Originally published in The Advertiser.
A note from the author: On Valentine's Day, I can't write a romantic letter or poem to my husband. I refuse to pretend there's a happily ever after. I won't mislead anyone who is reading this into believing that romantic, mind-blowing, center-of-my-universe love is the main component of a strong and steady relationship. If I wrote a love letter to him, it would read something like this:
If I sat here and tried to list all the things I love about you, I might never finish this letter. My fingers would be bleeding from typing for so long, and I would miss Valentine's Day all together, because I might need until Christmas to finish.
Rather than listing the wonderful things about you that make me love you, I'm going to take a moment to thank you for all the things that you are not, all the things you don't do, the things you could never be.
Doesn't sound like much of a thank you, does it? Bear with me.
You aren't my dream come true. In my dreams, my man would never falter. He would meet all my needs before I knew I what I needed. He'd always know what to do and say and how to take care of everything. On bad days when I'm at my worst or when the kids are getting on my nerves or when everything seems to go wrong, I'd rather have you, because you're real. You don't have the all the answers, because no one does. You don't have infinite patience for when I'm being unreasonable. You don't love everything I do, because not everything I do is lovable! If you were always dreamy, imagine all the pressure that would put on both of us! Thank you for being genuine, human, flawed, and most importantly, for never even trying to pretend that our life is like living in a dream.
Thank you for never trying to be a "knight in shining armor." I love that you know when to don your armor and fight beside me. And I love even more that you know when it's my job to slay my dragons alone. There are battles in life that we are meant to fight by ourselves, and I'm glad you never rob me of the opportunity to hone my own strength and gain wisdom from a tough battle. If you were my knight, would I know how to fight for myself? Would I feel like I always needed you to rescue me? Would I ever want to be that weak?
We've both heard over and over that you should never settle for anyone. We've heard that to have a great relationship, the things that are important to you should be important to your partner, too. Well, I'm glad we settled for each other.
You crank your stereo up when you're alone in your car and you love going to concerts, yet you settled for a woman who can't stand loud music. You've settled for someone who wakes up at the crack of dawn even though you prefer to stay up late at night. I've settled for someone who hates the beach even though it's one of my favorite places. You, an Italian-American from New York, settled for someone who thinks pasta and bread are not a big deal. I, the avid reader, settled for you, who rarely cracks open a book. Imagine the passion, excitement, lust, joy, adventure and contentment we would have missed had we decided we could not settle for one another.
When I was a little girl, I thought that "happily ever after" might actually exist, even though I never saw it in real life. I'm glad you don't try to make me happy every single day. Thank you for being smart enough to know that it's not your job to make me happy. If I couldn't find happiness within myself, nothing you do or say could instantly turn me into a happy woman. You've spared me from failed attempts at cheering me up or sweeping me off my feet during times when I just need a few minutes to cool down. I'm glad your life isn't dedicated to making me smile all the damn time because a life of nothing but smiles is not a real life. I'm glad you don't constantly compliment me/encourage me/inspire me/esteem me and that you don't make me feel like I'm the center of your world every single day.
Don't you think we would miss out on some amazing make-up sex if you were so perfect that we never got into a fight? We'd be so good at pretending to be happy that we wouldn't know what real happiness felt like. I'll take the life that we have and all of its challenges, victories and struggles over a futile attempt at non-stop happiness any day.
I know that you will almost always be here when I need you, but since you're not a mind reader, sometimes I will have to ask. Grief, strife, fear and disappointment will make both of us fall short for one another once in awhile. Thank you for always taking care of yourself first. If you didn't, you wouldn't be able to care for me during times when I really need you. And even though you'll never tell me everything I need to hear (again, because you're not a mind reader), if I look closely enough, I can see your love, appreciation and admiration for me in so many things that you do.
I'm glad you threw the fairy tale away long before you met me. And there's no one else in this sometimes crazy, sometimes dreary, sometimes beautiful, sometimes ugly world I'd rather have by my side. While it's fun to share our dreams, discuss our fantasies and pretend that little problems don't exist from time to time, I don't know if I could enjoy reality with any other person as much as I enjoy it with you.
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