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Not flowers, diamonds, and candlelight

By Leslie Graff

My husband doesn’t surprise me with bouquets of dewy roses flowers or lavish me with expensive diamond bracelets. He doesn’t plan elaborate surprises or whisk me off on exotic vacations to those over water bungalows in Bali. He’s not what I envisioned in my dreamy 15 year old mind. A man so in love with me he was constantly showering me with gifts. Instead, my birthday gift is usually something like a blender and my Valentine’s card is made from a manila folder he cut up at work. It’s not the showy romantic love of the movies– instead he gives me a blank check (no, not that kind of blank check).

He gives me freedom, with complete trust and unquestioning support. He encourages me to take opportunities that often take money, time and energy.

He doesn’t get fame and fortune in return. Instead he gets to come home to an empty house while his wife is traveling to some exotic locale on a medical mission, or to take a day off work and manage our three young boys sightseeing in New York City while I present at a conference. It means unloading thousand of things from the car after art shows and various PTO extravaganzas, and sitting on the bed in my studio (however boring it may be) to keep me company on a Friday night when he knows I am dying to paint.

He spiffies the house extra nicely so I can throw a baby shower or host a party, or have women over to paint. (Right now he is scrubbing the dishes so I can compose this post –oh the guilt). He doesn’t flinch when I spend money on a class, a workshop, a trip, or a cause I believe in. He’s wound up cutting many a wedding cake, and re-sewn many a pesky seam when I’ve gotten too frustrated with a sewing project; all this to let me feel the joy of accomplishment, the happiness of experience, and fulfillment from using my skills.

He’s not beholden to my beckon bidding, some obsequious follower. He’s the one who stands behind me and spots me when I get ready to jump. This is an important distinction.

He works behind the scenes making ME happen. Me, Leslie, the woman, the individual. He sacrifices things he’d rather be doing for my joy. He gives me the courage to jump, to take risks, to lose the self conscious fear, knowing he’ll always catch me and applaud my attempts no matter the outcome.

His example has taught me to love this way, to extend this love back to him, to our children, and to others.A personal love—born in serving, giving, and growing. A tribute to divine nature and individual worth. It’s not clipping their wings, putting them in a cage. Love is giving someone the gift of becoming their best self. It’s about letting them unfold into everything they can become.

So for all that I’ll accept the empty ice cream container on the counter, and the “sorry I’ll be late tonight”, and the absence of flowers and anniversary rings, knowing I have something the movies rarely show, something far more endearing and precious.

So tell me what do you know love to be? What people and experiences have expanded your understanding and definition of love? What powerful demonstrations or aspects of love have you experienced?


About Leslie Graff

(Art Director) In her pre-diapering days, Leslie earned an MS in Marriage and Family Studies from BYU. This entitled her to mold the minds of impressionable college students in rambling six-hour lecture courses and travel the world as child life specialist. She now passes the seasons in a quaint Massachusetts town with her husband, Allen, and three young sons. She spends her days encouraging play, championing global causes, and whipping up a mean R2D2 cake. She savors her nights, stealing away to her studio to paint.

23 thoughts on “Not flowers, diamonds, and candlelight”

  1. Knowing the two of you, I have to agree 100%. You and your family have blessed the lives of MANY with this "sharing of love".
    Love to me is support! Or having someone remember a special day….birthday. anniversary (of any kind) like you said, not with diamonds or flowers (although they don't hurt) but a note is my favorite!

  2. my husband told me early on he was not a giver of flowers and other people in our life have called him the least sentimental person in the world.

    still, the way he looks at me makes me ever certain of how much he loves and adores me. and that's all i need.

  3. My husband shows me loves me by cleaning out the icky drains and prevents me from seeing the stuff that comes out of the drains. They don't show that in the movies, but man, is that true love or what?

  4. I think I underestimated how much my dh allows me my "wings to fly" until this last year when I started wanting to fly places to run crazy races. He's always encouraged me to go, despite the expense and the fact that he has to pick up some major slack when I'm gone. When I was thinking about applying for grad school a couple of months ago and worried about how I'd be able to juggle adding another new thing to our lives, I really appreciated that his attitude was "do it and we'll make it work."

  5. He irons his own shirts. He vacuums the car. He mops. For the first few months of our marriage, I never touched the vacuum, and I had to call him at work to figure out how to turn it on the first time.

    Also, he eats what I cook, and is always grateful for it.

    I think these daily unselfish acts are what make me feel loved and secure. When he's home, he is truly at my service. I feel inadequate and inspired by his love at the same time.

