From the time we were young, my fiance’s parents have played a crucial role in my life. It’s largely because of being around them that as a kid I was able to hold onto a sliver of optimism that healthy love in a marriage was possible.
Growing up, my house was nothing short of an emotional war zone. When my dad wasn’t yelling or getting upset about something, we were walking on eggshells so we wouldn’t say or do anything to set him off. All my friends came from pretty dysfunctional, emotionally traumatic homes as well. So trips to their houses were an all too similar reflection of my own.
But when I went over to Josh’s house for the first time in the sixth grade, I saw two loving parents who I could tell enjoyed being around each other. They laughed and cuddled on the couch. They helped each other get dinner ready and conversed like friends, jokingly giving each other a hard time every once in a while. It was so foreign to me that I remember being transfixed watching them interact the first several times I was around them. I had been around a few other couples like this at church briefly. But I had never seen firsthand in someone’s home what it looks like for a married couple to love each other so well.
The most memorable of these instances was the first time I saw them argue. We were all in the living room just watching TV and hanging out. Josh’s dad had a stressful job, and he was clearly in a bad mood because of something that had happened at work that day. His mom was trying to diffuse the tension, but before I knew it one of them said something that started an argument.
I tensed up and prepared myself for the barrage of hurtful words and insults that were sure to come. Everything in me went into survival mode, as I often had to do at home to physically and emotionally shield myself from anything too upsetting. I gave Josh this look with my eyes as if begging him to get us out of the room and downstairs or something.
And then the craziest thing happened …
They just talked. They relocated to the kitchen and had a noticeably tense, yet completely civil conversation about whatever needed to be addressed. Josh didn’t seem phased by it. He just kept watching TV and carrying on like nothing was amiss. I’m not exactly sure how much time had passed, but eventually his parents joined us again, in a better mood and acting like their normal selves.
At my house, any disagreement, big or small, would mean yelling, slammed doors, and cold shoulders for the next day or two. At Josh’s house, an argument apparently meant talking it through and then moving on. It couldn’t be that simple, I thought, to address problems peacefully and productively without inciting World War 3. But his parents were living proof right before my eyes that it was. And over the years following that day, they showed me that that was how they consistently dealt with their problems. It wasn’t just a one time occurrence.
It made me want that type of love when I was older. It made me believe that a mutually respectful and healthy love like that was possible—something I may not have believed otherwise if I wasn’t so incredibly blessed to have Josh and his family dropped into my life.
Now as I’m about to marry their son, I take great comfort every single day in the fact that he grew up with parents who showed by example what it looks like to respect, cherish, and truly love one another even in the middle of conflict. I look forward to experiencing firsthand in my own marriage what I once thought was impossible.