The first time I saw a girl flirt with my husband I was 11. Technically he wasn’t my husband yet, but he had passed me two notes so I figured it was close enough. He was using the numbers on his calculator to make funny words. She laughed every time he came up with a new one. I didn’t get the joke.

I was far from being the prettiest girl in the classroom. My diary pages were filled with his last name, beside my first name, and I wasn’t sure what twist of fate would ever make that legal. My mother told me to just be myself.

It’s funny because most of my life I tried to be funny, or popular, or pretty, but I have had to learn what it means to be myself. The other girls kept giggling but I stopped trying to impress him. He noticed. The notes grew more frequent and so did my confidence. In the 6th grade my husband taught me that I shouldn’t have to work hard to make a guy see me. I just had to be comfortable in my own skin.

Time has passed and many things have changed. Nearly 20 years have danced between then and now, and yet one thing has been constant; girls keep flirting. In many ways I don’t blame them.

I’ve watched him go to pay for our food at restaurants and the pretty girl handing him change giggles. She tilts her head and strands of hair fall in front of her face. He pretends not to notice, but I know he sees her. One time at the salon, the girl doing his trim asked if she could shave her number into his hairline. I watched him squirm with anxiety and awkwardly point to me sitting in the lobby holding our tribe of children. There are days that I am able to step outside of it, and laugh at these encounters. And then there are days that I demand he take off his shirt so that they can see my name tatted across his chest. I have watched girls flirt with my husband and yet I can honestly say that there has never been a day in our relationship that I have worried he would leave. Women may see his sparkling blue eyes, but I have seen his soul.

I know him. I know that he orders coleslaw as his side. I know that at least once every three months he will say he is a vegetarian again. I’ve watched him stare into the faces of three children I gave him within moments of them entering the world. I know the pattern that his lips fall when he is embarrassed to have someone compliment him. I know to ignore him when he is angry because thirty minutes later he will come back with I’m sorry. I know that he stops at gumball machines. I know that when he goes on walks by himself it is because he feels spiritually disconnected and is hoping God will find him if he can just remove the obstacles that obstruct his view of heaven. Girls in his past may have called him shy, but I know what has made him timid. I know how to make him feel confident, and I also know which direction his tears will fall as he begs you not to leave. Girls who are smarter, or prettier, or wittier than me, may notice him from time to time, and smile in his direction, but I have never lost sleep over that. I know something that they don’t….him.

I hear people talk about how they are looking for love, or peace, or fulfillment. They start jobs only to quit them because it isn’t the “career of their dreams.” I know people who go from bed to bed, looking for the romance that you see in movies. I’ve listened to friends talk about how they can’t feel God anymore and so they quit talking to him. They search for these things like they will be able to catch them if they just keep running. They won’t.

You don’t find love. You make it. You don’t find peace, you earn it. You don’t find fulfillment, you create it. These are not things you find, they are things you have to build. Love was never something that just happened to my husband and I, it is something we construct together. It’s a journey. It is the culmination of a life, and experiences, of shortcomings, and bright spots that we have navigated through. It is the feeling we have as we look back over the past 8 years and think about how we’ve climbed this giant mountain hand in hand.  No one stumbles upon happiness. They have to make a decision to pursue it. It’s not texts that pop up instantly, or a lottery draw, it’s handwritten letters that take years to word.  Purpose is always a journey.

My husband looks at life this way. As a voyage that you patiently fight through. He believes that sweat and hard work are the only paths toward fulfillment. And so when women flirt with him, I don’t worry. There is only one road that could lead him home.

As time keeps passing, I will only grow older, and if youth is beauty, it will escape me. With each wrinkle I gather I have peace. I married a man who doesn’t see lines, but history.

And so while girls may flirt with him now and then, he’ll keep pretending not to see them. No momentary thrill could ever replace the gratification he gets from standing at the top of this mountain. He stands there next to me.

I know something that she doesn’t…him.

Heather Thompson Day is a lecturer for Southwestern Michigan College, Purdue Tech University, and Ferris State University. She is the author of 5 Christian Books and writer for The Spilled Milk Club, Facebook, or check her out on Instagram.