I have a great relationship with my dad. He is someone I look up to, respect, and have a deep appreciation for. We can sit and have small talk over our favorite sports teams, or discuss life and have a good cry (I definitely get my crying gene from him).

But it wasn't always this way—we had to work really hard to get here.

I grew up in a split household which wasn't easy. While so many of my other friends spent their weekends enjoying family time with their mom and dad, I had just one or the other. And even though I had a decently happy childhood, I couldn’t help but be envious of those friends.

I was three when my parents divorced so my memory of them together is pretty hazy. For the first 10 years of my life, I didn't have parents to role model a healthy relationship or learn how couples interacted.

But then both of my parents re-married. I remember when my dad made the announcement. While I wanted him to be happy, I secretly shuddered at the idea of having to share his attention. I was already learning to adjust to having a new step-dad, and now this.

At the time I didn't love trying to navigate my relationship with both my dad and my step-dad. I held some resentment, feelings of jealousy over time lost with each of my parents, and deep hurt around having to deal with being in a “divorced family.”

What I didn't realize is that although it wasn’t an ideal situation, both of these men were shaping my understanding of the type of marriage it was possible to have.

I watched as my step-dad constantly attended to my mother’s needs. Loving her selflessly and always supporting her despite her faults.

I learned that with each school event he attended, homework assignment he helped with, and sports practice he took me to, that the word “step” meant nothing to him—I was his daughter and he would love me as nothing less.

I also learned true humility and sacrifice—as my dad stepped back and allowed this new man into our lives to take on some of the roles and responsibilities he wasn’t able to. He taught me the importance of being loved and made sure I always knew how deep his love ran for his family.

When I yelled at him for missing some of the important events in my life, he sat back and took it, without a defensive posture that would have been so easy for him to adopt. And when my step-dad passed away, he was there, patiently allowing me to grieve with him and humbly acknowledging the hurt I was dealing with.

Growing up with the love and guidance of both of these men helped me understand what I wanted in a husband and how to appreciate the rare qualities that both of them possessed.

When I met my husband I realized that without the foundation I was given, it likely would have been difficult for me to identify and seek out the traits I knew I wanted and needed in a man.

Without the unconditional love I was blessed with growing up, I’m not sure I would know how to receive and appreciate the love and affection my husband showers me with daily.

As I watch my husband help raise my son like his own, I see that same type of sacrifice and love he has for us—I am reminded how blessed I am.

I remember clearly the moments I told myself, “That is how I want to be treated” as I watched the examples in my life, and prayed that I would someday have the same type of marriage.

To my husband—thank you for being the caring, loving man that you are. I never thought it was possible to find someone like you—but you continue to surprise me everyday!

To my dad(s)—thank you for teaching me what it means to be loved, even when it wasn’t easy and you didn’t have to. Thank you for setting the example of what a genuine father and husband is, and helping me to settle for nothing less. I appreciate and love our relationship more than you know.