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Love is... loving ‘how you are’

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I’ve said many times that whenever someone starts a sentence with, “I know how you are,” what follows is rarely anything you want to hear.

I have this thing about unmade beds. I believe that everyone should make his or her bed every day immediately upon arising. No exceptions.

Imagine my surprise when I married someone who does not share my beliefs.

His mom made his bed every day, and then when he went into the military, he paid people to make his bunk for him.

And then he married me, a bed-making maniac.

Once when I had to go out of town for the weekend, days prior to my trip my stomach was in knots as I agonized about my bed not being made.

My husband was supposed to work out of town that same weekend, but he decided instead to stay home.

Thankfully, because God has pity on idiots and fools, I stayed too busy that weekend to think about my unmade bed and only remembered on the drive home from the airport.

When I got home, I peeked inside my bedroom -- the bed was made! It was a bit sloppy, but made nonetheless.

My heart swelled with love and gratitude -- and surprise.

“Notice anything?” my husband asked, grinning.

Before I could say anything he said, “I know how you are, so the first night I slept on top of the covers, and last night I slept on the couch.”

Here’s where I’m expected to write: “I felt so terrible for making such a big deal that my husband felt he couldn’t sleep in our bed that I immediately asked his forgiveness and then asked God to help me be less rigid and just plain neurotic.”

However, that’s not what happened. No, instead I inwardly did a happy dance and a silent but obnoxiously exuberant, “Boo-yah!”

I know how you are. 

This past week my husband and I celebrated our 43rd anniversary. I’ve been married to the same person two-thirds of my life so far. 

He knows how I am and I know how he is -- and we’re still together.

Sometimes when he’s doing something that he knows irritates me I’ll yell, “I will NEVER leave you!”

That’s our joke, that my ultimate threat to him is that I will never leave, that I’ve put in too much time to let him be a free man and I don’t have enough energy to break in someone new.

Truth is, I know he’ll never leave me either.

He knows how I am, and he doesn’t want anyone else.

Sometimes people ask us how we’ve stayed together. The simple answer is “Jesus.”

The harder answer is learning what real love is, that it’s 90 percent forgiveness and the rest is perseverance and adaptability, flexibility and not leaving, even when things get really, really rough -- especially then.

Two people have to learn to forgive one another for not being perfect, for being human, for being “how you are.”

You learn that love, in the beginning, is not the same as love after 10, 20, 50 years, and who you marry at 20 isn’t who you’re still married to at 63.

Real love, I think, comes with weathering together the daily irritants and everyday blahness, the stretches of dryness and the pain of family brokenness and sorrows.

You find a way to not leave, you cleave to one another, you adapt and bend and stretch to accommodate the other person so neither of you break.

You learn to love the other person’s weaknesses as well as their strengths. You sit by each other’s hospital beds, you bind each other’s wounds. You pray for each other.

And you refuse to leave.

Love, writes the apostle Paul, is patient and kind. It’s not envious or proud, does not dishonor others, isn’t self-seeking or easily angered. It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs.

Love...always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

The other day, we had another “I know how you are” episode, this time over where to put our new TV that wouldn’t fit inside the cabinet, nicely hidden away.

My husband said, “I know how you are, so I’ve figured out a way to hide all the cables and cords.”

He knows how much I hate visual clutter and chaos, as I call it.

Some people say 43 years is a long time to be married to the same person, and it is.

But it’s also not long enough. 

Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via email at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.