Actor Chris Sullivan on the Bright Sadness of Love Over Long Years

"Having a child puts everything into perspective in a way that is very contemplative and very finite..."

by Chris Sullivan
Originally Published: 
Illustration of a married couple sleeping together in a bed with their daughter between them
Jonathan Muroya for Fatherly

Love letters are wasted on youth. No matter what artistry and passion go into the prose you once laid out for your lover, the letters lack, well, life experience. When you devote yourself to someone, partner with them, and have a child together, then you have something to write about. Before, you were stumbling in passion. Now, you’ve truly found love. In Found Love, we celebrate the unique love partners feel for the mother of their children.

Dear Rachel,

When I witnessed you, my wife, about to give birth, I was first hit on a spiritual level. There you were creating life. And then, when I saw it happening, it was earth-shattering. The paradigms shifted. Now, I view you differently in pretty much every way.

Rachel, you and I were 10 years into our marriage when we had Bear and we were just figuring out how to be married. Now there’s this third person that we have to accommodate for, and all the dynamics are completely different. It can be frustrating and difficult.

It’s one of those things that even though you know it’s coming you don’t expect it. It’s like when someone says, ‘I’m going to punch you in the face.’ and here it comes, and you know it’s about to happen, but it’s just — BOOM. It’s been a big shift. And we’ve been going through all of this during quarantine. But I think that’s actually been really good for us.

We’ve had to let go of a lot of things that we used to be able to get away with when we didn’t have Bear around. And it’s made us realize that our time is limited. Our time together alone is limited. Our time connected is limited. And if I’m being honest, it’s hard. We’re only eight months in and we’re still trying to figure out how to navigate all that stuff. There’s a mourning that goes along with the joy.

One of my spiritual teachers, the progressive catholic monk Richard Rohr, talks about embodying a bright sadness. I’ve always liked that term. Having a child puts everything into perspective in a way that is very contemplative and very finite, that truly makes you understand mortality and the brevity of our time and all the time wasted. And yet there’s this joy that blankets everything. So it’s a kind of bright sadness.

With you, my time is never wasted.



Chris Sullivan is an actor best known for his Emmy-nominated portrayal of Toby Damon on the CBS drama This Is Us, which is currently airing its fifth season. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, actress Rachel Sullivan, and son, Bear.

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