I knew I was going to marry my husband after dating him for 6 months.
I knew he was the one. Not because he gave me some big diamond ring or because he lavished me with gifts or because he had the looks of Adonis.
This is how I discovered true love:
Six months into dating my husband, I spent a week in the hospital having an invasive abdominal surgery. The recovery from that surgery was a lot like a Caesarean. I had a large abdominal cut and the pain and scars to go with it. I was only 22.
My husband and I had started dating right after my college graduation. Our relationship had a funny start as I played hard to get. I wasn’t sure where my path was headed, but I wasn’t sure that I was ready to settle down. But on a cool fall day, 16 years ago, I knew I was going to marry my husband, and I knew it because he helped carry me to the bathroom. I struggled to hold myself up when I felt like all of my insides were going to fall out. He reassured me, despite the pain and told me I was doing great; he stroked my hair to soothe me. When the nurses and doctors told me to walk so I could feel better, he took me for daily walks and encouraged me when I thought I couldn’t make it back down the hall. He would say, “come on, you can do it … just one more door.” He didn’t care that I was wearing that hideous hospital gown or that my hair was tangled and my skin was sallow.
I knew that I had found true love.
True love comes in the form of a man who will clean your dressing, pick you up when you are down (literally and figuratively), remember to give you your medicine, hold your head when you’re sick … the list goes on. Sixteen years ago, when I told him he should date someone else because I probably could not have children as the doctors had told me, he didn’t leave me. He stayed by my side and said, “we’ll figure it out.” That’s when I knew I was going to marry him.
Ten years later, he reaffirmed my decision.
I fell in love with my husband even more when his mother fell sick with cancer. It was then that I was reminded of how compassionate he was. I saw the man his mother had raised and how strong he was. He didn’t hesitate to care for her and to hold her hand when she needed it. He nurtured her and reassured her every minute he could in those last weeks of her life. He watched his mother go from being lucid and fresh faced to being withered and struggling for her breath. Like he had done fore me, he held her hand, stroked her hair and encouraged her even though he knew, deep down, that the end was near. There is nothing more eye opening about the kind of man your husband is until you are with him in those moments when his mother takes her last breath and you are reminded of what true love is.
Two years later, after the birth of our child, once again, I was reminded of the man I fell in love with.
He held my hand as they did the c-section, he smiled with joy as our son cried his first cry. He told me “I’m so proud of you!” and held our sweet baby up to my face. “We did it!!!” Once again, he helped me to the bathroom the first time after the birth. He helped me shower and wash and dry my hair. He didn’t make fun of the funny underwear, and he helped me get dressed so I could feel normal again. All of those other other embarrassing postpartum symptoms were no big deal to him, and he embraced sleeping on that uncomfortable vinyl fold out couch because I didn’t want to be alone. He did so much to help and I didn’t have to ask. Once again, he encouraged me and walked me through the halls of the hospital … “one more door…” But, by far, the moment that reaffirmed my love for him: my heart nearly exploded when I saw him embrace our son.
A few months later, I was dark in the depths of postpartum anxiety. I had a hard time completing daily activities and I couldn’t stop crying. He knew something wasn’t right. He helped me, supported me and guided me to the help I needed. He helped me to the light and out of the darkness. He picked me up when I needed it. He showed me his love for me, not with words, but with his actions.
Three years later, there I was, once again, in surgical recovery. Knowing that I no longer could bear children, he once again stepped up. He held my hand as I shivered out anesthesia and with the help of the nurses, he walked me to the bathroom, even though I nearly got sick all over him. While I recuperated, he gave me my medicine on a schedule, he helped me shower, and he took over the care of our son so that I could heal.
If there is one thing I have learned over the last sixteen years, it is that all of the material gifts in the world do not prove true love. Sure, they are nice, but when it comes down to it, his actions speak louder than any material gift he could give. It is expressed in actions of compassion, kindness, and selflessness. Sometimes, I may get frustrated with my husband over trivial things, but then I will I recall how much he has stood by me during some of my most vulnerable and dark moments and he has never asked for anything in return.