The Right Moves

I married a genuinely nice guy. Former Spouse had a few quirks, like needing to go to the gym almost every day for hours no matter what, running great distances regularly “for the fun of it,” and needing to eat his oranges standing at the kitchen sink—nowhere else.

And yet he had some moves, some small traits that won my heart. Without being told, he figured out how to fix my tea exactly the way I like it, and he’d occasionally bring me a cup without my having to ask.

He held doors for me, and always opened my car door before he went around to the other side and climbed in.

If he was meeting me among a group of our friends, he’d walk into the room, look me right in the eye, and say, “Hello, Gorgeous,” then come kiss me before he said hello to anybody else. The other ladies in the room would sigh audibly. The other fellows would wish they’d thought of that.

He could tell when I had a headache just by looking at me, He said it was something in my eyes that gave it away. My own parents never picked up on this, neither did my offspring.

These are the behaviors of a fellow who notices his lady, who observes her and processes what his senses are telling him about her, and then he goes one step further and acts on the information in a caring way. And note well, it doesn’t cost a lot of money to walk into a room, make a beeline for your beloved, and acknowledge him or her with open affection first, before you start working the crowd.

It costs nothing to figure out how a lady likes her tea. It costs nothing to hold doors for her. It doesn’t take great intelligence, it doesn’t take youthful stamina or great moves in bed.

To me, this is one essential presentation of romantic love—small things redolent of insight and caring. Things I hoard up when I come across them so I might imbue my fictional heroes with these traits.

So… how did you know your sig other was a keeper? Or with the ones that got away (or were tossed back) what little things did they do that make you smile at their memory?

And watch out how you answer, because if it’s really, really sweet, tender or clever, it might end up in the pages of one of my books!

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59 comments on “The Right Moves

  1. My husband of 13 years is a rare breed. He will clean the ENTIRE HOUSE for me while I am at work!!!! You may be picking yourself off of the floor from shock but, yes, I am lucky enough to say that I found a true partner in life. He changed diapers, gave them bottles in the middle of the night so as to allow me some more sleep, washed out toddler messes….the list goes on and on. When my friends talk about their husbands, and how they don’t assist in anything besides the “bringing home the bacon”, I just sit back and smile. It may be something as little as bringing me a cup of cocoa (my fave) or just calling on the way home from work to see if I want a Dairy Queen Blizzard…but, he makes me feel like I am the center of his world and very lucky in love.

  2. Yes, mine involves housekeeping too. I knew as soon as I met Chris (25 years ago this Feb. 20th) that he would be special in my life, but when he started “staying over,” he did dishes for me. He also finds geeky trivia through the day to test me with at night. Did I mention that we met at a “Star Trek” fan club event when we were in our teens and rediscovered each other in our late 20s?

    Great essay, Grace–thanks and LOVE Lord Valentine!

    • A guy willing to risk dish pan hands–how brave can you get? And happy upcoming Silver Anniversay, Julee. That is quite an accomplishment, and I’ll bet he’s still pitching in with the dishes, isn’t he?

  3. First, “Former Spouse” made me laugh. Does that usually follow his name? As in “John Doe, Former Spouse” or simply “John Doe, FS.”

    On the drive to work this morning I mulled your questions over. The thing that came to mind first is such a 21st century thing: I love to get unexpected text messages on my way to work that just say “have a good day.” Mornings are hectic for everyone and just that few seconds to think of me and send me off with a smile is so very nice.

    • Yes! The thoughtful text! If young fellers ever opened up a copy of Cosmo, they’d find much hand-wringing and heartwrenching by the young ladies over the average Swain’s seeming inability to send just that kind of “thinking of you” text. Thirty very well spent seconds in the life of a potential romance hero.

  4. My husband and I celebrate 32 years tomorrow. 🙂 We met on a blind date 4 days after my 16th birthday. He was the first person I was allowed to ”date”. We know now that we were meant to be together. But back then, we were just a couple of know it all teenagers.
    I turned 50 this year and my husband arranged a blow out surprise birthday party. I had absolutely no clue. And the topper was he brought my baby sister out from 1600 miles away to surprise me!! Oh come on!! He has to be the best husband ever. I am so looking forward to the next 32 years with him. I dont just love him, I like him!!

