Today marks the beginning of what my wife and I lovingly refer to as “Beth Week.” Within a 5-day period in mid-February, we celebrate our wedding anniversary, her birthday, and Valentine’s Day. Since one gift, no matter how large, can never cover more than one special day, these week’s have become something of a challenge over the years. I started out with grand gestures and have gradually gotten the kids more involved. This year, though, I think we finally reached a pinnacle in our relationship. A toilet and a ceiling fan.
That’s right, for our anniversary this year, my wife, Beth bought me a toilet and a ceiling fan. My gift to her…installing them! Sometimes, the practical gift is the one that means the most!
You see, we all go through stages in life and love is no different.
There’s that young love, that infatuation stage, where you fawn all over each other and can’t stand being apart for more than 30 minutes. Then you start to realize that, you know, maybe you two actually have some different interests. I mean, seriously, do we have to EVERYTHING together? I don’t really want a manicure, sweetie, but you go on ahead now! For those with trust issues, this stage can lead to problems!
Next you enter into that stage where you both start to change, but not necessarily at the same time or in the same way. This is when life actually starts to happen. This is when the fighting starts. Your expectations for each other change. Resentment builds because one gets to leave the house and go to work while the other is stuck in the house or one is responsible for all of the bills while the other gets to stay home and “play” all day long. Kids both add to this frustration and help you bury down deep inside. “We have to keep it together for their sake, we tell ourselves.” The truth, however, is that both of you are ready to explode at any moment. Sometimes, it’s just the routine that gets you thought it.
Strong couples gut it out during this time. They understand that liking each other and loving each other are not always the same thing. In working through it and opening up to one another, they can come to see each other through their partner’s eyes. This can be both sobering and invigorating. You get to see your faults, but you also have the chance to understand how little they know about what you do. This is where the truly lasting relationships are formed.
Beth and I are celebrating our 13th wedding anniversary today, but we were together for about 3 1/2 years before that. In over 16 years together, we’ve had our share of challenges. We’ve done college together. We did the long-distance relationship thing when I was in the army. We’ve worked through kids and advanced degrees, giving pecks on the cheek as we trade keys in driveway. I have struggled with PTSD, she has struggled with my PTSD, and I have struggled with her struggling with my PTSD. Through it all, through fussing and fighting with kids and each other, through days with neither of us really liked each other, we always continued to love and respect one another.
We’ve both come to realize that the grandiose gestures and the expensive gifts, in the long run, mean very little. It’s the day in, day out that makes a relationship work. We need more toilets and ceiling fans in our lives and less silver and gold. Flowers are not only for special occasions and special occasions are not only for flowers. We have come to a sort of unspoken understanding, one that neither has nor needs words to describe it. We accept each other not for who we want each other to be, but for who we actually are.
There is a certain peace and comfort in that that I find more attractive and appealing than any grand gesture.