Stuart the duck perched atop the valentine David made. I walked into the kitchen this morning to find all three of them (Stuart, the valentine, and David) grinning brightly at me.
David and I like to make each other cards. Call it creative or call it frugal; it’s our tradition. Weeks ago we agreed to take the year off from Valentine’s Day gifts (all of our discretionary income is funneled into my yoga teacher training, which is a pretty huge gift). Eking out the time to craft a handmade card means far more to us than candy or flowers could.
What small gestures keep love vital and growing? Midway through our first year of marriage, I’m deeply aware of how fortunate we are to be together. I also know from experience how easy it is to slip into complacency; just because a relationship is functional doesn’t mean it’s optimal.
Whenever I start pondering the health of our union, I’m grateful for love advice from the masters: children. Back in June, my friend Heather marshaled two classes of Lower Elementary students (1st, 2nd & 3rd graders) to assemble a book of marriage tips for us. The book made beautiful wedding décor.
Now the pages stream down our bedroom wall.
Kids might not be up to date on the latest relationship research, but they’re keenly observant. They know what love looks like and they don’t mince words. I think their advice applies to relationships in general, not only romantic unions.
Always smile at each other. May you have a happy marriage. Always smile and be peaceful. Always be happy with each other! You can do anything! Smile like anything! Always remember each other and be happy every day.
Many students urged happiness and smiles. Not only does a smile indicate happiness; it can also stimulate happiness. The kids might not know the research on this, but you’ve probably heard it. David and I can count on each other for goofy songs and dances even when the rest of life bogs us down.
Be helpful and kind … The important one is to work together. If you know something teach it.
David hardly even notices when the floors are dirty, but he vacuums regularly because he knows it’s my least favorite chore. I might not be able to help David with his teaching job as much as I’d like, but I can type up his play programs and help backstage. I can’t tell you how often I return to Maceo’s words: If you know something teach it. Sharing what we can is the essence of love.
Be prepared for your baby. Have children.
Most adults agree that marriages needn’t entail parenthood. No one’s passed this memo along to the kids yet, but that’s okay. Loving relationships birth all kinds of “children” into the world, don’t they? Whether we’re singing songs, putting on plays, or reading Harry Potter aloud, I pay attention to what David and I are creating together.
Eat a lot of ice cream, go to the beach, move to Florida. Have lots and lots and lots of fun.
Like those who urged smiling and happiness, many students recommended fun. Sometimes they got downright specific as to what that might entail (Have your honeymoon in Charleston SC).
In the midst of life’s mundane and maddening tasks, fun isn’t optional. We take turns hiding Stuart the duck from each other. We play Mario together. David often helps me get out of bed in the morning by singing songs or plopping the cat on my belly. Two nights ago I surprised David by learning one of his favorite childhood songs on the guitar. I kept the guitar in the kitchen so I could start playing as soon as I heard him at the door.
Stay in tune.
Oliver’s advice strikes me as particularly profound. I’ve been thinking about it each day as I tune my guitar. I can string the tunes passably and strum with relative happiness, but really staying in tune requires deep listening. I have to let the pitch reverberate through the room. It helps me to sing it back quietly. I make tiny adjustments to the tuning pegs, checking and rechecking. I reference an outside pitch source, but it’s most important to tune the strings to each other.
The same is true in love, isn’t it? All the advice in the world amounts to nothing if you aren’t attuned to the music of this person in this moment. It might seem more legit to measure your relationship by someone else’s yardstick, but that’s just an outside pitch source.
So forget my examples. Forget typical notions of romance. What might love look like for you today? I’m gonna go make a card.