What My Father Taught Me About Love

Melissa and her family

My family and their marriages have been a source of inspiration for me since I was old enough to figure out that not all marriages last.

My own parents have been married for thirty years. I’m always so thankful that I have a solid relationship on which to model my future relationship goals.

Part of what got them where they are today is maintaining an attitude of sacrifice. Both my mother and father have continually made sacrifices throughout their marriage for the sake of our family. But when I think about having a sacrificial attitude, my mind always stops first on my father.

Before he married my mom, my dad lived close enough to his job that commuting wasn’t a big deal. After they were married, they moved farther away and my dad’s daily commute increased to fifty miles one way.

At this point he could have quit. He could have at least complained. But what I’ve heard time after time from my mom is that he got up at 4:00 a.m. each day, drove to work in commuter traffic, and came home each day at 4:00 p.m. without ever uttering a complaint. Was he exhausted? Yes. Was he frustrated? Yes. But as the main provider for our household, my dad knew he needed to keep that job. We couldn’t afford for him to quit.

My dad is still working at the same job, same location thirty years later. The traffic in and out of the city has only gotten worse, and sometimes his commute home takes two hours. Yet, he continues to get up before dawn, drive a hundred miles each day, and come home without complaining.

He has never asked my mom to pick up more work so that he could work less, nor has he slacked at his own job out of tiredness or frustration. Even though he is 62 and past the age to retire, he knows that my family still needs the money and works every day without letting it negatively affect him.

As the main source of income for our family, he could very well try to keep a portion of his paycheck for himself, but he doesn’t. Every paycheck he hands over to my mom to use for bills, and then she puts the rest into savings. He could buy himself a new guitar, or a fancier car, or a really nice pair of shoes, but he chooses to give his entire paycheck to our family.

Watching my father live this life of quiet sacrifice and hard work day in and day out for as long as I can remember has left a great impression on me.

I’ve learned from his example that we have a choice every day to sacrifice for a greater good, and we also have a choice to do it happily or with a scowl. My father isn’t perfect, but watching him sacrifice time, sleep, money, and whatever else I’m sure he’d rather have a part in has taught me a lot about what a good father and husband look like.

And what it looks like is this:

A man who is willing to sacrifice personal time for his family. A man who cares more about providing for his loved ones than buying things for himself. A man who values hard work above going out and having a good time. A man who makes promises to love and care for his family and follows through on them every day. I’m not saying a man who has a good time can’t be a good husband and father. But a man who thinks of others more than he thinks about himself will always embody the greatest act of love.

That’s why one of the things I always ask myself when I’m seeing a guy is: Will he be able to rise to the occasion as a husband and father? If he hasn’t shown any signs that he’s willing to sacrifice while we’re dating, that means he probably isn’t going to anytime soon. And thanks to my father’s example, I know there are men who are ready and willing to do what it takes.

My own father’s sacrifices have provided our family with a lot of what we have today. For his sacrifices and for what it has taught me about what it means to love, I will always be grateful.

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