My wife and I have long ago abandoned most outward displays of romantic commitment. I buy her flowers on occasion, but rarely on Valentine’s Day. And every day isn’t a testament to our enduring love. We still argue and get annoyed by one another. We have to work on our relationship. But when I saw her sitting across the room from me today I remembered a moment during our engagement when we went to visit her parents. They hadn’t met me before Judy and I announced our engagement, and this trip turned out to be one of mutual inspection: they wanted to see if I was a good match for their daughter; I wanted to get a feel for the dynamics and history of my intended’s family. The second night we were sitting at the table after supper getting better acquainted, and I suddenly found myself listening intently to my fiancee’s voice. She was talking with great animation with her father, but I didn’t really hear the words. What caught my attention was the timbre, the rise and fall of the notes, her slight Pennsylvania Dutch accent. And I was struck by the knowledge that this was the voice that I’d be listening to for the rest my life.
A few years later one of my relatives thanked my wife for being generous enough to marry me. The woman went on to say that the family thought that I would never get married as I was such a difficult person to understand. As we drove home that night Judy turned to me and said, “You’re the one in your family who’s easy to live with.” I felt a surge of love for her while at the same time hoped that she’d never change her mind once she really got to know me. I had plenty of doubts about my worth.
Her understanding of my personality and character has evolved over the last 32 years, and I’m relieved to say that she still loves me now that she is thoroughly acquainted with my strengths and faults. That’s a huge gift, and I sometimes don’t think that I deserve it. I’m still a bit surprised that she enjoys my companionship, that she smiles at me when I come home from work, that in many ways we feel closer than we ever have before.
Beyond her acceptance she has stood behind me in hard times. She took care of me while I was recovering from a difficult surgery. We had only had known each other for seven months, but she made sure that my needs were met. I’ll never forget how comforted I felt when I saw her look down at me with deep concern and understanding as I lay in a hospital bed. She was willing to suffer along with me.
And years later she walked out of a church meeting with me to show her solidarity when my motives and character came under attack. She didn’t hesitate when I stood up, spoke my peace and said, “I’ve had enough of this.” My wife said, “I’m with him,” and we marched out the door together.
And that’s the crux of it: she’s with me and I’m with her.