When you have experienced loss, particularly a spouse, it changes how you view relationships. Through great pain, you can experience strong connection and love. I had the great privilege of being with my first husband, Tommy, for ten years, married for five. In 2016, at the very young age of 35, he was diagnosed with stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Unfortunately, a very aggressive variety. How we spent the last nine months of our marriage changed me forever.
The True Meaning of Loving Your Partner
I always thought of Tommy as an incredibly strong person. He served in the military, serving two tours in Iraq during our relationship. Even when they were experiencing some scary times, he never let me know. His unrelenting optimism was a defining characteristic, one that people always complimented him on. Even when he went through the worst parts of his cancer journey, he remained positive and happy. He also gave me his signature “thumbs up” while intubated, overwhelmed with pain from the cancer spreading to his brain. While I lost a lot of him in the last few months, I learned to love him in a much deeper way. I learned that commitment is seeing and appreciating who your spouse is in the darkest days. We held each other, we cried together, we lifted each other up, and I have the comfort of knowing that when he died, he knew that he was so incredibly loved. This wasn’t always easy. There were days I felt alone, days I felt angry, and many days where I just wanted to give up. But my love for him pushed me on.
Always make sure that your spouse feels loved. Love is an action word. There may be days where it is hard to love them. There may be days where you feel alone, abandoned, frustrated, or defeated. Take a deep breath and think about why you love that person. What are some things that drew you to them in the first place? What are the positive defining characteristics of your spouse that you admire?
It’s the Little Things
Piggybacking off of the last paragraph, love is an action word. It is something that you do. It doesn’t have to be a grand show. Love is found in the little things. Tommy used to leave extremely early for his job. But, he would always make me coffee and would leave a little note before he left for work, saying how much he loved me and usually mentioned a small joke or compliment. It was special and made me feel so loved that he would take time out of his morning to do that.
Moving forward, I will always try to do the little things for my husband to show that I love him. I make coffee every morning, try to make sure there is food for lunch, and always, always say “I love you.” Try to find something little to do every day for your spouse to make them feel special. It is these daily reminders that your spouse will always cherish.
Let It Go
Everyone fights. Everyone has disagreements. However, how we choose to react and resolve these disagreements can make or break a marriage. Tommy and I had our fair share of arguments, but we always came back together to discuss it, we resolved it, and we let it go. You cannot hold on to resentment and have a healthy marriage. It isn’t possible. It is ok to feel hurt. It is ok to disagree. However, it is not ok to not feel heard or understood. Arguments should never be about winning. You and your spouse are on the same team. You either both win or you both lose. Always end a disagreement with an understanding and pact to move forward. Never bring up past resolved issues. Life is too short, just let it go.
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