I walked down the aisle in my white gown, slowly proceeding toward my soon-to-be husband. As I stepped underneath a delicate arch adorned with fresh flowers and flowing ribbon, I assumed I was also stepping into a lifetime of romance.

As my husband gazed into my eyes, vows rolling off his tongue, I interpreted the words “to love and to cherish” to mean he was promising to demonstrate his love for me with lavish gifts and elaborate adventures.

With the signing of the marriage certificate, I believed I was signing up for romance, until death do us part.

But, my expectations were almost immediately quashed when I opened a box containing a Bob Marley CD collection—my husband’s wedding gift to me. Sure, I was a bit of a reggae fan at the time, but the gesture didn’t exactly scream “romance”.

Not long after that, he planned a trip for the two of us to explore portions of the Wild West. Just the fact that he planned something by himself was enough to sweep me off my feet. Until we almost got blown away by the raging winds of some middle-of-nowhere desert. It had ended up being a camping trip to the land of desolation, and needless to say, we came home early.

And really, I should have seen it coming. A lifetime spent with a husband incapable of romance, that is.

After all, his very first gift to me in our early days of dating had been an oversized t-shirt emblazoned with the face of Albert Einstein. When I opened the gift, a confused and disappointed “oh” slipped from my mouth. He shrugged and said, “I thought you would think it was funny.” And I do—but it took a long while.

I cannot recall one romantic date. Sure, there have been dinners out and an occasional movie, but nothing that involved flowers or fancy attire, like I had once imagined.

And the marriage proposal? That one over-the-top moment of a woman’s life that’s supposed to become the most romantic tale of her existence? Well, I won’t bore you with the details of mine.

I must have been wearing my romance-colored glasses because despite all the signs pointing to a less-than-romantic future, I still clung to the idea that marriage guaranteed romance and that my husband was as romantic as I envisioned him to be.

But, our marriage has turned out to be a series of poorly chosen gifts, typical dates, and road trips around the Midwest. For a long time the lack of romance left me feeling disappointed, but I finally realized that what my husband lacks in the romance department, he makes up for in every other area of our marriage.

He’s practical, but he practices selflessness on a daily basis. Romance doesn’t come easily to him, but he does whatever he can to make my life easier. He is busy, but never too busy to answer my calls for help. He doesn’t love and cherish me through romantic gestures, but through the offering of his time and energy.

He doesn’t give first-rate gifts and he’s never swept me away on a first class flight to anywhere. But he always puts me first. He has loads of commitments, but his commitment to me is always at the forefront of his life.

He doesn’t give attractive gifts, but he always make me feel attractive. He tells me I’m beautiful. He showers me with compliments. And when that Albert Einstein t-shirt finally fit me during the third trimester of pregnancy, he told me I looked hot. He doesn’t seem to notice the weight that I’ve gained or the stretch marks that line my belly—or maybe he just doesn’t care.

And while he doesn’t exactly qualify as a hopeless romantic, he is more than qualified as a husband. He’s held my hand for thirteen years and has yet to let go. Health scares, mental illness, and grief have left scars on our marriage, and yet his hands have always been available to help, and his ears always open to listen.

It turns out that marriage isn’t built on romance. Nor can my husband’s love be measured by it. While he doesn’t have an appreciation for the finer things in life, the things or experiences that I would consider to be romantic, he appreciates me. Through his words and actions, his service and sacrifice, I know I am valuable to him.

He knows my worth and makes sure I know it, too. And that’s far more precious to me than all the romance in the world.

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Jenny Albers

Jenny Albers is a wife, mother, and writer.  She is the author of Courageously Expecting, a book that empathizes with and empowers women who are pregnant after loss. You can find Jenny on her blog, where she writes about pregnancy loss, motherhood, and faith. She never pretends to know it all, but rather seeks to encourage others with real (and not always pretty) stories of the hard, heart, and humorous parts of life. She's a work in progress, and while never all-knowing, she's (by the grace of God) always growing. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.