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How I Know He Loves Me
By Ronlyn Domingue
Author of The Mercy of Thin Air: A Novel

In my closet, there is no box of love letters. Not traditional ones anyway.

Ten years ago, I worked for a consulting firm that had me fly to a Dallas client site every Monday morning and home every Friday afternoon. Weekends were a blur. Weekdays were brutal. In the middle of each week, though, the message light on my hotel room phone blinked -- and I knew there was something waiting for me at the front desk.

Although I talked to him every day, Todd, my partner, sent me letters. They were written on loose leaf paper, often in pencil. He was reading lots of Kurt Vonnegut at the time -- Breakfast of Champions was a favorite -- so there were always strange little illustrations among his words. The letters would sometimes go on for pages, merely recounts of his day (which I'd probably already heard on the phone) or shared anecdotes from work.

I swear my heart skipped a beat every time I got one.

It didn't matter that the paper edges weren't singed by professions of his ardor. He didn't have to go on and on about how much he missed me. I knew -- simply by the appearance of those letters every single week -- that he loved me.

How else do I know he loves me?

When we were in college, this is the man -- a rock guitarist working toward a music composition degree -- who once paid homage to my political activism with the blues-style song, "My Baby's a Feminist." It's as heartfelt, and funny, as any power ballad ever bellowed.

He found a replacement of the only doll I ever loved, which my mother had accidentally donated, a 1970 Mattel Baby Beans with a working voice box.

Every time we're on the highway, he'll suddenly shout, "Don't look, Ron, don't look!" when he spots road kill.

When I was working on my first novel and so deep in "the zone" that I wrote for hours, he refused to go to bed. My office was next to the living room, and I'd emerge in the dead of night to find him asleep on the sofa, the cat nearby keeping a somnolent vigil in his stead.

With Valentine's Day on its way, I wondered how other women know that their husbands and partners love them, too. Would there be stories of extravagant gifts or mere trinkets, grand gestures or simple pleasures?

Twenty years ago, Renee, now a successful freelance writer, met her husband in college. "When we were first dating, he always let me hang up first at the end of our phone calls so I wouldn't have to hear that lonely click."

She's now 41, married 17 years, with three children. Expressions of love have become somewhat domestic but treasured all the same.

"He lies on the floor with the kids at night and does their homework with them (so I don't have to) and drills them for their spelling tests. He makes dinner 75% of the time and does a great clean up, too."

Mary has had a lifelong affection for puppets of all kinds -- sock, finger, you name it. Last Christmas, her partner of two years surprised her with one of her very own.

"David commissioned the making of a handmade marionette based on a picture of my cat," Mary, 27, said. "How do I know this means he loves me? Well, aside from the unusualness and creativity of the gift, it's a caricature of Jupiter -- the cat who hides under beds, attacks him every chance he gets, and draws blood."

Today, The Dread Pirate Jup guards their living room, attired in a puffy white shirt, black velvet coat, and leather boots.

Every relationship has its challenges, and for Marie (not her real name) and her husband, it was the aftermath of job layoffs.

"We've been through many trials," Marie, an at-home mother of three, said, "and our biggest ones -- the ones that I feared would break us apart -- were actually the trials that strengthened our bond."

Her husband reveals his love not through gifts or honey-dos, but through his eyes.

"When I saw 'the look' in his eyes when each of our children was placed in my arms, each look more emotional than the last it seemed, I could not help but cry and lock it away it my memory for future reference."

Marie, 36, still experiences this today. "I may see it when he gives me flowers for our anniversary, or when he's enjoying playtime with one of our children. He just gives that same look . . . and I know."

Sometimes, when a man ventures from his comfort zone, a woman receives more than just a subtle hint that it's love.

Sarah, a 30-something poet and literature scholar, has been romantically twined for four and a half years. She described her partner as a "militantly anti-romantic geek-head," but apparently, he has a softer side, even if he's fuzzy on the details.

"The day my man gave me jewelry -- a blue topaz necklace, which he explained is supposed to bring out the blue in my eyes, which are really not blue, but whatever -- I knew he loved me."

On that note, Jennifer got a huge surprise at the end of 2005 from her boyfriend, six years her senior. "He's never been married or even in a truly committed relationship, and the last two girlfriends he had never met his family. But within 10 months of dating me, he puts his grandmother's antique wedding ring in my Christmas stocking and proposes."

Indeed, actions sometimes speak louder than words.

Yet among all the women who shared their stories, there was one commonality. For each, when her man said "I love you," she knew, deep down, he truly meant it.

Copyright © 2006 Ronlyn Domingue

Author Bio
Ronlyn Domingue
is the author of THE MERCY OF THIN AIR (Atria Books; September 2005; $24.00US/$33.00CAN; 0-7432-7880-1) -- a story of love that transcends death itself. She lives in Louisiana and is at work on her second novel.For more information, please visit www.ronlyndomingue.com.