was sit around and hold hands like we had during his whirlwind visits.
He was a night owl. I was a morning person. It turned out he actually needed some time to himself during most days. It so happened that in this new normal I wasn’t the center of his every waking thought. We actually argued. A lot. We discovered lots of little annoying habits. We tried desperately to somehow translate our dating relationship into a marriage that was fun and light-hearted and passionate and fulfilling.
And, we figured things out. We learned how to balance our relationship with that mean old real world. And we were happy.
But, I kept falling into a trap. I just couldn’t stop thinking about those romantic dating years. I couldn’t quit yearning for “that Chad”–the one who wrote poems for me and made me handmade gifts and wrote lovely letters. The one who was obsessed with making sure that I was going to stick with him and marry him. The one who loved me so, so much.
So, I spent years failing to appreciate what was right in front of me because in my mind Dating Chad had loved me so deeply. In my foolishness, I was allowing Chad to lose a contest with himself!
It took time for me to understand that I was looking back on what was a FORM of love. Yes, Chad did love me when we were dating, very much. But, it was an untested love. It was an immature, naïve, and idealistic love. It was a love that had not yet met all of my annoying habits. It was a love that hadn’t cried with me over lost babies or taken care of me when I was violently ill. It was a love that hadn’t seen me gain a few pounds. It was a love between two children. It was real. But, it wasn’t REALLY TRUE LOVE.
True love endures when things get ugly. It lasts through the conflict, the heartbreak, the moves, the babies. It holds your hand when it’s time to push. It cheers you on when you’re trying something scary. It learns with you. It grows with you.
I finally figured out that the Chad I really wanted wasn’t the heartsick poet. It was the strong man who endured so much just to stick by my side. The superior Chad was the daddy, the patient friend, the provider, the spiritual giant.
The truth is that the boy I was holding onto in my heart was just a shadow of the man that I had standing right in front of me. What a shame that I spent so much time trying to wish him back into a lesser version of himself. All because I liked feeling like the center of his universe.
I’m a slow learner. But, by the time many of our friends were beginning to divorce, I had figured out that the real hero of my life wasn’t a gushing letter-writing romantic kid. It was the hard-working, courageous, honest, thoughtful, creative soul that had attached himself to me for the rest of his days. I’m so glad we tied that knot. I loved the kid, and I love the man. But, the man is the real love of my life. Tested, found true and trustworthy.
I’d say that’s pretty romantic.
When Adelade was brand new, the only way she would sleep was in her swing. She was so tiny that she looked swallowed up by the thing every time I put her in there, but as soon as she got settled in and the swing got going, she would sleep for several hours at a time.
I was a first-time mother, and I was shaky. I was almost certain that at any moment something terrible would happen to the baby, so I put her swing in the living room, and I slept on the couch, waking up every half hour or so in a complete panic, blindly feeling for my glasses like Thelma on Scooby Doo so that I could peer at the child across a semi-dark room and prove to myself that she was still breathing.
This is how I slept for weeks. Constant waking up to see if she was still alive. Tossing and turning on an old slip covered couch in the tiny living room of our house. I still remember lying there looking up at the glittered popcorn ceiling while the swing clicked back and forth in its comforting and slightly annoying way. I felt lonely and isolated.
Then one night when I was just settling into the saggy little couch, in walked Chad, carrying his pillow and the blankets off of our bed. Despite the fact that he was due in court in just a few short hours, my young attorney husband laid down on the living room floor between my couch and the baby’s swing. He reached up to pat my arm, and then he quickly fell asleep.
He stayed there all night, in the living room floor, through feedings and changings, sleepily smiling at me as we shook our heads in amazement that this was our new life. Together we half slept while Adelade snoozed happily.
The next morning, I watched Dawson’s Creek reruns in my pjs while he put on his black suit and headed to court to argue for justice. And, I couldn’t seem to get that image out of my mind, Chad shuffling down the hall with his blankets, choosing to sleep on a hard floor because he suspected that I needed the company. I couldn’t forget the feel of his kind patting on my arm, comfort for a weary mama for whom the weight of motherhood was just setting in.
Later, when he came in way after dark, exhausted from a long, trying day, he collapsed onto that saggy couch and held out his hands for his first little daughter.
I doubt I’ll ever forget the night when a hard floor in a tiny living room taught me that real love looks almost nothing like the movies. It is tiny. It is sweet, sleepy reassurance. It can be as simple as deciding to breathe steady together through a long and exhausting night.
Real love is so much more than flower petals and fireworks. If we wake up to the tiny ways that love shows up in our marriages, we’ll be amazed by how much romance is there.
What are some of the small ways you’ve seen love shine in your marriage?
On Monday I had to have a wisdom tooth extracted. I have never had a procedure like that done at the dentist before, and I was nervous about it. I sat nervously in the waiting room until the hygienist called my name, and I followed her all the way to the back of the building, past all of the rooms where lucky people were just getting check ups and xrays, back to the rooms where the bad stuff goes down. I felt like I was being led to the electric chair. I could see the sympathetic looks that employees and patients were giving as I trudged past, headed toward what was sure to be my doom.
