I remember my first Valentine’s Day with my husband almost ten years ago. As a freshman in college and a hopeless romantic, I had high expectations. There must be flowers (even though I don’t really care for them), my favorite chocolates, and a thoughtful gift. The evening must be special—the perfect amount of sweet and fun to update my status on Facebook. We ended the night with my favorite cupcakes (because that was cool in 2011) at our favorite spot in the city. I thought to myself, “I hope every Valentine’s Day is this perfect.” As he drove me back to my dorm, I promptly posted our photo with the caption: “watched the sun set over Birmingham tonight with Joseph Broderick 😊.”
While my sweet husband (then boyfriend) definitely made our first Valentine’s Day special, there have been Valentine’s Days since that have not “lived up” to what we’re told love should look like on February 14. Years where there was no picture taken together because army training and work kept us from spending Valentine’s Day together. Years of hardship and growth where love took a lot more work. Years where a little baby and messy life prevented an elaborate date night. And yet, while our expressions of love those years were different, they were just as sweet.
But the comparison game can come full force as we scroll through images of our friends in cute red dresses with beautiful bouquets at the nicest restaurants. Sometimes, we can filter our acts of “love” through the lens of social media. How would I frame this photo on Instagram? What would be the perfect caption on Facebook? What I see as a loving gesture is based on how I would present it online. I remember years early in our relationship where I got upset if he didn’t post “Happy Birthday” on my wall—even if he had told me to my face.
But while flowers and sweets and sunsets might be perfect to capture in a square image, love is not confined to a box. I can’t capture in a photo the patience of my husband as he holds me while I try to figure out what is making me upset enough to cry. No fifteen-second clip can show how he forgives me time and time again for using a harsh word. There’s no caption to describe how he has protected my heart and reminded me of hope as we faced difficult times together.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
Last Friday was full and sweet. I made valentines and cookies with my daughter. My husband and I went out to eat and to a concert (a rare treat!). I was tempted the whole day to capture the special moments on my Insta Stories to prove that my Valentine’s Day was living up to both my mom and wife expectations. But while I captured photos for family albums hopefully to be created later, I kept those sweet moments to myself on Friday. There was no need for others to approve of our expressions of love that day. My husband and daughter were enough.
This post was written as part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to read the next post in this series “Love Languages”.