A few years ago, when I thought my world was coming to an end, my then-husband wondered aloud why he did not treat me as nicely as my father treated my mother. What I realized later was this: to treat someone that beautifully requires an interior quality so profound and pure that all one’s actions become a reflection of that goodness. This is not to say that change isn’t possible, that effort cannot improve a relationship, or even that difficult people can’t have a solid marriage, but really, this kind of lovely treatment of one another is a rare gift, and my parents are particularly blessed with it.
When I walked down the aisle the first time, my father whispered in my ear as he guided my arm to my soon-to-be husband’s. He said, “Be good to each other.” Such simple directions—the most uncomplicated marriage advice I have ever heard. Unfortunately, my first husband was unable to embrace those plain words and the marriage ended. Recently, my father and I paused at a café for java and had a long talk about the end of that relationship, and I commented about what I had observed between him and my mother that week. This Christmas, as I watched my parents speak gently with one another, my father cupped my mom’s face in his hand, and they bowed their heads toward one another, and murmured affectionate words. I held my breath as time stopped. It was a beautiful moment, the likes of which I witnessed often through my childhood, but that I never fully experienced until I courted my new husband: tenderness in its most innocent and sweetest light.
As we dawdled over coffee, my dad and I eventually grew to a deeper discussion of our own present marriages, my father and mother’s being their first and only. He elaborated on what he had learned as a young man in his early married years, and we laughed about how his errors paralleled some of the comedic ones my husband and I now experience as newlyweds at our age. Despite newness and trial though, we do triumph.
“I looked across the room at the Christmas party,” I said, “and saw my husband smiling at me. And he was proud—not ‘my wife is a trophy’ kind of proud, but proud to be married to me.” Suddenly, and even with my own spouse miles away, I could smell his cologne and feel the warmth of his body. I could almost hear him breathing the way he does when he bends his own forehead to touch mine in a wordless exchange of love. I paused in reverie. My father and I sat near the window of a Starbucks, the steam long having abandoned the cups in our hands, our thoughts drifting.
I thought about the goodness of my husband. When he speaks, he speaks gently. His voice still stops my heart and slows me down—it is the sound of love. This is not to say that we don’t have moments where we have overstepped boundaries in some way (Do NOT remove the carpet from his office! Do NOT!), but the overwhelming sensation I have for him is ultimately adoration. This Christmas, one and a half years after the start of our marriage, we drove our children from their father’s home to my in-laws far away. The kids were quiet, sleepy, and warm in their blankets against the dampness and chill of the fog outside. We cruised down the highway, picking out familiar landmarks silhouetted against the grey mist that curtained the countryside. I was overwhelmed by a familiar feeling—security, love for family despite obstacle or stress, and faith despite the unknown future. I told my husband later how much I enjoyed being part of his family—both the nuclear one we create and the extended one we share. We are good to each other.