This past April marked my ninth wedding anniversary. It got me thinking about all the ways I have appreciated my husband in the past decade, all the things I want my daughters to know about their dad when searching for their own spouse. And although I’m rarely sappy and my husband shies away from me bragging on him, I couldn’t help but write a list. It’s a list of some of the things I knew about my husband the day I married him, and even more importantly, what I have learned about him since.

I knew my husband loved me. What I did not know was the depth that love would entail. I could not have known that this man would stay by my side as we watched my sister draw her last breath on this earth, then hold me as we wept together. I did not know he would give up everything — home, job, plans — so we could be close to my family. I did not know our lives would so intertwine that almost ten years later, I can’t always remember which ideas about how our life got to this place are his and which are mine.

I knew my husband was kind. What I did not know was that kindness would be shown by small actions: flowers after a hard day, leaving the house at 3 a.m. to get me 7UP when I was sick, listening to me pour out my frustrations after a trying day.The way he cares about the seemingly insignificant parts of my life.

I knew my husband believed in me. I did not know he would be my biggest cheerleader. Encouraging me to dream beyond my capabilities, offering me the use of time and money to pursue things (even when there seems to be no return!). Believing in anything and everything I put my hand to.

I knew my husband was loyal. I did not realize how he would put our relationship above every other. Protecting our privacy, our ability to confide in each other, trusting each other with our most desperate secrets, our deepest longings. Seeing the worst of me, he remains true to our marriage and our vows, covering — never exposing — my flaws to others.

I knew my husband loved family. I did not know that he would be our buffer. That he would fight for our family, defend, and stand up for us when needed. That he would be the kind of dad who can just as easily throw a football with our boys as he can read a book or dance with our daughters. Our family only looks the way it does today because he was willing to have the hard conversations, willing to ask for what we wanted, even when I was too afraid.

I knew my husband loved God. I did not know his passion for God would continue to grow and change, spurring us on to new adventures, continually willing to reassess and rethink what we believe. Challenging the status quo and standing for what he believes is right.

And although I know there’s nothing listed that would be considered “flashy” or “sexy” by our society’s standards (notice I never mention his manly good looks or buff physique 🙂 ), these are the things that I have found most important. The things that have anchored us to one another, even on our worst days. Even when we don’t like each other. Even when we fight. We forever remain united.

“My beloved is mine, and I am his.” Song of Solomon 2:16

What have you come to appreciate or value about your spouse over the years?