My Valentine

I don’t write a lot about Russ here.

It’s not really on purpose, though there probably is a part of me that thinks I’ll give him a break since (ironically, considering what he does for a living) he really isn’t that comfortable with a lot of attention focused on him. But also, the reason I started this blog was really to write about my life from my perspective, and to give my views and opinions, etc.– because we all know how fascinating that can be, right?! However, the fact that he isn’t mentioned here as often as say, the girls, the dogs or my birdfeeder doesn’t mean that he is an incidental part of my life or heart.

We have been married 32 years. I’ll pause a minute to let that sink in. That is a crazy long time to know someone, much less share living space with them! Sometimes when I look at those early pictures of us together in high school and as a young married couple I feel like I don’t even know those two people. We were babies! So idealistic and fearless, so sure of ourselves and each other… I was madly in love with him. I couldn’t wait to jump headlong into our life together– didn’t know what all it was going to be exactly, but I was so ready to experience it with him. I looked up to Russ, I trusted him and knew that no matter what, he would love me and take care of me.

I’m still in love him. But not ‘madly’.

More like sanely.



And before you start feeling sorry for me and what must sound like a lackluster love life, believe me when I tell you, I much prefer this version! Because the thing is, this is the real deal. This is a love not built on dreams and promises, but deepened by shared experiences and time-tested commitment. I know so much more now than that bright-eyed twenty-year old who thought she’d found her prince. He’s not a prince. He’s a man, with all of the flaws and contradictions that come with being human. He has fallen down, and gotten up. He has succeeded and failed. He has far exceeded my expectations, and sometimes fallen short of my ideals. And he could surely say the same about me!

I’ve learned some surprising things about myself in this relationship. I’ve learned that I don’t need Russ to live, but I choose to live this life with him. I don’t have to believe in him, but I choose to always believe for the best in him. And though I sure do appreciate having him to lean on and talk to and co-parent with, I really can take care of myself. Trust me, these are good things for a woman to know. I want this love and this marriage, and I am willing to work to keep it. If there is anything that has been made abundantly clear to me in these last 32 years, it’s that love comes at a price. But that price should not cost us everything. Real love– passionate, nurturing, healthy love–will never cause us to lose ourselves in someone else, it will help us find out who we really are. Living with and loving Russ has done that for me. I know who I am, I know what I believe, and I know what matters most. That knowledge didn’t always come easily or painlessly, but it is well worth it.

That man I fell in love with, as a teenager, with all of the humor and talent and faith that make Russ who he is– that man is not only still in there, he has grown and changed into someone I love even more. This past year in particular I have seen him face down the demons of his past and do the work it takes to move beyond them. He has opened himself up in ways he never has before, and though it has been scary and unfamiliar emotional territory for him, he didn’t back down. I respect that, more than I can tell you.

So on this Valentine’s Eve, I want to say out loud (in print) that I love that raggedy ol’ husband of mine with all my heart. He is a good man, a loving father, and can still make me laugh until I get the hiccups.

We were made for each other.

32 Responses

  1. gracelynn

    I agree with you 100% Tori – you and Russ were definitely meant for one another and God knew what He was doing when He placed you both together. 32 years of marriage is not something to be taken lightly, especially these days when most people don’t stay together a year. Hope you both have a Happy Valentine’s Day and may God give you many more years of happiness together.

  2. dijea

    I soooooooooooooo am right there with you. I tell everyone life with Mason is like being in your favorite recliner in your comfy jammies all snug with your best book, or movie or whatever. It just feels like home.

    That’s the best kind of stuff. Happy Valentines day!

  3. blondemomblog

    I love this…beautiful thoughts on Valentine’s Eve. :)

    I’ve known my husband for 22 years (!) and we’ve been married nearly 12. Just wow!

  4. karen48

    Awesome….Happy Valentines day to you and Russ. I hope you have many more Valentine Days to come.

  5. auburn60

    Last year at FF this is the exchange I had with Russ:

    (At Russ’s table, people stepping around where Russ and I were standing [AFTER Russ referred to me as ‘Ma’am’,but that’s another story]trying to get a word with Tori.)

    Me: ‘ Well, I guess we can see who is the big attraction at this table!’

    Russ: “Oh yeah, my biggest attraction,too–for over 30 years.”


  6. Barbara M. Lloyd

    Oh I love it…I just love it. Anyone who has ever been to a Russ Taff solo concert has heard him talk about how much he loves his family…and that is one of the many things about my Russ that has endeared him to me. And I love that song about God holds the anchor….I believe that is what holds the Taff marriage in such a loving and satisfying place.

    Now we come to the serious part. I deserve a lot of credit for the preservation of the Taff marriage. I wear my “No. 1 Russ Taff fan” button proudly as I ride herd on those women at the concerts…and they shiver. I won’t mention names because I don’t like court rooms. My biggest concern at the moment is if I ever have to go into a wheelchair, how in the world am I going to make out bumpity-bumbing up and down those long stairs at some of those concerts?

