While out with us for coffee, one of my guy friends confided in my husband and me his excitement over his blossoming long distance relationship: their shared hopes and worries, as well as how they planned to make things work.
Then, lowering his voice a little and looking serious, he said, “I want you guys to know that we’ve been basing our relationship on you two. It’s helped a lot.”
Whaaaat? A mild panic set in. Please, oh please, don’t be mimicking my faults! I begged in my head. I was shocked that he was modeling his relationship on the often-imperfect one I have with my husband.
My friend then explained how he knew relationships, especially long-distance ones, come with challenges. Their cute interactions aside, my friend and the woman he was interested in wanted something real that would survive hardships. After seeing my husband and I go through so much over the years, they found that what we had was what they wanted and needed.
I was filled with disbelief, yet he was not the first person to tell me something like this. In a world broken by divorce (including my own parents’), bad break ups, and toxic habits, we have been told by others that our marriage gives them an example to live by. Like my husband and I when we began to date, they were looking for examples of real-life love.
This continues to surprise me because my marriage is only four-and-a-half years old, and we’ve both made our mistakes. We still make mistakes! Neither of us is perfect, and that truth is not lost on us. For a moment, I wondered whether these friends may pick up a bad habit of mine, or get the wrong idea about how I treat my husband during disagreements.
After that conversation over coffee with my friend, I started to wonder why I was afraid that people might pick up the bad things from my relationship, or assume that everything was perfect.
The more I thought about it, the more I felt honored that my marriage is something couples can look up to. My friend said it himself: Love is a challenge. He and others admire how my husband and I have worked through our mistakes and life hurdles and have come out stronger for it in the end.
Building a strong marriage can be so daunting and frustrating; I often ask myself if we’re doing marriage ‘right,’ whether it’s dealing with mental illness or simply figuring out who does what around the house.
Yet, I find myself answering my own question when I hear others tell us how we do things so well. “You talk it out a lot.” “I like how you both work as a team.” The answer is that we never let our flaws define us. We work to admit our faults, and learn to deal with them better in the future.
My marriage isn’t perfect, but hearing the kind words of couples who are modeling their relationships on my own assures me that I don’t have to be perfect for love to work. Moreover, it gives me joy to know that my relationship is helping others.