I settled into the chair, and the pink-scrub-wearing hygienist mercifully gave me the laughing gas, so I lay and listened to the echo-y sounds of activity happening in the next room. A teenaged boy was in the next chair over. He was also getting a healthy dose of laughing gas, and he kept saying, in a cracked and giddy voice, “My arms feel funny.” Some employees were trying to keep him from texting girls in his current state.
Finally the dentist came into my room and did his work. It was unpleasant, but painless. I can’t help but feel like I did some of my best thinking while I was in the chair, high on laughing gas. I probably had some of my greatest ideas ever, but somehow all I can remember is the teenager repeating, “My arms feel funny,” while a dental hygienist laughed at him.
While in the chair I did do some thinking about romance in marriage. I probably had all of the world’s romance problems figured out. If only I could recall my solutions. I have had some interesting email conversations, though. with husbands who were either appalled or confused by my Valentine’s Day post. It seems that this is a touchy subject for men and women alike, since even the Google searches that brought people to my blog this weekend were things like:
My husband never acknowledges Valentine’s Day
How do I romance my wife on Valentine’s Day
My wife isn’t interested in sex on Valentine’s Day
Why does my wife get mad on Valentine’s Day
I think that I felt encouraged by the fact that the guys cared enough to ask Google about it. But, what I’ve been hearing from readers of my blog are two main things. The guys are saying they resent being forced to romance their wives. The girls are saying their husbands are clueless about their thoughts and feelings.
And, with romance, like all things, the best solution to our problems can actually be found in the Bible.
Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.
Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage.
No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That’s how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his body. And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become “one flesh.” This is a huge mystery, and I don’t pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church. And this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her, and how each wife is to honor her husband. Ephesians 5:22-33
To the Christian men, I would say what I emailed to one husband today: Have patience with your wife, and just remember that God calls husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Jesus holds no good gifts back from us, so you are doing best when you err on the side of spoiling your wife rather than letting pride hold you back from showering her with love in whatever form that she needs it.
To the Christian women, I would say: Have patience with your husband. He cannot understand what you haven’t communicated to him. Don’t tell him one thing when you want another. God calls wives to submit ourselves to our husbands, which DOES NOT mean that we are subservient or that we have to just accept it when we are mistreated or misunderstood. But, it does mean that we are to be open and honest, not manipulative or cold, so that or husbands understand the best way to love us.
Above all, we married people should communicate. We must talk about our expectations and then genuinely try to love each other in the ways that specifically speak to our spouse. The more we communicate, the better we understand each other and the more equipped we are to express the real love that is in our hearts.
One last word to any man or woman who felt disappointed by the outcome of their Valentine’s Day. We all want to feel loved and adored by our husband or wife. But, they are not the source of true joy, and we can’t expect them to bear the weight of making us feel our worth. Only God can fill that role. Turn to Him and allow His comfort and love to soothe your heart. Pray for your marriage and for your spouse. Love them well even when it’s hard. And, love God more.
I hope you all had a nice Valentine’s Day weekend. Chad and I had a terribly busy Valentine’s Day, but he didn’t fail to write and speak words that I needed to hear. His love is real. He says it, and he shows it.
As a follow up to my Valentine’s post on Friday, I would love for you to read the wonderful article by R.C. Sproul, Jr. , called Valentine the Brave. I’m not pointing you there because he calls men relational dolts. The end of the article is so very true, and it will benefit your marriage if you read it, men, and maybe if you pass it along to your husbands, girls.
Sproul lost is wife to cancer several years ago, and, maybe because he has had plenty of time to reflect on his marriage and what he did right and what he would do differently, I find that he always writes about marriage with tenderness and wisdom.
I’m convinced that communication is the key to having a happy marriage. Maybe this is one place to start the conversation.
It happened eighteen years ago. But, I remember it well. Chad and I were long-distance emailers. I guess that’s the most you could say about our relationship at the time. We had been friends for several years, but he graduated from college and moved away to Nashville. In true star-crossed-lovers fashion, he confessed some sort of “like” for me just before he moved fourteen hours away.
Email was new technology for us, and since we couldn’t really afford to talk on the phone we wrote pages and pages of emails to each other. I still remember the sound of the dial-up internet cranking up while I waited anxiously to see if I had a new message from him.
He couldn’t know it, but by the time the end of the first summer had rolled around, I was madly in love with him. I tried to act nonchalant about it all, as if I could take or leave him, and maybe that’s how I opened the door for Tanya.
The sound of her name still makes my blood boil.
I knew something was wrong. His emails were short. His tone was strained. A few days later he confessed that he had made grilled cheese sandwiches in his rotting little house on Chamberlin Street for a girl named Tanya, and afterward he walked her to the car and she kissed him. Yes, he kissed her back.