    Okay, back to reality…I love my little Taff family….and I love to hear how much you love one another. It’s kinda like a Valentine gift to me.

  7. rockin robyn

    Turn around is fair play… that truly brought tears to my eyes, Tori! What a beautiful thing to say about your husband.

    Coming from a single womans perspective, I can truly say that what I’ve learned and observed over my life time is that LOVE in a marriage is an ‘earned’ emotion. If it is not worked for (and I mean all the ingredients: blood, sweat and tears) it’s just not true love. I have watched friends and family members relationships simply fade away, because they weren’t willing to work through the hard times. It’s all good when life is just flowing right along but when the tough times come and it’s time to step up to the challenges in life – well it’s just easier to just jump ship.

    I always wondered if I were to ever get the chance to stand at the alter and say those words “I Do” — umm… I was always scared, would I be saying those words simply to get through the ceremony or would I truly be saying those words knowing I was standing in the presence of my Heavenly Father and saying those vows in His name.

    I’ve come to the realization that some people are just meant for singleness and maybe that’s me but I just admire and praise the Lord when I see couples still in love and still able to treat their spouse with respect. When I see evidence of marriages truly made in Heaven… well, maybe it just gives me hope!

    Happy Valentines Day everyone!

  8. mariajhmom

    Having been a Russ Taff fan (Don’t worry! Just his music!!!) for 30 years, it’s fun to get to see a bit of the great woman behind the man! We all know that our husbands would never survive without us!

    I totally get what you mean about being sanely in love. Newlyweds look exhausting to me! I’ll take our 23 years.

    Oh, and I’m pretty sure that a little swearing is good for what ails you too!

    passingdowncrazy dot com

  9. tori

    I just sent a text message to Russ– he’s with Homecoming this weekend– and told him to check my blog for his valentine. Thanks to your sweet comments, now he has even more!

    OH! You guys have to go check out Maria’s (above) blog– she is crazy talented!

  10. teegees

    Very well said! I got a little tiny lump in my throat… You’re so right Tori, true love has less to do with “madness” and more to do with sanity. Which is not to say that ones true love doesn’t drive them mad occasionally! But it’s so much more than the thumpity thump your heart does when they walk into the room. It’s the lifetime of shared experiences that becomes tightly woven into this beautiful tapestry of relationship. The wonder and messiness and glory that is the human condition.

    Happy Valentines Day!

  11. jennski

    Beautiful story, means way more than a card! BTW – I just found your blog. I appreciate you talking about your struggle with infertility in your “About” page. Not enough Christians talk about it, even though lots of us go through it. We were married for 12 years before we had our beautiful twin daughters thanks to IVF. I’m glad IF treatments worked for you, kids provide a lot of blogging material :-) I was also 36 with our first babies…we’re hoping to try for #3 next year..have to save up!

  12. tori

    Welcome Jennski– so glad you found me, thanks so much for commenting! Bless your hearts, so happy to hear about your twins– and best of luck with #3!

  13. LindaB

    Awwwww! That was sweet! I think I heard violins!

    When we were in Gatlinburg at a Gaithernet luncheon, Russ was talking about you, Tori. He said you know A WHOLE LOT of words——a lot more words than he does! And when you two have an argument, he’s reduced to saying, “OH YEAH???” That cracked me up! He talked about you a lot, and it was clear that he not only loves you, but he ADMIRES you and appreciates your gifts—–which I think makes him a prince! He admires your wit, your energy, your mothering the girls so well, your writing talent, along with your many other accomplishments! He is PROUD of you! And I think I remember him referring to you as a “babe”.

    You are both “firecrackers”, but together, you’re “THE BOMB”!!!! HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!!!! You deserve every sweet thing that day can bring!

  14. wuzza

    Hey – couldn’t come up with a harder password? Ha..That one took no prisoners..C’mon – that’s kinda funny.. I ran across your blog on Russ’ myspace..I’m a songwriter and reading your “My Valentine” blog struck a chord (hey..see what i did there?..songwriter..chord..(pun was not intended…it’s a gift..ha)..Anyway, I wrote a song that fits your blog right down to the letter..(neither was that one)..It’s called “Ain’t No First Date”.. Been married 20 years..Sooo… on the outside chance you’d like to hear it -my myspace is: ..I think I’m somewhere in Russ’ friends too if that helps.. He and I had a short conversation waiting for our luggage at the Nashville airport -enjoyed it.. There is so much Christian writing that is so disturbingly sanitary it makes an operating room look like a dump.. Just real people trying to get to know a real God and walk in the sometimes delicate balance between the fear of Him and the calling to come boldly to Him while being honest before Him.. Wow -that was heavy huh?!.. Maybe i should get back to the puns..hehe.. Listen..I’ve always been a huge fan of Russ’ music and that voice but after reading your blog I’m now also fan of the inner workings of Tori Taff.. Dug it! Come by and say hey if you’ve got a few mins. Blessings on you and your family – head to toe..You’ll totally get/dig that song…Now -where was I? – oh yeah I was singing the old hymn..”Some to Jesus I surrender I’m still working on the rest..” Just bein’ honest.I have a feelin’ you get that..
    Thanks -I’ll be back,
    Warren Sellers

  15. morgitta

    Wonderful posting, Tori.
    Happy Valentine for both of you.