    • Lisa, you said a mouthful–you like him. I bet you respect him too. The studies I’ve seen (and as divorce mediator I see a lot) say that you can whether an awful lot in a marriage, but once respect is gone, the sharks start circling. I wish somebody would study how you protect that sense of mutual respect I hope all couples start out with.

      • I am not a mediator. But dont we all know sooo many people divorced. The one thing I see people do, is partying. Cant stay home and enjoy an evening with their spouse or by themselves. Always need people around them and to be off doing something! I cant say I have known one of those kind of couples that make it. The constant activity often seems to lead to alcohol and other things that no marriage can survive.

  5. Hi – I think I fell in love with my now hubby when I saw how many books he owned…and saw that we both owned “The Princess Bride”! I love that we share a common love of reading; when I finish a particularly good book, he often picks it up to read. I laughed last week when I looked up from my nook color and saw that he had taken a book out of the library to read that I had also downloaded to my nook. Sure gives us more to talk about…and we share quite a few quiet dinners, reading together. This year marks our 25th anniversary…yippee!

    • Another Silver crown! Congratulations to you and your prince, Jan. My parents have been married for more than 65 years and my mother no longer hears well, which makes TV of limited value to her, but she can still read. She and Dad pass books back and forth, and pass them on to us. It makes for a family dialogue that all starts with my mom’s interest in reading.
      Any plans for the big anniversary?

  6. Oh. It is those “little” gestures that can add up to “perfect for each other.” I have a genetic immune deficiency. This means I often feel like a medical experiment and require a level of understanding and care taking above the norm. My fiance came over to be with me for my regular IV treatment before we had even kissed. He was curious. Within a week he started donating plasma…he opened a vein for love. Gothic? Yep. Swoon worthy? Yep. Topped with a baffled boy look of “Why wouldn’t I do these thing?”
    Getting up on the ER table and holding me when I was shivering in pain and cold…on our sixth date. An all nighter at the ER definitely weeds out the dating prospects. By dawn the nurse explained my blood pressure needed to be a smidge higher for me to be released and not check into the hospital. She looked straight at him and asked, “ready?” As she started taking my blood pressure he leaned over and laid a smoking kiss on me. Yep, my blood pressure jumped right up over the line! She laughed, told us to go home, and I turned ever shade of crimson a pale blonde can.
    Ok, I’ll be quiet now. Have a treasure chest of these moments that are all the more special since he was killed six weeks before our wedding. He will always be my romantic hero who proved all the romance novels True.

    • Good God, Larisa…. What a treasure, what a loss, what a treasure. Do not let Nicholas Sparks get hold of that tale unless he’s willing to make you very, very wealthy in the process.
      I hope the love has healed the grief, because losing a love like that would nearly kill me.

      • It about did. And your books, esp St Just’s, are part of where I ran off to mentally to make it through; to remember HEA doesn’t necessarily mean forever. That it most assuredly can happen again to this new version of me that was created by such a Love, shattered, and is being remade into a new mosaic. Thanks for the comfort and inspiration via very real, human characters.

      • Larisa, I ended up expecting unexpectedly when I was in my third year of night law school and working full time. I had another year of law school to go but had to drop out when the pregnancy turned high risk. I was put on complete bed rest, and I was living alone at the time….My Mom the Registered Nurse came tearing across the continent to stay with me so I wouldn’t have to spend weeks in the hospital, but it was still a lonely, scared pregnancy. When I was nine months along, I came across “Angel In a Red Dress” by Judith Ivory and read it over and over. I needed sanctuary, and that book came through for me. I don’t know exactly the road you’ve traveled, but I know the territory, and what a marvel, that books can comfort us to the extent they do. Hang in there. Get your hands on some Jo Bourne if you haven’t already, and hang in there.

      • Grace, I will find that book! and I love Jo Bourne. Hawker, let me count the ways; and Annique, to be as resourceful and so very French as Annique.

        I think what you survived is so much harder than grief. A tiny life was on the line, a career on hold, so many variables and pressure.

        Thank you Bonnie. Wishing you a man who gives many kisses that raise both your blood pressure!

        Two things I love about this post and the comments:
        The inescapable proof that romance novels do Not give us unrealistic expectations for men to attain.
        The civility about ex-husbands. They aren’t always Satan’s evil twin. So refreshing.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your incredible love story with us. What a moment – what a memory. And you always have those. Your experiences have carved you deep – the depths of love and heights of happiness awaiting you…oh…incredible!

