How Do I Love Thee?

I swore up and down I would not share the one love letter my ex-husband ever wrote me.  But I am still thinking about love, and love letters are a part of that.  His letter is strange, and lovely, and perplexing all at once, so maybe it is time to share it.

His wasn’t so much a letter as it was a chart.  But he had an engineering degree, so I met him where he was.

a to m love chart

The notations are partly mine.  I had to ask him to explain things to me.

To some extent, I don’t recall what all of it means.  The take-away was that he loved me when I was “behaving,” and I think he was trying to tell me that his feelings had diminished/were diminishing over time.  But since I went to law school to avoid mathematics, maybe one of you can tell me.

Is it sweet?  Is it charming?  Is it appalling?  I still don’t know.

This letter came about because were in a hotel room in China, and I’d asked him: Darling, how do you love me?  We were in the thick of the time when All of the Things were happening — in my life; career; family; etc.  Regardless, I was supposed to be his perfect, blonde, docile, well-behaved, poised, domesticated wife and he would accept nothing less.

He’d let me go to China to escape all the confusion back in New York.  The tumult was not supposed to have followed.  So to keep the peace, he was just going to answer my question.

We were big on keeping the peace insofar as possible.

Just tell me!

The night he drew up his graph, I wrote:

I had Andrew graph out how he felt about me, then I made him derive the equations from the graphs.  The results were fascinating and complex.  My charts would’ve been much simpler if he’d made me do it.  Then again, I imagine my whole life could be simpler.  For instance, simple would be not deciding to go to China on a whim; dragging myself through the Chinese outback in a curious passion play, and then forcing my husband to derive equations for me on the floor of a Shanghai hotel room.

And now, I think:

It cannot be so hard for a man to treat his wife more respectfully.

But maybe I have the luxury (?) of having been educated by an expensive divorce.  I don’t want to be loved in charts and graphs; sine curves and y-axes.  I don’t want to know that my partner’s feelings for me are dependent upon how well I “behave.”  I don’t want to be told that how he loves me depends on his total level of “tolerance” for me.

Yes, my ex-husband’s letter/graph is lovely, in a strange way.  It’s him.  This is a snapshot of who he was in our marriage, as he tried to tell me he loved me from the place he knew how.

But I am a flesh-and-blood human woman.  I am not a perfectly poised and proper wife.  I am not a china doll on a shelf.  I scream; I cry.  My skin breaks out; I have bad hair days.  I make mistakes.  I oversleep sometimes.

I am so grateful to value my needs and quirks and the things that make me uniquely me more than any need to fit on anyone else’s graph.


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