I had a lot of ideas about what romance was like, back before I got married. I had lists and fantasies about the type of man I’d marry, the things he’d do for me, the surprises and gifts and flower petal pathways that would await me. I did end up marrying the man of my dreams, and he did surprise me with gifts and flowers and candles. We had weekend getaways, slow weekend mornings, and inside jokes—truly, we lived in a romantic, newlywed bubble. 

And then we had our first child. 

He was premature, sickly, miserable with both reflux and colic. He was incredibly tiny in size yet huge in need, and it didn’t take long for our romantic bubble to be burst. Or so I thought. 

We’d been out with my in-laws, celebrating a birthday at one of my favorite restaurants, eating a meal I didn’t have to cook, and sitting at a table I didn’t have to clean. I was thrilled. Until our little screaming preemie did what he did best and started screaming. 

Oh, how he screamed. He writhed in pain, shrieked in agony. He spit up with force all over my finally-going-out outfit.

I was embarrassed, frustrated, but mostly broken-hearted. I just wanted to enjoy a meal. 

I held back tears as I grabbed the diaper bag and insisted everyone finish their celebratory meal while I waited in the car with the baby. After all, it wasn’t like it was my birthday, so it only seemed fair that I do all I could, despite my own disappointment, to ensure they had a nice time. 

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I made it to the car and almost had the driver’s door closed before my own sobs erupted.

I just wanted to eat, wanted a meal at a restaurant I could have enjoyed so leisurely before we had this difficult baby. I just wanted to spend time with family, with friends, with anyone who wasn’t going to scream and throw up on me. I felt so lonely, and never farther away from that romantic bubble we used to blissfully exist in. The baby cried in the back seat while I cried in the front.

Then I heard a knock on the window. 

My husband—my wonderful, thoughtful, loving husband—had packed up our meals in to-go containers, hugged his parents goodbye, and joined me.

He joined me in my tears, in my loneliness, in my disappointment. He could have stayed and enjoyed a quiet, leisurely meal. He could have justified that I had the baby and joining us wouldn’t make him stop crying any sooner. He could have come up with a dozen reasons not to pack up the food and join us . . . yet there he was, hot food in hand, willingly wading into the chaos with me, eating out of styrofoam instead of getting refills in a real glass. 

Marry this kind of man, ladies.  

We’ve never been too big on celebrating Valentine’s Day, choosing instead to find ways to show affection and offer surprises all year, but still we like to at least enjoy a snack or a movie on the couch once the kids go to bed. This year we had a cake, a very special cake, one made for us completely free of all allergens and decorated with our affectionate nicknames. It was shaped like a heart and had my favorite kind of icing.

You might dare to say it was romantic.

With the kids in bed and the remote in hand, my husband and I settled in to enjoy a quiet, delicious Valentine’s evening together at the end of a very long week. Just after we’d each taken our first bite of this much-anticipated, very special cake, our youngest came stumbling out of her room—she’d gotten sick. Very sick. All over her room. 

I set my plate down with a sigh and got to work. Cleaning up the mess, starting the washing machine, getting her cleaned, taking her temperature, getting all the cups and meds and towels a sick kiddo needs on hand. Once the flurry of activity calmed and I was rubbing her feverish back in bed, I heard dishes being jostled in the next room. 

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I came out, expecting to find a dejected, disappointed husband whose Valentine’s plans had been thwarted, but instead discovered that our cake, our special cake, had been packed up to enjoy another time. Instead of finishing his piece in peace, instead of pouting that his plans had been wrecked, he packed up the food until we could enjoy it together.  

Ladies, marry this kind of man. 

Marry the man who is willing to wait on his meal so he can enjoy it more with you. Marry the man who sees his meal as yours, too. 

Marry the man who is patient enough to wait, flexible enough to understand, humble enough to see that the true romance, the true appeal of the meal, doesn’t come from the plate it’s served on but the company it’s shared with. 

Marry the man who is as concerned about sharing the meal with you as he is with you getting to share it with him. 

Marry the man who doesn’t mind to-go containers as long as he gets to go with you. 

Marry the man who understands that life happens and doesn’t take the interruptions personally, doesn’t punish you for them, doesn’t feel slighted or less important. Marry the man who volunteers to wait and join you. 

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Marry the man who is as romanced by warmed-up special cakes a few days later as he was by the candlelit dinners a few years before. 

Marry the man who values you and his time with you, who knows the true value in these special meals is found in you, not the freshness of the food. 

Marry the man who is by your side, on your team. Marry the man who packs up the food.

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Jennifer Vail

Jennifer is married to the very handsome man she's loved half her life, with whom she juggles 3 hilarious, quirky, sometimes-difficult-but-always-worth-the-work kids. She is passionate about people and 90's pop culture, can't go a week without TexMex, and maintains the controversial belief that Han shot first. She holds degrees in counseling and general ministries, writes at This Undeserved Life, and can often be found staying up too late but rarely found folding laundry.