  7. My husband will fill my gas tank always (he knows I hate doing that lol) and clean off the snow in the winter. I never have to fuss about the cars. He also brought my first kitten home to me and has let me take in many strays and ferals and care for the ones still outside. It’s the everyday things that are important – more than gifts on alloted days (although I get some of those too lol).

    • I know a lot of guys who refer to Valentine’s Day as “obligation day,” but those are probably the same guys who aren’t on the ball enough to bring a Cat Lady her first orphan kitten, or keep her tank topped off. I’m abso with you–if it takes a Hallmark cattle prod, then he’s not the guy for me.

  8. I’ve been married to my husband for nearly 25 years. We met in college (he was the teaching assistant for one of my professors), and my first impression of him was that he was a know-it-all. My second impression of him was that he was incredibly funny and full of energy, and a great embellisher of stories. On our first “official”date, he took me camping, and the next morning when he made me a full breakfast of eggs, steak, and potatoes that he had packed in, I thought to myself, “I’m probably going to marry this guy.” he has not changed in al these years …oh, he’s relaxed a bit, but in every other way, he’s the man I married.

    • Kath, that is a wonderful story. I’m reminded of a talk I was having with a divorce client–she was steaming mad at her ex to be, and at the way he was acting toward the their children. I tried to reason with her, hoping she’d see that things weren’t always this bitter between them. “But wait a minute, ma’am. This is the guy you promised to love, honor and cherish until death did you part…” She cut me off, stating, “THAT is not the man I married. I can show you videos of the man I married. He was warm, he was funny, he was caring…”

      Somewhere along the way, Himself stopped packing in the ham and eggs, much less making breakfast over the campfire. Your guy sounds like a prince–and he asked the right lady to go on that camping trip.

  9. Our first “unofficial” date was staying up all night talking. Love when a guy just talks.. so rare these days. When he’s away he’ll call me as often as he can, (military) and send text messages when he has a spare moment 🙂 Breakfast in bed is always nice. Allowing my sister to move in with us for a year.. priceless 🙂 Calling me when he’s had a bit too much to drink with the guys and having me “walk” him home (when away:))

    • Ahhh! I especially like that last one, about walking him home. I occasionally call family when I’m out walking, though I don’t ask them to walk with me. I’ll borrow that from your swain.

  10. Grace! I cannot wait for the next book! LOVED them all so far! This summer wil mark my 8th wedding anniversary. When I first met my husband, I was astounded that he had 25 books about chess in his room, but I fell in love with him any way and he still makes me a little weak in the knees every day!

    • I didn’t know there were 25 books about chess… but it sounds like he had the right moves in more than one sense. You’re entitled to a sigh of relief, too, because you’ve passed the seven year mark. Divorce really does spike at that point, and for some reason at 17 years too. Not a cheering thought!

  11. Your post really warmed my heart, Grace. There are not as many men out there who put our welfare before everything else as we wish. Gladly I can say, my husband does. I have some issues with blood surgar. If it drops under a certain level, I get the shakes, a terrible headache and I’m a realy nasty person at that time. I tend to hurry around, talk more than usual and automatically grab each bite of chocolate I can steal.
    All these signs kind of manifested in his mind, and it happens more often than not that he tells me to sit down with him for a second, then he gets me a sandwich or abother small snack. Only then I do realize I’m running on low sugar…when he’d noticed it straight away. That is one reason why I love him.

    • I suspect this is an issue with more us then we know. It certainly makes a difference in kids. How nice, that your fellow watches you closely enough to look out for you in this way, and that his response isn’t, “You need to eat something,” but rather, “Can you sit with me for a minute?” Brilliant!

  12. Grace, I started trying to think of the grand gesture that my hubby made over all the years we’ve been married, and I came to the conclusion that you’re right, it’s an accumulation of the little things. (Remember that old song “Little Things Mean a Lot?) He rubs my back and neck when they hurt. He tells me I’m beautiful and sexy, though I know I’m not. He always tells me he loves me. Recently he had to have major surgery, and it was all kind of last minute. He said he wouldn’t be able to go Christmas shopping. I told him not to worry, we’d deal with that after he was back on his feet. Well, he had his sister go shopping for him so on Christmas morning I had my favorite perfume and a box of Godiva chocolates to open. (I already have recently acquired a lovely signed copy of Virtuoso in case my name gets picked. BUT no nook for Christmas. LOL)

    • (in all seriousness, should my name get picked, the few ebooks I have, I read on kindle for pc, so a nook would be better used by another reader.)

