I adore alpha males in fiction. The take-no-prisoners, my-way-or-the-highway, dragon-slayer types. I even cheer when they mess up and land themselves in trouble with the heroines, because it’s true to life, and I like seeing how couples work through conflict. “The course of true love never did run smooth,” and all that.
With apologies to Shakespeare, I’d like to share the results of my recent quest for “Real Life Romantic Heroes.” I interviewed women from a variety of backgrounds in relationships ranging from a ten-year marriage to newlyweds, to engagement and one or two who were still dating. I promised to keep their identities confidential. Because we hear endless tales of men in the doghouse, you might find these examples of thoughtful, adoring, and oh-so-romantic men refreshing. Some of them put romance novel heroes to shame. They certainly defy stereotypes.
Here are my top ten favorite stories from the women I interviewed:
10. “I sent my husband on a snowboarding trip without me when I couldn’t shake my morning sickness and insisted on staying home. I forgot about pouting when he came home wearing only his ski pants. He lay spread-eagle next to me on the bed, then told me to unzip a pocket, which I thought was strange until I found the pocket stuffed full of peanut M&Ms – my favorite! Me made me go through all his pockets to find them all…” (She laughs, blushing, leaving me to guess the rest.)
9. “I’m so proud of my soldier, but sometimes it seems like he turns around and leaves again as soon as he comes home. The last time he deployed, I was feeling really depressed. I missed him so badly I couldn’t stand it, until I opened a box of cereal and saw a post-it note inside with his handwriting. I rushed around, looking for more, and found love notes he’d hidden all around the house. Some of them sweet, some funny, and some hot. They made me cry, but also made me feel a little less lonely. It took me weeks to find them all.”
8. “I know you’re not supposed to go to bed angry. But I had a really bad fight with my husband, and the more we argued the worse it got, until at two a.m. we both gave up, hurting and fuming. I admit I was so upset I did the “cold silence” thing the next day, too proud to apologize first. He came home from work with takeout from my favorite restaurant, a box of chocolates, and flowers. He didn’t say “I’m sorry,” but he didn’t have to – he wrote an apology in a card. It put me to shame, and you’d better believe I apologized too for saying things I didn’t mean, and then made up for it!”
7. “I noticed the proofs for our engagement photos went missing. It started to drive me crazy until I found one, with a note from my fiancé written on the back about why he loved me and was excited to get married. He left one a day – in my car, at work, in my books – counting down until the wedding.”
6. “During a party game, everyone was supposed to list their three worst pet peeves about their significant other, and the couples earned points for correctly guessing what his/her partner wrote. Everyone was laughing about the pet peeves; wearing nerdy socks, burping, watching sports, excessive libido, etc. My husband stole the show – and ended the game – when he turned over his card to reveal that he had listed the three things he loved best about me instead. Later he said he just couldn’t stand to belittle me in front of others. Ever since, I have been careful not to join in when my friends complain about their husbands or boyfriends. I remember how loyal he is, and I can’t speak badly about him either.”
5. “When I came home from working the late shift at the hospital, I switched on the light and saw red roses hanging from the ceiling, all around the room like an upside down garden. Then I remembered – it was Valentine’s Day. I had been so busy and stressed out at work, I had forgotten all about it. I hadn’t gotten him a present, and I felt like such a jerk. Tied to the stems of every rose was a note, each listing a reason he loved me. I found roses in the microwave, in the closet, in the shower – all over the house. 100 roses and 100 notes total. He didn’t seem to care I’d forgotten his present, he just wanted to be with me. I still have those notes.”
4. “I was working at a shoe store in the mall when I saw the guy I was dating pacing back and forth in the gallery. I finished helping a customer and went to look. He stood on the other side of the display window, flipping a rectangular object in his hands, and smirking. I waved him inside and asked what on earth he was doing. Then I noticed it was the stereo faceplate from my car he held! He scolded me for leaving my windows cracked open, meaning he’d broken into my car and stolen it. He said he was holding my stereo for ransom, and if I wanted it back, I’d have to go out with him. He gave me a puppy-dog look with those gorgeous brown eyes, and I couldn’t say no. (I had been waiting for him to call, so I had to pretend to be mad.) Later that year, I married him.”
3. “It seemed like we never saw each other, with both of us always either in class or working. One day I found an open notebook on the breakfast table, where he’d written a sweet note for me with “I love you” at the bottom. I wrote back, and so it went back and forth. We filled every page of the notebook that semester, and I kept it.”
2. “The birth of your baby is supposed to be a wonderful experience, but for me it was frightening and stressful, ending in an emergency c-section. Later that night after everything calmed down and all the visitors went home, I rested a while, but I wasn’t asleep. I saw my husband pick up the baby and cradle him against his neck. He closed his eyes for a long time, and I finally realized he was crying as he kissed the baby’s head. I asked what was the matter, and he said he was just so happy, and that he loved me more than he could say. He never left my side and took care of my every need while I recovered. I’ve heard people complain about how having a baby makes marriage problems worse, but it was the opposite for us. Our son brought us together and made us a team.”
1. “I stood by the passenger door as my husband came around to open it for me. A man unlocked the car parked next to ours and commented, “Don’t get used to that. After a year or so that will get old, and he’ll quit doing it.” My husband replied, “I’m sorry sir, but you’re wrong. I’ll open doors for my wife until the day I die.” That was on our first anniversary, and seven years later, he has never once failed to open a door for me.”
A special thanks to the lovely ladies who shared their stories. Pass the tissues, please.
Do you have a Real Life Romantic Hero story? I’d love to hear it.