On Christmas Day, my wife, her family, and I watched as my mother-in-law’s boyfriend (in his first holiday with us) read aloud the PG love letter that she’d written on his Christmas card. She beamed and I looked on, nodding my approval with a faint smile, meant to hide my internal eye roll. Because it was mushy and I can be cynical sometimes. But the more I think about that moment, the more I admire the kind of courage love bestows, especially in those early days when self-awareness vanishes, failing to hold us back.
You’ve seen sitcoms, your parents, and/or your own relationship: you know that performative romantic gestures can start to feel like a less than organic act as time goes by. You don’t need to write 100-point lists on what your partner means to you every day or go broke sending flowers for your weekly anniversaries. That would be exhausting (for all sides) and a little psychotic. You both know how deeply you care for each other. Because your love is conveyed through glances, thoughtful actions, and a well-honed shorthand.
Sounds pretty hot, right? It actually can be. Trust the guy who has been happily married for ten years: don’t sleep on blissed-out comfort and a higher plain of intimacy. But also, don’t lose hold of the courage required to sound like a love-drunk idiot so that you can make your partner feel loved, special, and capable of moving you. Especially on Valentine’s Day.
How to embrace (or re-discover) that courage while choosing the right words to express love often eludes us all. There are times when, though you feel it, you just can’t put capture your adoration. But I’m here to tell you to push past the frustrations and embrace your inner Shakespeare. Because requiring the power of your unspoken bond to do all the heavy relationship lifting is akin to taking what you’ve got for granted. And no good comes from going down that road.
Here is a lifelong letter writer’s advice for the perfect Valentine’s Day ode to your beloved:
Acknowledge The Bumps In The Road
My wife and I have experienced the full thrust of our wedding vows: “in sickness and in health; for richer or for poorer.” Evoking harder times can feel like a downer, but if you’ve come out through the other side of a challenge (or if you’re in the process of doing that), then that’s a part of your life and love. You don’t have to recount details, but it’s okay to mention that you’ve conquered some things and that your love is stronger for having done so.
Be real. The strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire, right? Celebrate that.