      • Bonnie, the one big heroic gesture is that he loves you, relentlessly, though thick and thin, sickness and health. And for guys, I think their sickness is much harder for them to deal with than ours. Take good care of him, and next giveaway will involve chocolate. Promise.

  13. I knew my husband was a keeper when he bought me a “stress releving kit without being asked. Yhis kit includes An aspirin for headache my favorite chocolate, A dr.Pepper and a new romance novel and a hot bubble bath with the instructions “Take as long as you need baby”

  14. This is such a fitting topic for me, as it has been on my mind a lot lately. I had a relationship that I felt changed me as a person, it formed me in some ways. I was a young thing (19) and felt like I knew everything. I’ve always felt a little odd and not quite like I fit anywhere and I met a much older man through family and I felt instantly at ease with him. He treated me like a lady, he listened to me and we had great chemistry. I thought he was the ONE. Needless to say I am not married to him and it took years of heartache and grief before I let go of only one soul mate. I settled for pretty rotten guys after him just because I thought well they are not my soulmate and I might as well not be lonely and have fun.
    Then I had an opportunity to hang out with that man as a 30 year old. And I realized the problems with the relationship were still there. Our weaknesses and strengths clashed more than they flowed, even if we had love and chemistry. I think the air will always sizzle when we meet and I still grieve that love lost. But…
    My husband accepts me for who I am. He loves my imperfections, my emotions and moods. We balance each other (I’m the worrier he’s the happy go lucky guy. I’m the feeler he’s the logic guy) and together we make an awesome team. I dated my husband for a year before we got serious and it, our love, kind of snuck up on me. He told me recently I flew again. I flew once and crashed and it took a long time before I felt comfortable to do it again. I’m thankful I did.

  15. Allison, what a lovely testament to both love lost, and the ability to love regained. I think we all go through the toad-kissing phase (grown children, that is not permission to go slumming), but it’s a rare and strong couple who can realize that your differences really are what make you a strong team. Hats off to you and the guy you decided to soar with.

    • It is so kind that you respond with intelligence and heart to these replies. So Thank you lady Grace for always knowing what to say and doing it so beautifully. What a special partner you have found!


  16. Time to announce YESTERDAY’s winner, and that would be…. Jan Terry, whose Handsome Swain caught her eye when she realized he had a copy of The Princess Bride, TOO. Jan, I’ll be emailing you to ask for your snail mail addy. Congrats, and today’s winner will be posted tomorrow night, etc.

  17. I have yet to find a keeper. I want nothing more than a loving lasting relationship… yet, it seems to me all my friends have sacrificed so much of themselves simply to settle with just any ol’ guy. I’m not about to give up my freedom and lifestyle just so I can call someone “boyfriend” or “hubby.” I’m not that insecure nor dissatisfied with my own company for that!

    …but a man that is considerate enough to eat his oranges over a sink sounds like a keeper, indeed (that’s a very messy treat)! 😉

    • Former Spouse and I are still very cordial. Like most second marriages (his second, my first) we came a cropper on “blended family issues.” Second marriages crash more often than first marriages, for reasons which I can blog about some other time. I applaud your determination to hold out for the right match–the later you marry, the less likely you are to divorce. And single women in midlife–how you say, the spinsters–report some of the highest quality of life and personal happiness on the planet.

      • I hear you there; it’s definitely not as easy as The Brady bunch made it seem. 😉

        …but, oh – spinster has SUCH a negative connotation. We must create a new term! lol

      • Or maybe just good things. Good health, good friends, a good paycheck and meaningful work…sometimes getting those details worked out makes it a whole lot easier to see the Handsome Prince when he come riding up on his charger.

  18. And I love The Princess Bride for keeping a young Cary Elwes ever close at hand. It’s a movie I can still watch with my (now grown up) daughter, and chime in on the dialogue. May we all find HEA’s as impressive as Princess Buttercup’s!

