Today marks the 35th anniversary of the day my parents got married, which is pretty impressive if you ask me. It's hard work being married (or even just being a part of a couple) and sticking by the side of one person for thirty-five years kinda blows my mind. Love is an amazing experience, but a lasting love rarely comes without a lot of hard work. While I can't say I know too many details of my parents' relationship (who can ever know exactly what a relationship between two other people consists of?), but I did live with them for eighteen years and have spent tons of time with them since then so I've had a chance to observe what it means to be devoted to someone for three and half decades. As most children do, I've learned a thing or two from my parents about what it means to love. Here are some of the lessons they've taught me:
STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF.
My parents are very different people. They're definitely an example of one of those "opposites attract" situations, and the fact that they're so wildly different has taught me that, even when you're part of a pair, it's important to stay true to who you are. Sometimes when people fall in love, they change who they are to suit the other person. While my parents definitely do some compromising in order to work together as a couple, they both stay true to who they are, embracing their unique selves. Sometimes those selves have clashed (it's hard being so different!), but a lot of the time they balance each other out—which is maybe why people are so keen on that "opposites attract" idea. For me, the benefits of seeing my parents stay true to themselves has been twofold. One, I've been inspired to stay true to myself, which has led me to lead a more positive, present life. And, two, I've been able to closely observe and learn from two very distinct personality types, which has given me twice as many insights.
SPEND QUALITY TIME TOGETHER.
My parents spend a lot of time together. Not only do they live together, but they work together as well so they are together almost all day every day. I don't know too many couples that could survive decades of marriage and decades of working with one another, but my parents have somehow made it work. Not only are they working together, but my parents almost always make a point to sit down at the end of the day and chat about work, life, whatever. These conversations keep the lines of communication open and make it easy for them to stay in tune with one another. In addition to all that, my parents spend time doing things together (like crossword puzzles every morning) that give them common interests, which is really important since they're such different people.
My parents are not without their fair share of disagreements. That's kind of what happens when you have two unique people living and working together. Like every relationship, my parents have had their good days and their bad, but one thing I've learned from them is how to forgive and move forward. When they've had arguments, they seem to recover from them and move forward, focusing on the present instead of the past. Forgiveness, I've learned, is such an important part of creating a lasting love. No matter how great a relationship, everyone has arguments or difficulties. The trick isn't learning how to avoid such things, but learning how to cope with them when they happen. My parents have shown me that forgiveness is absolutely essential for making the most of the less-than-perfect moments.
MAKE EACH OTHER LAUGH.
My parents seem to make each other laugh every single day. Whether it's when I stop by for a visit or when I'm chatting with one of them over the phone, there's hardly a day that goes by when I don't hear one of them making the other one laugh. They're always teasing one another for their differences, laughing about a ridiculous situation that no one else even understands, or cracking up over little sayings they've made up. One of the best sounds in the world is hearing someone you love laugh, and my parents have shown me just how valuable laughter can be in a relationship. When you can laugh a lot with someone, you feel connected with one another and, obviously, you feel happy. Laughter might sound superficial, but it's actually quite important for making the most of a long-lasting love.
LOOK IN THE SAME DIRECTION.
My parents have the same long-term vision (or at least it seems they do to me). They've created a successful business together and raised two daughters who love them, which, in my opinion, is pretty awesome. They've had to go through some tough times (like starting a business from scratch... or going through those awful teen years with two girls...) to get to where they are now, but they've always seemed to be on the same path with the same goals in mind. I've always been a fan of the Antonine de Saint-Exupery quote, "Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction," and I now realize how much that quote applies to my parents. The love they have isn't just about each other. It's about each other and more: family, work, creating they lives they wanted to be living together.
These are just a few of the lessons I've learned from my parents. They've taught me so much about love—and also about life—and I'll always be so thankful for these two wonderful, inspiring people who have given so much to make my life so wonderful. Thanks, Mom and Dad, and happy anniversary!