It was just one of those nights I had gotten used to. The husband sends me a text message to inform me that he won't be having dinner at home. Dinner will be with some co-worker but this time, it's with someone quite important and it will be at a fancy restaurant. I say "Okay, no problem" and the evening goes on. No biggie.
But this one actually ended up a bit differently, to my surprise. When he came home at around 9:30 p.m., he hurriedly came upstairs to our bedroom, with a small take-out box in his hand.
"Hi Hunny, I have some carrot cake for you!", he said eagerly. I politely declined and said I was already full and didn't want any more carbs before falling asleep. But he seemed really excited about it, told me he thought it was really good cake I might enjoy and that he'll just leave it downstairs on the kitchen island.
Then it hit me. Aside from seeing how thoughtful the gesture was, I thought to myself—This is what makes a marriage. Our marriage is this half-eaten carrot cake.
The element of selflessness. When I tried the cake the next day, it was really moist, dense and simply one of the best I've had. I'm sure my husband could have finished the cake and probably wanted to. But he didn't and instead chose to share the experience with me. It's tough factoring in your partner as much as you can in every decision you make. But that's necessary in marriage. A certain amount of self sacrifice should be present. Thinking of what will make your partner happy, what is good for the other AND for your partnership all become second nature the longer you're in it. Hopefully, you reach a point when you don't mind it anymore and you even feel like your happiness depends on you being able to share the cake too.
Shared biography. My husband knows I like carrot cake. It's not my ultimate favorite (and I'm not sure I have a favorite cake really) but I always enjoy a good one. We both do, and he knows this and remembered. In addition, I also found it endearing that he showed a desire to share an experience with me even though I couldn't physically be present. Not only did he verbally share what transpired in my absence, bringing home a physical representation of the event reinforces my impression that it was something he wanted me to be a part of. Marriage has a lot to do with history, shared moments and memories that serve as cement to the union. The more each spouse returns to, or invokes such memories—even through the most seemingly insignificant actions such as conversations and even conjured thoughts—the more you feed your marriage.
It's all about coming home...and wanting to be home to share the cake. I was touched seeing that my husband seemed excited about having me try the cake. I almost felt guilty declining but I'm glad he understood. More importantly though, I knew that no matter how fancy the restaurant was, or how great company was over dinner, he was happy to finally be home and sleep in our bed. Most days, we don't give each other a detailed account of how our days went. We share certain highlights but for the most part, we're both realistic enough to understand that sometimes, just being close in proximity is enough and that there is nothing threatening about our respective needs for solitude. That brief hand-holding, or short-lived spooning in the middle of the night, is a loud enough proclamation that this is home and we continue to choose to be here for each other.
My marriage is far from perfect. We disagree, fight and I'm sure I speak for both of us when I say there are times when we want to kill each other. But more than simply controlling that impulse to let all hell break loose, I think it has a lot to do with constantly choosing what you focus on. Sometimes, it's really just the small gestures that all add up and make you realize that you do have a solid marriage in front of you, one you're in for the long haul. It has a lot to do with thinking beyond your self, making the decision to do small thoughtful acts. That said, I do believe that the ultimate marriage-killer is self-centeredness. It's when you no longer have any desire to share any piece of that cake that you're in trouble. So far though, I'm more than willing to still share my half cake, even the mint leaves and the sad looking strawberry on the side.