I remember his eyes.
We were in college. We met in the basement of a church over a table soccer game. He was wearing a red coat with our school mascot on it. I was wearing pink sweatpants and a long-sleeved t-shirt from West Point. He was there to meet with my friend who’d brought me along for moral support since she was nervous around guys.
She introduced us. Our eyes met. His eyes were a beautiful light blue, the color of blue zircon, my birthstone. They drilled into me, even as they looked me up and down. Even in my pink sweats and West Point t-shirt, this young Air Force veteran saw something in me that he liked. I looked into his eyes and into my future.
His Loving Eyes
I remember his eyes before our wedding. They had a mildly manic look in them as he went around trying to make everything perfect. He was nervous. During our wedding, his eyes were warm and full of affection. We arrived at our hotel, and we used some of our wedding cash for dinner at a fancy restaurant. His eyes looked only at me. On our wedding night, his eyes that had seen me before saw me for the first time as his wife. His eyes glowed.
When I found out I was pregnant with our first child, he was out of town for two weeks. I told him on the phone. When he came home and for the first time laid eyes on the woman who he knew carried his child, his eyes were full of pride and joy. A few years later, I came home from an ultrasound with the next pregnancy to tell him I was carrying two babies. I remember the panic in his eyes then. And less than a month later when I was placed on bedrest for preterm labor, we had to send our young son to live with his grandparents three hours away because I couldn’t care for him. My husband’s eyes poured out the anguish of a man faced with the reality that there is absolutely nothing he can do to protect his wife and children. I remember those eyes, too.
He kept his loving eyes on me during the early years of our marriage. They laughed often, as I invited his laughter and love. Eyes that see love, with love, are a treasure.
Sometimes we bury our treasures when we don’t want or can’t use them. We leave them behind so deep and so long that we need a map to find them again. As my heart changed, I stopped seeing his loving eyes. So I saw other eyes instead.
I remember those other eyes—the ones I saw through my own lenses of hurt and disconnection.
I remember his eyes during our arguments. We fought about so much—how to raise the children, money, sex, housework, my attitude, his attitude, and even about how much we fought and how we fought. His fighting eyes shone like daggers at me. If looks could kill, I felt these eyes could have done so. They were not cold eyes; they were filled with the passion that pulled at him and had no outlet.
These eyes were easy to dislike. They were nothing like the eyes I had once loved. Eyes are the windows to the soul, and the arguing eyes had the curtains completely closed. I hated seeing those hard eyes aimed in my direction.
I remember these hard eyes from this time in our marriage.
I remember other eyes from this time, too. As he recognized that we had no intimacy, he would try to talk with me about sex. Sometimes he spoke in anger and frustration. I remember seeing his frustrated eyes and thinking, “If he’s the one who’s unhappy with our sex life, then why does he think I’m the one who should have to change?” The memory of his frustrated eyes reminds me that my eyes were probably just as bad during these conversations. I’m pretty sure they showed dislike, disrespect, distrust, irritation, and every bit of my hurt and rage I could fit into them.
He felt unloved, like less than a man, like he didn’t even matter to me. He pleaded with me. “Just tell me what I have to do and I’ll do it.” “Why do I have to beg just to get lucky with my own wife?” “Can’t you see how unhappy I am?”
There were times when this man with the blue eyes would bare his heart to me and make himself vulnerable. He asked me questions that were risky. He wanted to hear responses of love from me but knew he was risking hearing responses that lacked any love and affection at all. He was right.
I hardened my heart against his words.
“Do you even care about me? Do you care about our marriage? Does my sexual satisfaction matter at all to you? Do I matter?”
My husband was sitting in his chair, sipping whiskey, the first time he asked me that. I said, quite sincerely, “No, I don’t think so.” Then I looked at him and saw his eyes.
I’d hardened my heart against his words, but his eyes haunt me still. These eyes . . . I will always remember these eyes.
I never want to see those eyes again. Ever.
Later, when I began to finally make some of the changes he’d been begging for, it was the memory of these eyes that carried me through the early months when my husband was not yet ready to believe the change was real. He responded with the habits of self-protection that had been ingrained in him by years of my refusing and gate-keeping. I frequently struggled to find the courage to respond with good intention and love to his sullen acceptance of what I was offering.
These haunted and haunting eyes were the only thing that kept me going.
Loving His Eyes
Just as the memory of his sad eyes kept me going, it was seeing the changes in his eyes that helped me know I was on the right track. A few months after I’d begun to be a more active participant in sex and had even stopped saying “no,” I was ready to think about my next step of growth: getting more comfortable with my husband seeing me naked. One night, I not only took my bra off in his presence, I intentionally turned around so he could really look.
The eyes I saw then will stay in my heart forever. These eyes were full of joy. They were the eyes of a man who is beginning to believe he does not take a risk in letting his wife see his desire for her.
These eyes . . . these are the eyes I love. They are the eyes that love me. These are the eyes that were there all along, even when I refused to see them. I gave them so few opportunities to glow.
These are the eyes that shine at the sight of me reaching toward him in bed. These are the eyes of a man who knows he is loved and desired. These are the eyes I see in my mind when I think of my husband.
We make love with eyes wide open so I can see his loving, glowing, laughing, desiring eyes every time I look at him.
In my heart, behind the loving eyes I love, I can still see the eyes of this man whose wife had just handed his heart back to him, deflated and untreasured. I can still see the sad light blue eyes of my husband as he thought about what it meant to be married to a woman who had just said she didn’t think she loved him.
I remember his eyes. And I always will.