I was at a father and son camp out with folks from my church, talking with an old friend next to the campfire. We used to live down the street from each other. I knew him well enough to know that he was a good father and provider. From what I could tell, he seemed like a good husband, too. But when I mentioned to him that I hadn’t gone a day without telling my wife I loved her, and we’d been together for 14 years, he scoffed at me.
He mentioned that he’d been married for just shy of 20 years, and he couldn’t recall the last time he said he loved his wife, but that he showed her that he loved her by going to work and providing for the family. That’s when I scoffed at him.
Now, naturally, all marriages are different, but here’s what I understand from my vantage point, and ultimately, this is what I told this father and friend. I’ve been writing about parenting and marriage for years. I don’t know exactly what it is about me, but I get a lot of messages from women trying to “fix” their husbands. Is fix the right word? I’m not sure if they are broken, per se, but what I do know is that I’ve noticed some consistency in the messages I receive.
Sure, there are women who message me, and it seems very clear that their male partner is abusive emotionally or physically. These are some of the saddest messages I receive. But time and time again, I get messages from women married to men who are just like this old friend I was arguing with around the campfire. They are good fathers and good providers. They are not abusive or mean, but when it comes to their marriage, they are apathetic. It almost seems like they got married and checked it off the list, like someone does when they buy an appliance. “I got a refrigerator, and now I have that refrigerator problem handled, so I don’t have to worry about it anymore.”
Now replace refrigerator with wife.
I’m not going say that all men are like this, and I’m not going to try to explain why men do this, because I don’t get it either. But what I do know is that a marriage, a wife, a long-lasting loving relationship is not a refrigerator. It takes constant maintenance, reassurance, and investment. My marriage is the most wonderful thing I have. I love my wife more than I have ever loved anyone, and that is a fact. But when life is crazy, when things get out of control, and the kids are needing and wanting, and we both have to be up before the sun to meet our obligations, and then run all day, and finally get to bed well after the sun has gone down, it can feel like we are just two co-workers managing the same project.
And as beautiful and harmonious as all that is, and yes, working side-by-side to take care of children and obligations is beautiful, it isn’t all that sexy. It isn’t all that romantic, and I think taking a moment each day to pause and say that you love the person at your side, the person slogging through the mess of life at your side, is important.
And it’s not that hard, really. It’s not difficult to utter those three simple words.
Please keep in mind that saying “I love you” each day isn’t going to fix a bad marriage. It isn’t going to change abuse or fix lies, or any of that. But what I can say is that there is a fine line between a boring, mediocre marriage and a great marriage, and saying that you love your wife each day is a great way to remind her that she isn’t being taken for granted, that your marriage isn’t something you checked off the list.
Saying that you love your wife each day shows appreciation for her efforts. It shows that you still have that spark for her and that you want her to know about it. And it reminds you of that, too. In some ways, that might just be the most important reason to say it. Because, as sad as it sounds, when you are slogging through the long days of parenting, a simple “I love you” can remind everyone that you are in it together for the right reasons.
Naturally, I said all of this to my old friend while we were sitting around the campfire. Although, it wasn’t nearly as eloquent or well thought out, and not surprisingly, he didn’t buy it. But then, as we stopped talking and he went back to his tent, I noticed he took out his phone and sent a text. I’m not sure to who, but I like to think he was just saving face near the end of our convo and then sent an “I love you” to his wife.