Learning what it really means to support a husband.
We are fighting over socks. His socks. He has a knack for leaving them in the most bizarre places. The bathroom cupboards. The kitchen counter. This time they were behind the TV. Now they are balled in my hands and I'm muttering something about not being his slave. How can socks make their way behind the TV of all places?
Dave, my husband, is silent for a moment, and then he begins to smile a large sheepish grin. A consummate football fan, Dave shrugs and says, "The Vikings lost." I don’t laugh. "Why are you so mad? Is there something else going on?" he asks.
It seems there is always something else going on.
Dave and I grew accustomed to tragedy early in our relationship. One month before he proposed, I found out that my brother-in-law molested one of my family members. This revelation tore my family apart. I spent the last semester of my senior year in college in therapy, trying to plan a wedding, write a thesis and come to terms with the tragedy that was destroying the people I loved the most. Through it all Dave was there, listening and holding me while I cried. He never tried to give me advice or judge my sudden and furious bouts of anger and frustration. Once I asked him if he was sure he wanted to marry me?
"All of this drama in my family isn’t going away," I said. "When we marry it will be your drama too. 50/50. Is this what you want?"
"If you want to wait to get married, I will wait. But I want to marry you; crazy family and all," he said.
A year later, my father-in-law, Gary, told us he had cancer. It was advanced. He didn’t have long to live. Dave and I worked our schedules so we could visit his family every weekend. Dave and his brothers fished with Gary until he could no longer walk down to the dock. I wanted to come but held my distance, trying to respect their time together. While chemo shrank the man who had run marathons and his own business, Dave sat with him, watching the Vikings, talking only about sports. Their voices were low and normal, even as Gary winced in pain. I sat in the kitchen and read, trying to understand how they were able to be calm — trying not to scream and throw my fists into the wall.
Gary was not only my father-in-law, he was my friend. He gave me support and advice as I navigated my own family tragedy. And the week before the wedding, when I scraped his Jeep on the side of the garage he hugged me and said he was glad it happened because it gave him a chance to show me how much he cared about me.
I wanted to be supportive and calm, the way Dave had been when I was going through my own tragedy.
But I wanted support to be 50/50. I wanted us to alternate grieving. Give and take. I wanted Dave to be there for me just as I thought I was being there for him by giving him space. At night, after we went to bed I would spill out all of my fears. Only a month into Gary’s battle with cancer, as I lay talking, I felt Dave’s head rest on my shoulder. His cheeks were wet. I stopped talking and held him.
Support in a marriage is not a nice 50/50 split. Some days you are giving your all while your spouse is giving nothing and other days you are taking, offering nothing. After that night, I tried to support Dave wholly — giving without taking. It was hard, but I never felt resentment. I knew that soon it would be my turn to give zero. And it was.
Dave’s dad died of cancer in May. In July, my sisters, who were on their way from Florida to visit us in Iowa, were in a horrible car crash. While one sister walked away from the crash with a sprained back, the other spent four months at our house learning to walk again. I had to play mother, nurturer, consoler, chauffer and caretaker. I felt inadequate and afraid. My sister was often withdrawn, but my experience with Dave taught me not to take it personally. Instead of getting angry, I would ask her "What’s up?" and give her a hug. She needed me to support her, and I needed Dave to support me. At night, it was my turn to cry.
When November came, my sister was finally able to go home. She could walk but she would never regain full mobility. It was hard seeing her, only 18, hobbling like an old man. When Dave and I came home, we went to bed and fell asleep holding one another and crying.
Now I stood in front of him, the socks still in my hand.
What was going on? Why was I so angry?
"It’s just, you didn’t used to do this," I said, "It’s like you’re taking me for granted."
"Well, maybe the socks have always been there, you just never noticed them before," he said.
We have been through so much together. I let the socks fall onto the couch. I could pick them up later. If they weren’t important before, they weren’t that important now. I let my anger go. That night, as we went upstairs, Dave grabbed his socks and threw them down the laundry chute. I should have always trusted he would do his part.
"From my mom and dad, because they're happily married for a long time: Just listen. Listen to him. I'm so independent and driven and stubborn. Just let him talk. It's about not being so stubborn and having to win every argument. My parents set a great example. They love each other and take care of each other so much."
"It's kind of cheesy, but my mama, who you all have seen on the show, says to cook for your man. She's Southern, so when he comes home, be pullin' a pie out of the oven. That's always been her advice, and you know what? It works. Your man wants to see you in the kitchen, puttin' some love into some food; it works for Eric, that's for sure."
"The best advice I've ever been given is being handed a Bible. That's the blueprint for marriage that we go by, and that's what our marriage is grounded in. We also have other married couples who are examples in our lives. My parents have been married over 40 years, and both sets of grandparents for over 65 years. When you see couples in long-term relationships and you see them go through good times and bad times, you realize it's about being committed enough and loving your partner enough to hang in there regardless."
