Someday, my kids will ask me how I knew their dad was the one. Maybe they’ll read a fairy tale and wonder about perfect love and Prince Charming. Maybe they’ll watch a movie and begin to visualize their own first kiss or first date or first crush. Or maybe they will be standing at the threshold of adulthood, standing side-by-side with a person of interest, questioning when and how and if they will make the commitment of a lifetime.
I will answer my kids honestly, as I do, and I will tailor my answer to their time of life and readiness for real talk, as I do, and I will hopefully inspire them to have faith in something that is really easy to doubt. This I will do in spite of the fact that doubt was a huge part of my early relationship with my husband, a function of my own less-than-stellar dating history more than his trustworthiness, of course.
I recall in our first months as a couple when he handed me a gift with all of my favorite rom-coms, information gained piecemeal from many conversations we’d had, to appeal to the romantic in me. In exchange, I handed him a piece of my black and jaded heart, explaining to him that I did love him, but not unconditionally, and then went ahead and listed for him all of the conditions under which I would most likely cease to love him. At dinner. Over candlelight. On Valentine’s Day.
I think that honesty around love is something that is sorely lacking in our conversations with kids, and probably, with ourselves. Love can be the sweeping gestures and the dozen roses and wine-soaked dinners. But that’s love at its easiest, times at which there is a fairly high probability of a false-positive. It is very easy to feel affection for someone saying and doing all the right things. And my husband did, and does, a lot of those right things. But those are not the times about which I will tell my children.
Love is also hard times, the losses, the sadness, the heartbreak. Those moments where you seek solace in those closest to you and their presence is the comfort you crave. And arguably, these moments, too, make it easy to declare the capital L-word because it is what your soul most needs and thus finds in your counterpoint. I have felt love in my darkest and most tragic moments. It has helped to pull me through. But those are not the defining moments of my marriage as I once thought they would have been.
No, the love that I will someday describe to my children, the love that I will encourage them to believe in, to seek, and to find, is the love that occurs in the mundane moments of our day-to-day living. The love that encourages my husband to bring me a glass of water every night before we go to bed, knowing that nursing our baby all night will make me thirsty. The love that drives him to tell our kids that “Mommy is the smart one” and to make sure they hear him when he says how much he admires me. The love that cloaks him in safety when he says all the wrong things as he thinks he compliments me (“She doesn’t look that young, like the same kind of young as you”). The love that prevails when we argue in front of our children, and they see that love doesn’t mean you don’t disagree; it means you disagree respectfully, well, mostly respectfully, and then you move on.
It’s a collage of moments. A collection of discussions. The end result of those small actions. That’s actually how I know. But to appease the masses (the masses being my children because although there’s only three of them, it feels like so many more), when my children ask about finding the right kind of love, there is a specific moment I will tell them about, and it happened just this past weekend.
My husband is a fun guy. We enjoy spending time with our friends and going out together. But he is not necessarily a “costume party” kind of guy. I, on the other hand, have never met a theme I didn’t like — literally. I spent years dressing in different varieties of circles for pi day. Thus when an opportunity arose for my husband and me to attend an ’80s party, I was all in. I thought about wardrobe options for weeks and pinned different pictures and tried on endless variations and sent photos to friends to help me decide. I hadn’t even thought to ask my husband about his attire because it didn’t occur to me he would even attempt to dress up.
You can imagine my surprise then, when on the night of the party, as my husband trimmed his beard, he nonchalantly said, “Should I just shave off my beard and rock a mustache tonight?” Not wanting to pressure him in what I thought was just a passing flight of fancy, I barely responded and told him to do whatever he wants.
“No, I’ll just trim.”
“Mmmhmm.” See? I know my husband.
And then, just as I reached the door to leave the bathroom, I hear, “Fuck it.”
I whip around, and sure enough, my husband, my not-so-into-costumes, Lacoste-wearing husband, has shaped himself the most horrific, creepy-looking pornstache I have ever laid eyes upon.
And I have never loved him more.
“This…” I say, “this is why I married you. Your commitment to a theme.” And he laughs.
Someday, I will tell my kids about this moment. It’s not the grandest or the most special or even at all romantic. But this is the moment when, after two years of dating and five years of marriage and three babies, I am reminded, in the most ridiculous of ways, that I married my best friend. This guy with the gross mustache who will do absolutely anything to make me laugh. And for my babies, I hope they someday will do and find the same.
(Author’s note: I think it is important for me to say here that he did shave the mustache post-party so no need to keep your children and pets 50 feet away from him. All clear on the creep front.)