I kept up the it’s-really-none-of-my-business-what-you-do act, but inside I was crushed. I was furious. And I wanted to give this girl Tanya a piece of my mind. Don’t worry, I didn’t. I never met her. He decided he would never see her again, the emailing marathon continued, and a few months later we were officially dating. A few months after that, we were engaged. And, here we are, married for fifteen years, with three kids and an amazing life.
And, I still feel jealous when I think of Tanya.
Why do I feel that way? Well, it’s because I love Chad. I love him so much that my heart is repulsed at the idea of him loving (or even liking) anyone else.
I remember when Oprah famously said that she decided to reject the teachings of her church-going childhood because she heard a pastor rightly state that God is a jealous God. It’s written in Exodus 38:14 (among other places in Scripture). God is laying out his covenant with Israel, and he makes it clear that He expects absolute loyalty and a singular focus from the Israelites: “For you shall worship no other God, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”
I suppose Oprah heard these words, and with the shallow and ungrounded theology she had been taught, she imagined God as an abusive husband, keeping his wife locked inside, spying on her, ready to step in at any moment to knock her down. She must have pictured an insecure, small God.
But, thankfully, we don’t get to make up in our own minds who God is. Scripture is perfectly clear that God is holy, perfect, without flaw or fault. There is no ounce of insecurity or pettiness in Him. Does He love us deeply and demand our fidelity in return? Or course.
But, this demand is born of His love, not an imagined insecurity. John MacArthur describes God’s desire to see us fulfill our purpose for living, which is to know Him: “God says I tolerate no rivals. You were made to know Me. You are Mine. I made you for that purpose. I tolerate no intruders.” He doesn’t intend to share His people with other gods or lesser objects. MacArthur goes on to say that even just failing to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength is an indication that we have placed other things on a higher plane than Him. And, in His sovereignty, in His rightness, in His holiness, He has every cause to burn with jealousy when that happens.
God’s jealousy is nothing like an abusive husband’s. It’s not even like an emailing eighteen year-old’s. His jealousy is borne of holiness, a demand for complete devotion, and a desire to see us live out our full potential as His creation: people who know Him well, and who love Him completely.
I don’t know if I personally will ever stop feeling jealous when I think about that kiss-stealing Tanya girl. But, I do know that I have, for all these years, felt great satisfaction in knowing that I won him in the end. I suppose tonight the question on my mind is just what it is in my life that is keeping me from running to God with all of my heart, all of my mind, all of my soul, all of my strength? What in my little world inspires jealousy in my God?
I know God wins me in the end. I am safe in His hand and can never be snatched out of it. (John 10:29) But, will the lesser objects that interfere with my love for Him keep me from living out the fullness of this life? A life that is meant to glorify God?
His name is Jealous. His love is fierce. His devotion is complete.
May I tear down the idols in my life with both hands. He is jealous for me.
We had an eventful long weekend. Chad and I went to Six Flags without the kids and rode every roller coaster as many times as possible. By the end of the night the place was practically deserted, and we rode the biggest rides over and over again. It. Was. Awesome. This is how you celebrate fifteen years of marriage if your idea of romance is chatting with junior high band nerds while waiting to ride in vehicles that will flip you upside down at high rates of speed. We had so much fun and made so many funny memories to celebrate fifteen years of marriage.
Everyone at home was wondering why we have no pictures of our day at the park, but neither of us have smartphones anymore, and “dumb” phones really take awful pictures. So, the only pictures we have of the weekend are the ones in our memories, and I am totally okay with that.
We rode a really fun thing called the Rock-n-Rocket. It’s a huge swinging rocket that eventually swings all the way around, flipping you upside down. It was great fun, except there was a kid facing us on the opposite end of the ride who was spitting every time he swung to the top. The riders on our end of the rocket were hollering at him to stop, but he did it several times, and what can you do when you’re strapped into a gigantic ride and some teenager is spitting on you? After the ride we realized that the kid was wearing a Christian tshirt, so Chad walked up and asked the boy if he is a Christian. When he answered “yes,” Chad told him that was a good reason to stop spitting on people. It reminded me of Proverbs 20:11: Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right.
We should all think hard about what we do while we profess to be Christians.
Today we took the kids to play mini-golf and eat sno-cones. It was really fun. I managed to beat Chad at mini-golf, and let me tell you he really hates losing. So, I’m just shouting it from the rooftops a little bit. I did most of my putting with Emerald standing between me and the putter, so maybe I had some kind of strange toddler-attachment advantage. Motherhood is weird like that.
I pray you had a good long weekend. I feel grateful tonight for brave Americans who died in service to our country. Many had bright futures ahead of them with families just like mine, but they gave it all up to ensure the freedom of future generations. There really is no way to properly comprehend or appreciate that fact. America was built on the courage of such men and women.
Blessings until tomorrow!