I've been sick this week. Coughing, not being able to sleep, congested, just not feeling good at all. It's been one of those weeks (like every other week) where I've needed the help of my husband for things, like dishes and laundry, taking care of our daughter, taking care of me. Much like any other time, my husband steps up without even having to be asked and does everything that needs "doing." He rubs my shoulders and fixes me dinner. He gets my medicine together. At 4 am, when I couldn't breathe and was coughing up a lung, he fixed me hot tea to soothe my throat and made sure I was comfortable so I could sleep. I know I don't talk about all of the wonderful things my husband does for me, it makes me sound spoiled (which I am) and lazy (which I probably am, too). My husband enjoys doing things for other people. It's just in his nature. If it wasn't me, it would be one of the kids. He rubs their backs to go to sleep, he fixes their plates, he watches anything they want on TV. He is just a giver at heart and loves to do things for other people, especially ones he cares about and loves. He makes me want to be a giver, too. I woke up early this morning, still coughing, still sick, and let him sleep in. I did the dishes and cleaned up, so he could get some much needed rest, too. It's a two way street in our house.
As I sat in bed, at 4 am, sipping the tea my husband so selflessly made for me, I couldn't help but think of myself at 25, in relationship after relationship with men who treated me terribly and couldn't care less about my well being. But, they said "they loved me."
Since I have been with my husband, I've been in the hospital three times. Once to have a baby, once with an infection, and once for surgery. Turns out, I am about to have surgery again, and I haven't once questioned whether my husband will be there for me. I've had surgery before in another relationship. Just a day surgery, but surgery. My boyfriend at the time took me to the hospital and took me back home. He was supposed to be taking care of me, I was taking pain pills and couldn't get around very well. He took me home, and put me in bed, then proceeded to tell me he'd need to leave to go play in a softball game with his friends. A game he never mentioned before. A game that was so important, he would rather leave me, freshly stitched up and floating on pain pills, by myself for several hours, while he went with his friends to play a game. I was furious. I was so disappointed. I couldn't believe it. He made me feel like I should have been grateful for the time he spent that day with me already, that somehow because he'd spent the majority of the day taking me where I needed to go, that I shouldn't be asking for more. He made me feel selfish and awful, begging him to stay with me, to take care of me. He left anyway. I was at home, alone, under the influence of pain pills, crying. Sobbing. So upset that a man who was supposed to love me would leave me when I needed him the most.
As I am thinking about going into surgery again, it's not even a question that my husband will be there. That he will take care of all of the little things that need taking care of. That he will be there to help me, to keep me comfortable, to lay with me, to love me. I never thought, when I was in the process of being treated awfully all those years, that this was what true love was.
I thought that true love was that "stomach flip" feeling of waiting for the guy you "loved" to call you or give you attention. Or show up somewhere you were at. Or to invite you out on a date. I thought love was giving the guy space to "change," accepting him for who he was, even if the person he was is a selfish, narcissistic, manipulator. I thought love meant waiting years for a man to change, to show you he really could be "that guy" for you. I spent so many years in relationships like that, never being abused per se, but just always settling for being treated less than how I deserved to be treated. I was always just accepting that things couldn't really be better, that there was no guy out there in the world that really would put my needs above his own, who would look at me and love me for every single thing I was, despite my flaws and shortcomings. I always thought, "He isn't really that bad of a guy, I mean, he doesn't hit me or abuse me, he's OK..." and it wasn't that these guys were bad guys, they just didn't love me the way I needed to be loved.
I never looked at the men I dated as husbands or fathers. I never thought, while I was waiting for them to change, what it would be like if we ever had children together. While I was begging them to love me and take care of me, that I would probably have been suffering through motherhood on my own. That I would be doing all of the things around the house without help because if that guy can't love you and take care of you the way you need now, he will never be able to do it for his family. I never thought at the time of the type of marriage I wanted. The type of marriage where we both listened to each other, wanted the best for each other, would do things for each other. The type of marriage where God is the center. I wasn't thinking that far ahead. I just saw the person I was with as the best I could do. The best I could get. And I accepted it for so long. It was so hard. Every day was a struggle. Every day was "what kind of person would this guy be today?" Never the same. One day, he was loving. The next day, he was distant. It was heartbreaking. It was less than I deserved.
When I met my husband, things were easy. He was the same way, every single day. He loved me from the start, wanted to marry me from the start. I never questioned his love for me. I watched him be a dad, the kind of dad I wanted for my child to have. I watched him be a boyfriend, then a fiancée, then a husband. I have watched him, now, for four years of marriage (almost!) and I never, ever take for granted his love for me. I always try to give back to him what he gives to me. He makes me want to be the best person I can be. He tells me to pray to God when I need guidance. He prays for me. He is a Godly man. He is a man I never thought could exist, until one day, I told God, "No more guys that treat me badly, God. I promise. I will stop thinking I know the guy that's best for me, and I will accept the guy you send for me." A month later, my husband came into my life. I knew this relationship was different, it would be better. It ended up being better than I ever dreamed it would or could be.
So, if you are in a relationship right now, and that person wouldn't get up with you at 4 am to take care of you when sick, or wouldn't be there for you, without a doubt, when you needed it the most, or you couldn't imagine him as a father to your children, or he has shown you time and time again how selfish he is, run. Run away. There is someone out there that is SO MUCH BETTER. There is someone out there who'll love you and accept you and be there for you. You just have to know you are good enough to deserve it.