It’s Valentine’s Day and there are no words that adequately describe how much I have truly loathed this holiday. I shared last year, I think it was, why this is my least favorite day of the year – But to catch you up – This day 18 years ago, I married someone who aided in making life horrible and proceeded to do so after our divorce, for seven additional years. So this day for me tends to just be a reminder of that old life, way back when. This morning, however, I woke up to a hand-made card from my wonderful husband, with his words of love and adoration filling the internal pages.

I read his love letter and walked into the kitchen where he had prepared our espresso machine for my morning cup, so that I didn’t have to. Doing all of this, just before he left for work and while I slept. He knows how much I hate this day and how little it means to me in terms of showing love, and yet he made careful steps to help start this day off right, because of his love for me. If I had woken up to all the normal valentine’s day gifts, I probably would have contemplated throwing them all away, just to keep myself from being reminded by heart shaped boxes and gifts adorned in shades of red and pink. Well that’s harsh, I wouldn’t have thrown them away — But I would have put them in a room I hardly go into. He knew exactly what to do, to make this day about his love, and not about the holiday itself.

There are two different views of me in this home. To me, I am not an easy person to love. I am stubborn, impatient, particular about how I want things to be, my jokes can be hard hitting and a little too close to home, I go from being extroverted and chatty to a total recluse who needs to not speak or be spoken to, and the list goes on. I think personally, that I can be hard to live with, to say the very least. But to my husband, I am likely all of these things – Only secondary to the actual woman that he loves. How I see myself makes it hard at times for me to understand what it is that he sees in me. How it is that he can love and put up with me as much as he does. Most days I do not at all feel as though I deserve him. Other days I am just waiting for him to flip a switch and storm out, suitcase in hand. But he never does.

When we first started dating, ten years ago, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop with him. I waited for that day when I would realize that he had another family, a terrible history, or violent tempter. Anything that would change the image of the man who I was growing quickly to love. I kept waiting and even pushed back a little just to see what kind of reactions I would get that would further my belief that he was too good to be true. Instead, he only kept showing me the same sides that I felt could not possibly be who he really was. No one could be this good, this honest, this loyal, this loving, this compassionate, no one. But he was, and he still is. A few years later, when I finally gave up running from the possibility of marriage and entered into this union with him, there was a lingering doubt that once we were legally bound to each other, then, his true colors would finally show. That day never came. His true colors, were exactly what he had been showing me all along.

For me, loving him is easy. He makes it effortless. I could pick him apart and the most unlovely qualities that I would find, is the random shoes and clothes he leaves around the house. Or the way that he sometimes lives in his own head with worry, as not to show me that he is concerned about something outside of his control. He holds his concerns to spare me from worrying over the same. That’s the most that I could ever come up with about him that’s at all negative in any way – And even that is not a negative quality. His desire to be the head of this family and shoulder the burdens for us, keeps him at times quiet, with his own worry that he will somehow fail us. Which in my eyes, he could never do.

Yes, many times I think that I got the much better deal out of the two of us. He, having never had children or been married before, took on a divorced, single woman with a lot of hang-ups and a little child. He then protected and helped raise this child into the amazing young lady that she is today. He is a remarkable father not only to his step-daughter, but also to our own little four year old girl. He shows equal love, care and concern for them both, never once showing bias or playing favorites. The day that we became a family, is the day that we started winning. Sometimes I wonder if he did though. If all that makes me so very difficult is worthy of the love that he gives.

Have you ever had to love someone who makes it increasingly hard to do so? Was it difficult for you, not to turn and walk away? As much as I love my husband, I see that the love he shows is one which he had to learn how to give, all on his own, first. Which makes him even more of a remarkable man, because he had no one to show it to him. His mother time and again showed how much she loved herself over her kids. His father did much of the same. And yet somehow, he learned it.

Some of us learn by what we aren’t taught. We learn to be good people, by being surrounded by bad ones. We learn to be honest by experiencing only dishonesty. We learn to be loyal, by living through great betrayal. We learn to be decent by having witnessed egregious atrocity. We learn to give respect, by being continually shown disrespect. We learn to love, by only receiving anger, hate or indifference. Some of us take the moldy crumbs we’re given and decide that we will be better than what was shown to us. We overcome, so that we never make others feel how we were made to feel inside.

Each thing that my husband does to show his love is from a place that at one time was left empty, and wanting. He made the decision that he would never be the parent that he was raised with, and he has succeeded — Because both of these girls know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they are loved, cared for and protected, and that their feelings matter. He decided that he would not be the husband and father who abandoned his family, and chose to always put in the effort to make our family work, and takes equal responsibility in the creation of a strong marriage. He decided that he would never tell lies to protect himself from scrutiny or backlash, but instead became the most honest and trustworthy person that I have ever met. He doesn’t shy away from his flaws, but owns them responsibly and makes changes to himself, in order to be better. He decided that he would never put himself above the love he has for others, and would any day of the week give everything he has to help, encourage and support someone else. He decided that he wouldn’t bring harm to anyone, through his words or his actions, and made the choice to both think, act and speak through the ways of compassion, love and truth. He is the man that he is today for us, because of all that he learned from people who were difficult to love.

Every day that I get to know him more, is a day that I also get to know the purest, kindest and most selfless form of love. And this has changed me. His goodness, his light, for me illuminated all of the areas where I could be better. Where I could do more to be the kind of person that he is. In being loved by him, it put me on this road to self-improvement, with the desire to be more deserving of his love. In this, his mere presence has changed the entire course of my own existence. On a day that we usually celebrate our love for someone else — I want to take it a step further and instead celebrate the love, seemingly undeservingly received, from the ones who love us so completely. The ones who challenge us to rise above, simply through the act of their love.

Thank you — My husband, My Love — For always giving what you know that we as human beings, deserve to have, and cannot survive without. Thank you for being a mirror reflection of love and faithfulness, in all of its many forms. Ti Amo….