  16. LindaB

    Russ has great hair, too. (Just thought I’d throw that in there! It’s my birthday today and I’m giving myself some liberties.)

  17. LindaB

    How’s that for a random thought? That’s what happens when you turn 60!

  18. belinda

    I agree you and Russ were made for each other and God knew what he was doing when he put you together. I agree with Momma Lloyd and others, anytime you are around Russ, he is always talking about Tori and the girls and you know he loves them from the bottom of his heart and we know Tori loves them all right back. One time we were taking Russ to the airport after he had been here for a concert and he said “the best part of all of this is getting to go home to my family.” That kind of sums it up right there, he will go out and do what he knows he is called to do and loves it but the best part is going home to his wife and daughters.

    We have been very blessed to have the Taff’s in our lives. God really loved us to bless us with such great friends. If you see them together, you realize how perfect they are for each other and they write THE BEST songs!!!

    I understand what Tori is saying about being young and in love and then being with someone and having the best now. Troy and I have been married for 29 years and it is the best! I am very fortunate to have a husband whom I love and love spending time with and it does just keep getting better and better.

  19. auburn60

    Happy Birthday,LB!

  20. LindaB

    Thanks, Alyson! If you ever need advice from someone a lot older than you, just ask!

  21. MostlySunny

    Well said…Perfectly said!

    Happy Birthday LindaB. Mine’s this week – the old “double nickel”! As for marriage – this is year #30 on December 22nd. Gosh, I used to be young; I used to have a waist, too (that was another blog).

  22. auburn60

    Oh yeah, a whole lot older. My birthday was the 9th and I was 51.

    I’ll just call you ‘grandma’.

  23. LindaB

    Why not, Alyson, everybody else in Genesee county calls me Grandma!?! And happy birthday to you too, Alyson—-a bit belated.
    And you too, MostlySunny! You’re going the speed limit now……55! Drive carefully!

  24. jonny

    Well, happy birthday to all it may concern! Mine was the 14th. Not sure if that’s when LindaB’s was. One gift could very well be hooking up with Russ, his voice/vocal performances again, Tori & blog family via the net. Thanks Wuzza for the reminder to see about adding Russ as a MySpace friend. Basically our friends have been artists who’ve influenced what I do with my band. I realized recently what a huge influence Russ was starting with hearing a friend’s 8track version of Water Grave when carpooled to school as a kid. Then shortly after an initial massive conversion experience in my early 20s a friend had something I believe was called The Dann Huff Project & a song or two Russ layed vocal tracks for were my breakfast for quite a while. No idea what they are now. Hopefully Christ will hook me up with them, the album, again someday. Anyway, I’ve severely digressed. Thanks Tori for sharing. I trust your husband was deeply blessed by all this. Love rules! Now back to Say(ing) it! on the shark blog, as well as possibly posting my peace on the swearing blog. And thanks Tori for setting this all up, being faithful & making this work! Peace! jonny

  25. Lynda

    I have loved Russ’ voice since the Imperials but watching him with the Gaithers this past couple of years, I now love the person he appears to be. What a wonderful, humble, sincere, and funny guy.
    I also always knew I didn’t NEED my husband but I wanted the relationship, unfortunately I had to give up too much of myself to stay in the relationship. We all have to know how much of ME we are willing to sacrifice to US. I’m glad you found the balance.

  26. themema

    Tori, nothing is more freeing than coming to the realization that you can live without your spouse, but choose to live with him. That is when real lifelong love begins.

  27. jonny

    Oh, and I agree, Russ does seem to have great hair. Always did, as far as I can remember. I do suspect he’s hiding a few white hairs, tho… = )

  28. tori

    Oh, he’s not hiding them a bit! Lean in and look next time you see him…

  29. jonny

    Well, I live in Helsinki, Finland, so don’t know if I’ll be seeing him in the near future = ) I’ll have to take a closer look at the images in my phone. Or find a way to sponsor a show over here for him for the sake of checking out the hair = )

  30. auburn60

    I will lean in and look the next time I see him, BUT he will think I’m wanting to ‘sniff’ which, as you know, has always seemed a little awkward to me.

    Oh,the etiquette issues this brings up!

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