"My mom told me, "It shouldn't be that difficult." My parents had their moments for sure, but the majority of their relationship has been really great. It shouldn't be that much work to make love work."
"You've got to be good to each other … it really comes back to respect. I was raised in a very Catholic, Italian family and it was all about respect. Don't talk badly about [your partner] the second they walk out the door; really preserve your relationship and be good to each other. Treat it like gold."
"Don't lie to your partner. Ultimately the expression on your face gives you away, and they feel betrayed by the lie. If this is the person you're going to be with—forever and ever, for better or worse—they will love you for all of your good and all of your bad. They'll love you for you. So open communication is key. I have no secrets and no skeletons in my closet with my husband, and I love that. I feel comfortable and at ease with myself when I'm around him. I love the woman that I've become with him."
"I think the best love advice I've ever received is really about understanding that communication is key, of course, but also that there's not one perfect person for you. You kind of have to accept what are the things that are negotiable for you and what are not."
"My mom always told me, "Whatever happens, will happen" or 'Whatever is supposed to happen, will happen." I've learned you'll know when you find the right person. When I found the right person, I knew it immediately."
18. The Five Love Languages Author Dr. Gary Chapman
"Before I discovered the concept of the 5 love languages, a bit of advice I was given was to become a student of my wife and to take time to learn what makes her feel loved. I soon learned that what makes her feel loved may not always be the thing I want to do because it may not come natural to me. But learning to love her in the way that makes her feel loved is a greater demonstration of my love for her, because I've chosen to do it with a goal of pleasing her."
"Pay attention to the girl, instead of myself. A bunch of people [told me that]. It's terrible. I'm very into myself, so people are always like, "Pay attention to the other person. Don't ever separate yourself." It's a good lesson. I'm learning. I'm doing good."
"Don't get divorced after your first argument! I have a lot of friends that have one fight and that's it, they get divorced. I go, 'Wait a minute! Oh my gosh, you guys! Calm down! You'll forget in three days what you were fighting about. I promise. So just let it marinate a little bit—that's my best love advice."
21. The Real Housewives of Miami's Adriana de Moura
"When I was about 15, [my grandmother] said something I will always remember: 'Love comes before money.' I will never let anything like greed come between us when it comes to love. She was married to my grandfather for 70 years. It's very hard to have a long-term relationship and if you're not sure, it's not going to last. Make sure that you truly love."
"If you're looking for love, focus on something you love to do and work hard. Love will find you. Basically, love yourself before you love anyone else. A lot of girls have such insecurities nowadays that you have to be comfortable with who you are before you can really have a good relationship with someone else."
"Love advice is like life advice, so there are so many elements of that. I think humor, patience, admiration are really important love elements. Love and respect. You have to respect the person that you're going to love, and you have to be confident in yourself and love yourself."
'Think about how much you'd miss that if he were gone tomorrow.' This is my senior producer's advice in my ear during our news show if I'm grumbling about my hubby, whether about his habit of leaving dirty clothes around, or the way he goes into la la land while I'm talking with him, or that he wakes me up being loud overnight. How true! Heaven forbid, but if something ever happens to our loved ones, oh how we'd long for them to be back, and their little aggravating habits would be something cherished.
"On the other hand the best love advice I've ever given is: Gals, don't marry someone for their looks. Sooner or later we all age and start to droop. Don't marry someone for their position and don't marry someone for money. Money comes and goes, and since when is that love? Marry someone because they make you laugh. Humor is always sexy. Besides, it's awfully hard to get mad at someone while they're making you laugh."
30. The Real Housewives of New York's Heather Thomson
"Well, it's one of the oldest. It really is paradoxical, but it's true: You just can't go to bed mad. You have to make up, because there's only one alternative, and that alternative is not being together. So, my husband and I always decide we might as well make up, whether we agree to disagree or not. We understand we are individuals and that together we're unbelievably powerful and that we have a family that is the most important thing, and that I wouldn't trade him for the world. So, love is about give and take, and love is about understanding that you're individuals and together as a couple, you're the strongest there ever is ifyou're in the right couple."
"I was going to say, 'It's work, relationships take work,' but that makes it sound like relationships are hard, that they're work. Rebecca and I have always gotten along really well. We've always had a really strong connection. I'm the last guy that should be giving people advice on love, that's for sure. But I have a great marriage. I just got lucky, I guess."
"I lost my dad back in the fall, and my dad said something to me a long time ago. He said, 'Are you happy with who you are now?' because we just had a real serious talk. And I said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'Then you can't regret what got you to where you are. So whatever you do and whatever mistakes you make, learn from them and grow. And just always treat people with kindness,' which I've tried to do."
"My mom always used to say, "You can't say I love you before you can say I." And I think that sort of makes sense."