I smiled to myself as my husband, Frank, handed me a bag of Hershey's Kisses from the grocery store shelf, then said, "Here, I think you need this for Valentine's Day." When I checked my e-mail a little later, he'd sent me an electronic postcard. Lo and behold, I could print out my own Valentine! That night, at a Sunday school party, when each husband presented his wife with a red carnation, Frank handed me the long-stemmed blossom with these romantic words: "Here's your flower." Obviously, my husband is romantically challenged—in the traditional sense. But rather than voice disappointment with Frank's practical, matter-of-fact Valentine, I told him (and myself) how blessed I am to be married to him.
I have to admit, there was a time when I longed to hear sweet nothings whispered in my ear. I yearned for original poems that spoke of undying love inspired by my inner beauty and winsome ways. I dreamed of a man who would serenade me with songs written just for me. But it just didn't happen. I wasn't married to that man. Twenty years after we said "I do," I've come to appreciate Frank's unique terms of endearment. And I've learned to redefine romance in terms of what my unromantic husband has taught me about love.
How love sounds. Songs, sonnets, and sentimentality can be delivered in an attitude of falseness. I've known men whose eloquent expressions were belied by their lack of commitment and faithfulness. My husband, Frank, has taught me that words such as faithful, committed, steady, trustworthy, dependable, and industrious can be synonymous with love. Frank's never effusive with compliments, but what he says is sincere. His simple words convey deep feeling.
How love acts. I no longer expect my husband to be just like me. We have opposite strengths. Creativity's my strength; Frank has a real knack for organization. While I might elect to take a "creative" route to our destination, Frank gets us there. While I'm looking for the perfect present for any occasion (or no occasion), Frank's planning for our future and providing a wonderful home, as well as the many extras we enjoy. But it's his character that's more important to me than his personality. While Frank does remember many special occasions with gifts or flowers, it's his integrity that's by far his most precious gift to me.
How love looks. The love Frank and I have for each other is characterized by our mutual respect and friendship. We're often asked if we're newlyweds because of the way we treat each other, speak to each other, and laugh together. We strive to practice common courtesies with each other. We often trade smiles and winks across the room. We stand together in crises and draw upon each other's strengths.
How I can show love. I've found that the more I express love to Frank, the more loving our whole environment becomes. I've learned to search for ways to show him that love in terms he understands:
• I compliment him in front of other people. He enjoys the compliments I give him directly, but the praise I share with others is especially appreciated.
• I encourage Frank to spend time doing things he thoroughly enjoys (hunting, fishing, etc.). Occasionally I join him for some of those activities.
• I take the lead in situations that are more comfortable for me, such as social settings and activities that involve verbal and written skills. Frank takes the lead in business matters in which he has the expertise and the lightning-fast calculator!
• I occasionally plan some special, creative, romantic surprises. Frank enjoys them—he just doesn't think to initiate them. Some suggestions are:
Send him on treasure hunts to find gifts.
Tuck love notes in his pockets.
Leave massage oil in a brown paper bag (well-sealed, of course) on his desk.
Leave a card under the sofa with a long piece of yarn tied to it. Leave the end of the yarn sticking out for him so he will discover the card.
Write "I love you" with cake decorating gel on his dessert plate.
Leave a love note written in shaving cream on the bathroom mirror.
Take him his morning cup of coffee with some "mug mail" (a strip of paper with a loving message stapled around the handle of his coffee mug).
• Most importantly, we express our love of God together. We make it a part of our formal worship as well as our times together at home.
I've discovered I already have what's important in my life. God's given me a spouse whose practical side is a perfect balance to my emotional, creative side. Given a choice, I'd rather have a husband who's practically perfect than flowers, songs, and poems any day—and every day!
Judy Chaney, a freelance writer, lives in Texas.
Copyright © 2000 by the author and Christianity Today