You know I love, respect, and am blessed to have in my life the man I’m married to, right? Have I ever told either of you how much you have to do with that?
As a young girl, you would not allow me to allow myself to be disrespected. There wasn’t enough eye-rolling in my head to lessen the requirement about a visiting guy coming up to the door. No horn honking, running out to his car when he pulled up, waiting outside for him. I was worth his time to come up to the door to get me. I was worth his time to walk me back to the door and make sure I got in the house safely. When as an insecure teenager I was willing to settle for someone – anyone – who liked me, you were not willing to let me settle for someone who did not hold me in high esteem. You caused me to have certain expectations about how one should be treated in a relationship. It took me years to realize you were not just being controlling, judgmental, and generally uncool.
How you treated each other has had a major impact on my marriage. I’m not glamorizing your relationship – I know you had more than your share of tough times, losses, marital discord, and strife. I also know that there is probably plenty that I don’t know about your relationship. But here are lessons that I learned about marriage just from watching you – when I didn’t even know I was watching:
You start out with just the two of you, and end up with just the two of you, so that relationship has to be prioritized to be sustained throughout what comes in between.
The only thing better than receiving a surprise from your spouse is giving one to them and the happy anticipation of their reaction.
Surprises don’t have to be parties where people are waiting to jump out – they are things like the funny note on the mirror, shrimp cocktail in the work lunch, bringing juice to the other in bed.
Having pet names for each other keeps things tender.
Making each other laugh is a worthy goal.
Having a secret code (also known as French) allows you to connect know matter how many are present.
Presenting a unified front to others, no matter what you are going through behind the scenes, can lead to unification.
Having each other’s back is a priority.
Household chores don’t have a gender classification – they just need to be done.
Cooking isn’t tied to gender, either.
Trying new things together keeps it fun.
Socializing with other couples widens your horizons and deliberately brings into your world different points of view.
Refusing to join in when others are complaining about their spouses and staying positive about your own can totally change the conversation.
No matter how hot the argument gets, name-calling has no place in it.
If the day is so difficult you can’t make the other laugh, make the other smile.
Embrace the adventure of the unknown. Or be static.
Keep learning. Watching the news, reading, asking questions. You stop learning, you stop growing – which would be boring.
Mutual respect can overcome some major differences of opinion.
Laughing at each other’s jokes – no matter how many times you’ve heard them – is its own gift.
There’s a lot of ways to publicly declare your love without anyone ever hearing you utter the words “I love you” to each other. And actually, it’s less your declaration than an outsider’s observation based on the evident mutual respect and enjoyment of each other.
Supporting each other doesn’t always mean being physically there for them – sometimes it means letting them go take care of their business and supporting their decision to do so.
And sometimes supporting each other means being physically there for them – even when there’s nothing you can do.
When you each prioritize putting the other first, you are both content.
These are just a few of the lessons I learned about marriage from you. I know as soon as my letter is sent, I’ll think of one I forgot to write down. An important one. And they’ll keep coming to me as long as I’m married. Know that I am grateful for those, also.
When I do something kind for my husband, or make him laugh, and he says to me: “I sure see your parents in you,” I know I have received the ultimate compliment. Because you gave to me the ultimate gift: a real life demonstration of living out the wedding vows of sticking it out and being there for the other “in good times and in bad times.” You have blessed me with this legacy.
With an abundance of love and admiration, Daughter #2
P.S. If I’d known in my early years what I know now, I would have spoken much kinder about you both in my diary. I’ll forgive you for reading it, if you’ll forgive me for the words you read!