You know what my husband is doing?

He’s chopping down trees to clear the yard. Or hanging drywall in the basement. He’s sweeping the garage, which, honestly, I find almost ridiculous—a waste of time. He’s painting the armoire I insisted had to be transformed into a coffee bar. And I bet he finds that ridiculous even though he’d never say so.

He’s washing the dishes and folding the laundry. He’s roaring with dinosaurs, playing with dolls, building tile masterpieces, and chasing the kids. He’s sleeping with a 50-pound baby on his head and a knee in the back on the smallest section of the giant bed even though he’s the giantest of us all.

He’s warming my car, shoveling the driveway, scraping the windshield in the winter, because I obviously forgot to park the car in the garage. He’s putting a towel on my seat in the summer because I’m running so late, and that leather is bound to burn my legs. I never think about that. I just jump in, without a second thought and let the suckers burn.

He’s watching me struggle from a distance, sometimes, feeling helpless because I hate when he sees me disappointed in myself.

How can I stand to let him see me at my worst when I don’t even like myself, you know? If I don’t like myself, how can he possibly like me?

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He’s worrying, too—and he does worry, despite the fact he doesn’t want anyone to know. So he’s doing it all alone. That’s what men do, right? They carry the weight on their shoulders. That’s what he’s been conditioned to do all his life. That’s what society tells him is right. He worries, nonetheless because he’s human. And he keeps it to himself because he’s the manhe’s supposed to be the strong one. He refuses to let me see it. But he understands this isn’t the best way, and he promises this isn’t what we’ll teach our son.

He’s spending his days thinking about me, and thinking about our kids, and somehow still trying to think about his job, so he can actually care for us in the way he knows best. By keeping us safe, fed, sheltered, and loved. And part of caring for us, for him, means not letting us feel his fears.

Right at this moment, he’s loving me with his whole heart. I know pieces of me are hard to love, but he doesn’t bring them up.

Once upon a time, he told me he’d never push me for answers, and he’d never expect more than I could give, and he’d never want to change me . . . because all he wants in the world is to wake up to me in the morning. So he would never do anything to risk that. (Cue the tears and the long talks about that scenario.)

He’s excited when I finally make plans with my friends. He knows I need that, and he encourages it gladly. Even better, he loves to hang out with my friends and their husbands, too. He happily integrates himself into my life, making my happiness his happiness.

He’s planning to see yet another musical, even though they’re not his thing and he can barely fit in those teeny, tiny, gold, filigree chairs because there’s not much more I love than watching stories unfold on stage. He doesn’t love that, but that doesn’t matter to him. He sings songs (sometimes too enthusiastically) he would never have listened to before. He learns to like even foreign-language films because he’d never just ignore something that’s a part of me. He buys picnic baskets and colorful outdoor dining sets. We never really use them, but he wants them to be there because the sheer idea of a picnic makes me giddy. He delights in my whims and adventures.

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He’s gentle with me. He listens to my feelings, even though he doesn’t always know what to do with them. He tries, though.

He openly answers every question I ever ask, whether silly or serious. He loves to talk to me. He does his best to communicate.

But.

That doesn’t mean it’s always easy. And I would never suggest that it is.

There’s something strange about being human, or maybe about being a wife. Something that makes me expect him to read my mind, or to do things exactly as I would do them, or to initiate the conversations himself, or to deeply draw on his feelings before I ask.

Truthfully, we experience real-life struggles. Painful moments. Raw ones. Frustrating days . . . frustrating months. We are incredibly imperfect. We screw up all the time.

And of all the things my husband does, there is one thing he struggles with most, and I never let him forget it.

He doesn’t easily open up. He doesn’t know how to intimately share his feelings. Even when I ask a seemingly simple question, he’s not sure how to elaborate. He thinks he’s a burden; he thinks he’ll be wrong. He’s always been like that, he tells me. That’s what he learned as a boy growing up in the 80s and 90s. That’s what society taught him. But more than that—I’m not completely sure he knows HOW to access his emotions.

But I have to be honest in saying I give my husband a very hard time about this ONE thing he doesn’t do. It’s painful for me. It’s hard for me to handle. It selfishly makes me feel like I’m not enough.

Until I go back and see the many things he does do. Until I go back and appreciate this beautiful human I married. And then I can’t understand why I let this one thing bother me so much.

Because come to think of it, there is just one more thing my husband doesn’t do.

He doesn’t give up. He never will. He fights for me, every day. He fights to give me what I need.

And maybe I haven’t mentioned it yet because this moment is more about him. But the truth is, I gladly give of myself to do all the things that make him happy, too. Maybe not enough. Maybe I don’t always get it. But we fight for each other. We deserve it.

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So, you know what I need? Not necessarily a husband who can pinpoint the worst moment of his life. Or the thing he regrets, or the dreams he’d still dare to dream if they were in reach. I don’t need a natural talker.

I need a husband who sweeps the floors and inexplicably labels the cereal in the pantry (which he did last night when I crashed on the couch, exhausted in the late afternoon) and folds the laundry when I’m tired. I need a husband who supports me, no matter what. I need a gentle husband who loves me through it all.

And I’ve got that. I’ve got him. I’ve got someone I can also be better for, every day.

And that’s why I raise my hands and praise Jesus for giving me a husband who clears my windshields and warms my seats on the coldest winter days.

Previously published on the author’s blog

Cassie Gottula Shaw

I'm Cassie, and I'm a writer, mama, Jesus enthusiast, cliche coffee drinker, and lover of all the stories. I believe in the power of faith and empathy, radical inclusivity, and the magic and beauty of ordinary days. I'm inspired every day by the firm belief that we owe something to each otherlove and human connection. When I'm not writing, you can find me running from dinosaurs, building castles, pursuing joy, or watching the sun rise over the fields of Nebraska (coffee in hand) where my husband and I are raising two spectacular children. For more stories, visit my Facebook page, From the House on a Hill with Cassie Gottula Shaw; Instagram, Cassie Gottula Shaw; and the blog, fromthehouseonahill.com