I Believe in Love Because I’ve Seen it Light a Room
I was standing in a doorway of the office as my father approached my mom down the hall. She lifted her head, smiled, and shared just a few words with him before looking back to her work. He had continued down the hall and turned a corner when a single co-worker looked at my mom and admiringly stated, “That’s what I want. You always light up whenever he walks into the room.”
That’s when I knew my parents had something special. But I hadn’t thought about it much more than that. I grew up knowing they would never get divorced, and that made me feel safe. But, this woman’s declaration alerted me to the fact that it wasn’t just that my parents tolerated each other well but that they truly enjoyed each other. Until then, it hadn’t occurred to me that enjoying the presence of a spouse might be something unique.
The movies sell us on “feel good love,” but my parents have something deeper than just that. It lasted. They really love being together. They’ve been married about 35 years, and now they travel around the country in an RV the size of a 15 passenger van, spending months with just each other. They’re always involved in some sort of adventure, and they always plan something to look forward to together.
I’ve been married for 5 years, and it’s evident to me that “happily ever after” doesn’t just happen. My parents didn’t just luck out. Growing up with this example of love, I kind of thought I’d just have to find the right guy and it would all be perfect. We’d tackle any storm arm in arm, smiling at each other through it all. But by now I’ve figured out that not only do you have to pick the right person, but you have to be willing to constantly sacrifice for their good. It never stops. It might get a bit easier to put the other person first once you train your brain to do that, but the selflessness in a successful relationship is endless. It’s tough, but it’s vital to happiness.
Now that I’ve learned that, I can see the self-sacrifice in my parent’s relationship. Like when my mom gave up her beloved sidewalks and moved to a farm since dad loved the country. Although she had to scoop horse poop daily, she never complained or held it over my dad’s head. She adjusted with a smile because she knew it was important to him. Then fifteen years later, my dad traded in his tractor for a smaller ranch house (with sidewalks) since mom was getting anxious about taking care of the place if anything happened to him. Their whole life together he dealt with the hard stuff that would have upset mom, like putting down the dog, consoling me when mom had breast cancer, and working double shifts while she recovered. He never made her feel like a burden.
Being married myself has taught me that it’s the little daily sacrifices, the ones that even though I never really noticed with my parents growing up were the ones that prepare you for the big ones. Some of the stuff even seems silly, like crating the dog when the floor puzzle is out because my husband is afraid she’ll ruin it by stepping on it, or not making the bed because he’s vehemently opposed to such a waste of time, or doing the dishes because he’s had a long day. And my husband tries to shave more often because his whiskers hurt my face, and he agrees to watch the kids while I nap, even though he’d like to do the same, and helps put up Christmas decorations, knowing we’re going to have to take them down in a few weeks.
We all have our little things that we think are silly, but I really think it’s the small stuff like naps and doing the dishes that matter more to happiness together. These small decisions also prep your brain to consider your spouse first when the big things come up.
I want to enjoy life with my husband, each and every day, no matter what’s happening in our lives. Although I didn’t understand the connection between sacrifice and happiness when I was younger, I’m so thankful to have witnessed it in my home. It was a gift, and I didn’t understand the value until I was living the adult end of it for myself. My parents gave me the hope to believe in lasting love because their self-sacrificing love had the power to light up a room.