This morning I left quickly for work, but before making my final exit I did my rounds. Any working mom knows what I mean by that. I walked around to each child for a last gaze before l walked out the door. I prayed for them, touched them gently, and looked on with adoration at their sleeping faces. I never wanted to leave at those times.
But I saved my husband for last. He lay there sleeping so soundly. His mouth fell open, and barely audible breaths came out in deep exhalations. I placed my hand on his knee, and I just stared at his sleeping face. I couldn’t help but realize that I didn’t understand my husband.
When we first began to live together as husband and wife I started a crash course of getting to know this man to whom I had said “I do,” and I was certain that with time I would understand him more. Surely I would begin to decipher his silence, or make meaning of his sometimes firm-set, blank expressions. Surely I would.
Over five years had passed pretty quickly, and during that time we had shared a whirlwind of change. Pregnancies, births, deaths, lost jobs, job promotions, secrets finally brought to light, angry words, and tearful embraces of forgiveness. The list really went on and on.
Yet despite all the ups and downs, moments of grieving, as well as memories of well-deserved celebration, when it came down to it I still didn’t really know my husband. I didn’t always get him, get what he was thinking, feeling, or especially why he chose to do the certain things he chose to do. Sometimes I felt as if I didn’t understand him at all, and it made me wonder if I had been paying attention this past half-decade.
I mean, in all fairness I could read him occasionally, and though it wasn’t always like a book, I did feel confident that I could read the signs. Heck, sometimes I could even read his mind. How often had we laughed heartily together when we said the exact same thing at the exact same time? Too many to count!
I knew his favorite color, how he liked his coffee, and his taste in movies. I could tell you his favorite meal was tacos, and he liked his shirts to fit, but not too tight. I knew the way he liked to be held, and I knew little things I could do to brighten his hectic day. And even though I was still working to decipher his unique, laundry code, I’d say for the most part I knew his preferences pretty well. You could almost say I understood him.
But then he would throw a wrench in it. For example, he would come home more silent than usual, and try as I might to read his eyes I couldn’t pinpoint what was wrong. When he would answer my wifely query with an emotionless “I’m fine,” I would find myself staring at him sideways, watching, trying to make sure he meant it. Something about being his partner made me want to fix all wrongs, lift every downtrodden spirit, and absolutely, and I mean absolutely know every little thing that might be amiss. But in those quiet moments I had to admit that I didn’t always understand my husband. Not even partially.
I couldn’t always know what he was thinking, or why he did what he did. Especially if it was different from what I would do! I couldn’t always know what was wrong or even fix it. Many times I would misunderstand him, and in turn he would misunderstand me. And even though we agreed so thoroughly on a great, many important an issue, there were also plenty of things on which we didn’t see eye-to-eye.
You see, marriage isn’t something you learn how to do. It’s a continuing education kind of thing. And though you may be educated through trial and error over time on how to maneuver through the many, varied idiosyncrasies of your spouse, you will never learn it all. Marriage is a learning process.
The commitment of marriage isn’t a task you perform at the altar when you say your vows. I mean, it is, but it’s also more than that. It’s a daily decision to continually learn, grow, persevere, compromise, and most importantly, love. Even if you don’t always understand.
As I stood this morning with my hand on my sleeping husband’s knee I realized I was smiling vibrantly. No, I didn’t always understand him, but I loved him. I understood our commitment to one another, and I totally “got” how happy spending a life with him made me.
I could always read his deep affection for me in his eyes, and even in his occasional moments of silence I could hear his loyal commitment to me. I couldn’t always make sense of his actions, but I always knew he loved me. Even when he couldn’t understand me.
I kissed his forehead, a farewell gesture for my sleeping, Prince Charming, and I left my home with a joyful heart. You didn’t have to comprehend all the inner workings of a man to know the truth of your feelings for one another. The proof of our commitment was all around me, and even if I couldn’t understand things like the way he left his boxer shorts hung over the towel rack, I understood what mattered. And it seemed that often the things that I couldn’t grasp didn’t really matter.
I understood that I may never understand, but I was determined to love him regardless.