This Valentine’s day, my message to my wife isn’t ‘I love you’
One husband’s open letter to his wife this Valentine’s Day, on their 20th year together.
Two months shy of twenty years. That’s how long I’ve known you. It feels like yesterday. To my surprise, it’s been almost twenty years since I watched you climb onto that bus that would take us to that writer’s workshop where we fell in love (so hard and fast that I’m still slightly concussed). So this V-Day is a landmark of sorts, like this whole year. It’s special. But on this giant kilometre marker of a year, the one thing I want to say to you isn’t “I love you.”
You know that already. It’s not that it doesn’t need to be said, because it does. It begs to be said. It is as necessary as breathing. And we say it, every day, when we wake up or pass each other in the hall. We say it from across the dinner table as the children compete for your attention, in goodbye kisses, in our secret sequence of hand squeezes, in a look.
That’s one of the great things about you. You say “I love you” all the time. And thanks to you, I’ve learned to say it all the time too (as do our children, who often say it out of the blue, for no reason). So the words will be said, and they will be as important as the first time, as always.
An answer will come to “I love you,” but it will be almost inconsequential. Because the reality is here, tangible and solid. It would be enough for you to answer, like Han Solo before he gets frozen in carbonite, “I know.”
What I want to say is something that I don’t say nearly enough, and those words are:
In a CNN documentary, Amanpour’s Love & Sex, I learned that the Japanese don’t say “I love you.” They find it “corny,” and instead they say “Arigato.” It means more, they believe. While I find this peculiar and depressing, I have to admit that they have a point.
“I love you” looks forward, promising the sun and the moon. “Thank you” acknowledges the love you have received. And over the past twenty years, I have been fortunate to have received so much.
Thank you for sticking around during the hard times, when magazine publishing died and we found ourselves out of work, through those painful years I spent in advertising, and the nightmare years when the angry toddler drove us to the very edge. It wasn’t easy, I know.
Thank you for being an incredible mum to our boys. I see what you do for them – the late night laundry, early morning lunchbox prep, the extra TLC when they’re sick. You do so much for them. They don’t know how lucky they are to have you. Take a break sometimes. They are beautiful and healthy and happy. And you are doing an amazing job.
Thank you for putting up with me, my depressive moody streak, and my temper. I’m not easy to live with. But you’re still around, in spite of me, because of me.
Thank you for being my partner in ill-advised ventures. The world doesn’t get it, but we said we were going to be writers, and goddamn it, we did it. We’re still doing it. Thank you for keeping all of your promises.
Thank you for being you, kind and forgiving, and easy to make laugh.
Thank you for being brilliant and a joy to talk to.
Thank you for growing more beautiful by the day.
Thank you for the adventures to distant lands and those that are near in our books and in our minds. And thank you for the wild days, for colour, and for laughter.
Thank you for Netflix-and-chill evenings spent watching Monty Don and his gardens. Thank you for stolen morning minutes spent sitting with me over coffee. Those moments mean the world to me.
Thank you for the best 20 years of my life. They’ve scarcely been enough.