A few years ago, my husband, Neil, and I went to dinner and a show in Philadelphia with my parents. We arrived early at The Academy of Music, excited to see one of our favorite musicals, The Lion King. Since it was a nice, mild summer evening, we decided to wait outside the theater and do a bit of people watching.
After only a few minutes, we were approached by a gentleman who offered shoe shining in exchange for a small donation. Neil’s shoes were looking a tad scruffy, so he decided to oblige.
Our new friend was chatting up a storm and making quite the conversation. I can’t remember exactly what prompted his inquiry, but he turned to me and asked suddenly, “why do you love him?”
My response? “Because I love him.”
Of course, this wasn’t the answer he was looking for, so he prodded further. “Okay, but WHY do you love him?”
My follow up? “I love him because I love him.”
Well, this did not sit well. He started to heckle me a little and I could see Neil getting squirmy about my lackluster declaration of love for him. My mom, quick to swoop in when things get uncomfortable, started tossing out some of Neil’s best qualities. “Because he makes you laugh! Because he’s hard working! Because he’s thoughtful!” and so on.
But, our new friend didn’t ask me what I love ABOUT him. That would have been a cinch to answer.
I love that Neil is my best friend and that I feel safe letting him see me at my worst. I love how smart he is, especially with numbers and finances. I love how connected and sweet he is with our boys. I love his sense of adventure and spontaneity. I love that we can be complete weirdos and crack each other up. I love how people gravitate toward him and his infectious energy. I love that he’s always willing to work on our marriage and find the win/win.
I could keep going, but these aren’t the reasons WHY I love him. They’re all conditions. They’re all variables.
I love him because I love him.
I certainly don’t mean to sound morose, but what if any of these things changed? It’s not a guarantee that Neil will always be good with numbers and finances. Everyone makes mistakes (and my man does love a good poker tournament). If he’s having a stressful day and doesn’t laugh at one of my corny jokes, does that mean I stop loving him?
My love comes without circumstance or demands. Sure, I love these qualities, which he possesses more often than not. But they are not my reason for loving him.
I realize this article is heavier than my usual fare. And yet, I feel it’s an important topic to reflect on. How often are we putting conditions on our relationships?
Who do we need others to be in order to love them fully?
This is a story of love without reason. My husband and I have seen each other at our best and our worst and we don’t love or fault each other for it. I get to wake up every day and make the conscious choice to love him all over again. When we argue, I get to decide whether I want to make up or stay mad. If he makes a mistake, I get to forgive or resent.
Life is a big game of choice. LOVE is a big game of choice.
The truth is, I don’t have a single reason for loving my husband. I just do. He doesn’t need to say, do, or be anything for me to keep loving him every day. And I don’t feel like I need to justify that to a shoe shining stranger on the street, to Neil, or even to myself.
One of my favorite Sara Bareilles songs says poignantly,
I choose you.
And that’s all there is to it.