I used to get really revved up and nervous when Hallmark holidays rolled around. But the longer I’m married the more I know that flowers, chocolates, and fancy dinners can’t compensate for a husband that doesn’t treat you well the rest of the year. I also think that women (including myself) have to watch our motivations. If your first instinct is to snap a photo of the roses and upload them on Facebook versus smelling the roses and laying one on the sender, you are reporting your life versus living your life. And nobody wants to do that. Plus, flowers are no good if you don’t truly appreciate the sender.
Thirteen Valentines ago I received a lovely bouquet of long-stemmed red roses. Back in those prehistoric, non-social networking days, receiving flowers at the office was the next best thing to showing them off on Facebook. And I was thrilled. But it wore off quickly. As the week wore on, the drooping roses served as a bright pink reminder that even though things looked good on paper, I wasn’t happy. And as nice as the sentiment was, the flowers couldn’t overcome the fact that the sender annoyed and confused me most of the time. When I finally shucked them in the trash without an ounce of sentiment, I silently prayed that by the following Valentine’s Day, I would have real love in my life.
And I did. But I didn’t care much about Valentine’s Day in February 2000 because I was getting married that Friday! After years of actively looking for something/someone that I couldn’t put my finger on, love decided to find me instead. And love’s name was Jon. I won’t bore you with the details of our fast and furious courtship (you can read my first book, The List, if you really want to know!) but let’s put it this way: it was pretty much a done deal from the get-go.
How could I trust somebody so soon? Well, in addition to his complete awesomeness, one of the things that formed my early opinion about Jon was his long-time membership in the Minnesota National Guard. The fact that he choose to volunteer as a Soldier told me more about his solid character than anything else. It also explained not only his persistence and confidence in pursuing me, but his willingness to make a commitment and never look back. I also knew that the military gave Jon a strong work ethic and that I could count on him. No matter what time they have to get up or how long their day is, military members seldom complain. They are used to surprises and nothing rattles them from their mission—whether that mission is professional or personal. They just do what needs to be done and it’s no big deal. Jon made every man I had dated before look like an actor playing the part of a man.
Twelve years and two children later, the romantic love has worn off a bit. And as much as people say that romance gives way to a deeper connection, I miss those early days when we couldn’t stand to be apart and seeing each other felt like a gift in a velvet box. The lack of giddiness and excitement reminds me that we are both getting older. And although we are certainly wiser, it just doesn’t feel as exciting and fun. And just when I start getting a little ho-hum, the military swoops in and stirs things up. Just when you start getting wistful or complacent, duty calls. And I truly believe that, in most cases, absence makes the heart grow fonder. And when you are married to the military, you get a lot of chances to increase your fondness.
Jon left for Afghanistan the day after Christmas and we won’t see each other until October. This is his second long-term deployment and I know that our experiences are a blip on the screen compared to active component couples who go through back-to-back, constant, long-term separations. Still, for those of us in the Guard who don’t have a military support system around us, any deployment is a test of our couple hood, and of our individual strength. There is a certain pride knowing that you can keep your chin up and not just survive—but thrive—during a deployment. And I think that our spouses appreciate this more than anybody else.
Whether your Valentine’s Day involves bonding over filet mignon, sitting on the couch together watching TV with the kids, or Skyping sweet nothings, I hope today serves as a big, red, flashing reminder of why you fell in love in the first place.
February 18, 2000
Mary Corbett is a professional writer, military wife, and mother of two. Her book, National Guard 101: A Handbook for Spouses is the first and only book for Guard spouses. Her first book, The List: 7 Ways to Tell if He’s Going to Marry You in 30 Days or Less was published in 2005. Her work has been featured on The Today Show, Fox News Channel, local television affiliates, and nationally-syndicated radio programs. For more information visit www.marycorbett.com