  19. I’ve been with my husband for eight years, we’ve been married almost five years. One of the things that stands out in my mind is right after we started dating (officially), he sent me a card via snail mail stating how much fun he had on date and couldn’t wait until the next one. He still sends cards via snail mail, and it just brightens my day to get them. We live in the pacific northwest and during the winter months we have snow and rain. Every evening after I go to bed, my husband goes to the garage and cleans my windshield, wipes down the headlights taking off all the grime from the roads and weather. He leaves post-its on the coffee pot wishing me a good day (I leave for work at 5am, he’s still asleep). Last week he left a Hershey Kiss on the dashboard of my car with a note that said, A sweet kiss, for my sweetheart”. Those are just a few of the wonderful little things he does. I just heart him!!

    • And what does a Hershey’s kiss cost? A post-it note? Nada. And yet, with your schedules off kilter, your guy has found a way to let you know he’s thinking of you when you can’t be together. He’s found ways to lighten your load and make you just a little more safe and happy in this world. But as I asked an earlier commenter: So how do you get even?

      • I wish I could I say, I was just a romantic as he is, but after thinking about what I do, I have to say I’m not as romantic. Hmm…Something I would like to change. I’m a list builder. I build list for everything. I often will make him a list of something that needs to be done, or if he’s going to do the grocery shopping I make the list. Most of the time on the list I’ll add an “I love you” or “you’re the best husband”. It’s usually between the “milk” and “broccoli”. I think, I need to start thinking about this getting even business, a little more. 🙂

      • Lindsey, to me “Between Milk and Broccoli” has the ring of a title, maybe to a love poem, maybe an essay, or maybe just a sentiment scrawled on a sticky note next to two chocolate kisses…. love it. Run with it.

  20. My “keeper” likes to pamper me – brings me breakfast in bed, washes my car -lots of little things like that. When we were first dating almost 30 years ago, we had little money to go out and do things, so we would grab a couple of books and the transistor radio and head over to the rose garden park to read and listen to the baseball game. He was a keeper because he was so comfortable to spend time with. I think he is most like Vim in Lady Sophia’s story – Vim was comfortable and nurturing. I loved that book! My favorite scene was when Vim came back and called out to Sophie to – come here and let me kiss you senseless – before he realizes her 3 brothers are standing there!

    • Sophie’s book had a lot of fun moments, but that was family in a nutshell. I have four brothers, enough said.

      Your swain sounds like a lovely fellow, and I’ll bet you have a soft spot for rose gardens, too! I believe you’re also the first commenter who’s mentioned breakfast in bed, too, though I have to say, I write a lot of breakfast in bed scenes. Hmmm. I’ll have to look at where that comes from.

  21. Grace my late husband had many of those moves also. He was the one who taught me to care for my car, check & change the oil, check the water & transmission fluid, & even how to change a flat tire. Since we were both active duty Army at the time we married and I knew there was a time in our future that we wouldn’t always be together I really appreciated his help. He gave me what I considered unconditional love and never asked for anything in return. Although I was widowed after just 18 months of marriage I knew it would be impossible to replace him so I didn’t try. I’ve already got a signed copy of The Virtuoso so I don’t need a second copy, but I’d love to be entered to win the grand prize.

  22. Oh goodness, so many things.
    For now, I’ll stick with an answer inspired by this:
    He built me bookshelves. He hates doing that kind of stuff (lots of swearing involved) but has built me many since we first met when I was 16. From that first one he put together for me when I started college to all the bookshelves that are in our daughters’ rooms…I know that man loves me with each book on our shelves. (and we have A LOT of books in our home)

    I also just want to say – that thing with the look and the kiss and the hello? What a man.

    • Former Spouse had great instincts in a lot of regards. Still does. And the bookshelves–that’s true love in a nutshell. He “got” you, so he got you, and he deserves the treasure that is you. Not sure what Ikea’s stake in the venture is…

  23. Consider yourself entered, Ms. Molly. Eighteen months doesn’t seem nearly long enough to appreciate a guy who’s that pragmatic about what a woman needs to know to be safe and self-sufficient. When I was nine hippo-shaped months pregnant, one of my guy friends tuned up my truck for me (I lived 70 miles from the hospital and was due in the dead of winter) as my baby shower gift. The same guy got me a rocking chair and put it together for me. He’s no longer with us, but I think of him often–when there’s a baby shower to buy for, when I see a rocking chair, when I write a scene where somebody’s settling their weary bones into a rocking chair.

    Eighteen months isn’t nearly long enough, but in some ways, the good ones stay with us forever.