Six years ago last Thursday at 10:05 a.m. MST, the brilliant cardio-thoracic surgeon Dr. Luis Rosado-Lopez cut open my beloved’s chest and constructed three alternative pathways for blood to flow to his heart.

Dr. Rosado saved Ed’s life, and today my blog is about gratitude for that gift.

I’m one of the truly blessed people to have a life partner who “gets” me. I don’t have to explain why I am the way I am; that when I’m sometimes confrontational, I’m desperately afraid of being hurt; that beneath my tough façade lies a vulnerability that I’ve spent a whole lifetime protecting with layers of emotional armor. I share things with him that I never thought I would share with anyone, and thoughts I never thought I could express aloud. For the first time in my life, it’s OK for me to feel unguarded and vulnerable. Because Ed “gets” me.

This hasn’t always been what I longed for in a partner. At nineteen, when I met my children’s father, I needed above all else to feel safe, quite the opposite of exposed or vulnerable. I wanted someone to have my back, someone I could count on to be there for me, unquestioningly, no matter what. My first husband did that for me. For ten years, he stood steadfastly by my side. I didn’t understand until years after our break-up that the safety of that marriage allowed me to hide from myself, rarely revealing – even to myself – the terrified child within me.

I’m just beginning to comprehend the important distinction between a life partner who’s always there to keep me safe, and someone who “gets” me so deeply that I cannot hide, from him or from myself. And to appreciate that what I valued most at one time in my life is not what’s most important today.

Do any of you think about the difference between having a life partner who’s always there for you and one who “gets” you? Have you valued one over the other at certain times in your life? Is there yet some other quality of your life partnership you value more than any other?