  6. When we first got married I was what you might call a "runner". Whenever we got into a fight my first instict was to leave. (yes, how emotionally unhealthy.) He would take my keys and say, "you are going to stay here and deal with this! You can't run away any more." (Kind of like "The Runaway Bunny" but without being so sugary sweet.)

    I had never had anyone care like that. Nobody had ever said, "I love you enough to not let you go" til I met him.

  7. I love how this post celebrates all the different ways that people show they love you. I loved the analogy to the "spotter." It is a good reminder to me to be that support for him in his goals and dreams, even when they are not what I would choose.

  8. Wouldn't it be nice if they could incorporate these ideas a little better into Disney Princess movies so our daughters could develop more reasonable expectations from a young age? My girls' ideas about dating, love and marraige are already skewed and they are only 4.

  9. In the past, I've made quilts – and like most quilters, most of my quilts are given away. When my husband and I were dating, he wanted me to know how it felt to receive a quilt. He had never sewn in his life, but he had his sisters help him piece it, and then he had it professionally quilted. He kept it secret from me (it was a long distance relationship, so it was hard, but not too difficult).

    I was absolutely astounded when I opened the gift that Christmas morning. The quilt is beautiful – but it was the thought and the effort behind the quilt that made me cry. His sisters tease him that he'll never be able to top that quilt – but that isn't the point. He's always made me feel loved.

  10. I loved your post Leslie and all the comments but Jennie's comment sent me over the edge– Nobody had ever said, “I love you enough to not let you go” til I met him.

    I'm always amazed when my hubby says, "great, go for it." I fail more often than I succeed but he still encourages me to keep trying.

    I'll have my teenage sons read this when they get home from school. It's a powerful message for future husbands.

  11. My hubby tells me he loves me everyday, and he does a lot to back it up. He'll fend off the kids if I need a nap, do dishes, and he rarely lets me take the garbage to the dumpster. He is also brave enough to eat anything new I try to cook. I've learned to let a lot of things go that I otherwise might harp on forever about. I've learned to eat a lot of new food too! He allows me, nay, insists! that I think of myself as beautiful, even with the weight of four kids that I've accumulated.

    It's wonderful when a couple figures out how to work and complement/compliment each other. That's joy.

  12. Fly, Leslie, fly! I love having a "spotter," what a wonderful analogy. My husband 100% trusts me and my decisions… he'll give input if I ask, but he always wants me to do what I think best, and I LOVE that!

  13. This reminded me so much of something Sister Hinckley appreciated about her husband, President Hinckely. She talked about he always let her fly. How great to dive into your talents and to be allowed to grow and flourish. What a gift.

  14. great post!! And yes it's those ways of showing love that mean more to me. (not minding leftovers b/c I was gone doing a hobby, and didn't cook dinner). And sounds you definitely got yourself a keeper 🙂

  15. I really liked this post. I have a wonderful hubby who always supports me in what I want to do… to the point of raised eyebrows from his family/friends sometimes. I forget how great he is a lot of the time, though, and throw a fit when I don't get the extravagant surprise or extra attention.

    Good reminder to appreciate what you have. Thanks.

    And I love it when we have an inside joke or even just a look between us, that no one else understands.

  16. A truly beautiful tribute to your husband! I think that they love us so because we have in some way shown that we love them just as much, and respect their decisions and actions in our homes as well. When we see others as wonderful, that is what they will become…a proven truth in many lives! Just loving, is the best fix.

  17. My husband is like that too. I get support for whatever crazy thing I want to do. Not only does is he a fabulous husband, but he is a GREAT dad. He does just as much for them as I do. I thought that was normal until I observed other families and realized that I am very, very blessed. He has alway shown me the utmost love and respect. He's my best friend.

    Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

  18. I love how my husband is able to accept all the parts of me…and there are quite a few, some more desirable than others. (A therapist once told me that I love him because he can "handle" me…And I don't mean physically, by the way, but that ain't bad either!)

    He also respects me, and it shows in his actions. I never have to convince him that what I am doing or want to do is worthwhile. It also means a lot to me that he values my opinion above all others.

    He didn't used to be as good at gifts as he is now. (So they CAN evolve!) Last year he gave me a Christmas gift I will always remember. We have a favorite song by Darden Smith called "All Around You." The singer is telling a woman that his love is "all around you, above and below you, everywhere you go…", etc. My husband took a little piece of paper, wrote my name in the middle, and printed his name and the names of all our children around mine in a circle. Underneath he wrote, "It's all around you." Then he folded up the note and placed it in a small, wooden box. It was perfect, and I will always treasure it. (I will also treasure the beautiful bracelet than was in the box with it, lol…but the gift would have been my favorite ever, even without the bracelet.)

    My love for him is the best thing in my life, along with the children that came with it.


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