Today is the last day that my husband and I will be together (sort of--he is working) until late on Sunday. As I shared on Monday, I am headed to West Virginia, to support my family, and he is headed to Virginia, where he will pick up his daughters to begin their summer stay with us.
Obviously, Sunday is Father's Day, so many of us are thinking, I'd wager, about how wonderful our partners or fathers (or both) are, or how much we miss them for those that are gone.
Eight years ago this November, I met my husband. He was a scrawny soldier with a shaved head. I was, in fact, eight months pregnant with our oldest son. I remember walking up to the pizza shop where he was waiting, and thinking, "Oh my god, he's so handsome." I very nearly turned around and walked back to the car.
But for some reason I didn't. I found a bit of courage, and it was, naturally, an afternoon I will never forget.
My husband and I are quite different in many ways. We both consider ourselves independent politically, but he tends to fall on the right-side of center and I fall more to the left of it. He doesn't quite understand my shift towards feminism over the last year, and he is very much a "traditional man" in many respects. When times get tough right now, he blames himself for not being able to provide for our family, and nothing I say makes much of a difference.
It was in our differences that I found one of the most fulfilling aspects of our relationship, both married and before. It shocks me that it was never an aspect that I was brought up to expect, although I think the unexpectedness of it adds to the joy I take in it sometimes.
The aspect is conversation.
Real, honest, and down to earth conversation. Even when our perspectives do not match up, the conversations that we have are engaging and exciting. I see things from a new perspective. Sometimes, it changes me. Sometimes it only shores up what I believe, or gives me cause to better research something.
And yet, this aspect, which I find so personally satisfying, is something that I rarely see portrayed anywhere else. I don't see it in rom-coms, I don't see it in the media, I don't see it in books. As a single young woman, I didn't really know that it existed in that capacity until that day in Stevie B's All You Can Eat Pizza Buffet (my husband is a smart man too).
I waited for sparks, for just *knowing* who the right person would be. I made missteps and settled for relationships with people whose company I didn't truly enjoy, because there was a "spark". I sold myself short, because I didn't believe a man would want to see my intelligent and intellectual side. I didn't think he'd enjoy my geekiness, my Lord of the Rings fascination or my Marvel affinity. Those were all things I had internalized as abnormal for a girl--I was only 19 when we met--to be interested in.
It was in my husband that I realized that a partner, a real partner, accepts all of you.
And it's kind of in that moment that I can begin to see how I came to be here. He's my safe place, that refuge where I allowed all of my heretical and nonsensical thoughts to flow. He guarded those parts of me while they were still growing, and while I was still too vulnerable to even acknowledge them fully myself. I began to see myself as acceptable, because he accepted me.
You may think this sounds very un-feminist of me, but I don't think so. It wasn't that I needed his acceptance; it was that by his sincere and unquestioning acceptance, I realized that what I had been taught over the years, what I had internalized, was wrong. The way that I understood men and women and relationships was inherently flawed, and both my partner and I were being short-changed by those flaws. I was finally free to acknowledge and explore different parts of myself.
My husband is not a perfect man, anymore than I am a perfect woman. We are short-tempered at times, we are selfish. We make mistakes. We sometimes raise our voices, and sometimes, rarely, we even say or do hurtful things. But at the end of it all, there's the overwhelming knowledge that this person that we've committed to accepts all of that, all of our shortcomings, as a part of us. In that knowledge, there's the ability to rise above those shortcomings and the intrinsic motivation to see ourselves as worthy of that acceptance. There's intrinsic motivation to be a better person.
On this Father's Day, I know that I will be thinking of the journey that brought us here, and the man that I have come to know as such an amazing and wonderful partner. He is the father to both of our sons, and my best friend and sounding board.
He asked not long ago--because I'm not so open with my blogging yet--whether I write about him, and I answered truthfully that yes, I do. In fact, I had only once at that point, to blog about a "passionate discussion" we had and an epiphany I'd had because of it.
But that's not really the whole truth. While I don't blog about him often, his influence is in every post that I make. In that quiet unconditional acceptance, he helped me feel secure enough to explore all of these topics and put my opinions out there.
I often tell my single friends (and sisters) that your mate should be the person that brings out the best in you, and you in them. It's not that they change you; they just make you more fully aware of yourself. I stand by that statement even more as I thoughtfully consider my marriage to this wonderfully flawed, magnificently awesome person.
So to him, I would like to say, thank you, for all of the times that you have listened. Thank you for your commitment to our children, all four of them. Thank you for everything you do and all that you sacrifice. I hope that you know that I appreciate you every moment of every day, not just on days that are made for men like you.