You did it!!! You got married, son!!! Whaaaat?!
Life is crazy, right?
Anyway, the reason I’m writing this letter to you — umm, to us (??)– to me is that by all accounts marriage is hard. Every day won’t be a honeymoon. There will be times that you really don’t remember why you got married in the first place. You will fight. You will struggle. You will be challenged in ways you’ve never been challenged, but, by most accounts, it will be worth it, so I’m writing this letter as a reminder on those tough days why you got married.
Here it goes —
Days after you “swore off” online dating, you swiped on a woman that peaked your interest despite not seeming to have a ton in common and not being your typical petite brunette. It was an instant “match.” She was a “Domer,” a Notre Dame alum. You’ve dated them in the past and it has never worked out. There was always this smug, elitism that said “you will never be good enough for me,” even though we have the same education. On top of that, she was older than us. Again, a relationship theme that had never played out well before. Nevertheless, you sent her a message after a week of waffling, “Hey, did you go to Notre Dame?”
We exchanged a little banter and things were okay, but you were still set on removing yourself from the dating scene. Then she did it, she asked first, “so when are you going to take me out for a drink?”
Of course, you couldn’t say no after that. Even if the date sucked, her boldness earned it, so you made plans, joking that she might be your early birthday present. Your First date was November 4, 2015, beer and burgers at the Bad Apple. She had the Elvis, I think — something with peanut butter. We had something spicy with jelly, I think, seems like something we would have done. It never occurred to me how perfect a metaphor our food choices would be for our relationship. I mean literally peanut butter and jelly.
I don’t remember a word of what we talked about. I remember watching her mouth move, staring at her face and her hair, and feeling comfortable: like it wasn’t our first date, but the tenth, like we had known each other for much longer. After our date official date, we took a walk to the park. I saw a gazebo in the distance and knew I would plant my kiss there. We walked there hand in hand. I was usually unsure about how much physical contact to have on a first date. When we got to the gazebo, I spun her around and we danced to the music in our heads. Then we kissed, a lot. As it got later and later, I finally remembered that I had a dog at home that needed to go out, probably desperately at this point, so we moved the party to the train station, and then to the next one, and then back. I resolved myself to the mess I would inevitably have to clean up and pushed to stay the night. She said no, but not before one more kiss in her doorway.
We had three dates that week alone. On the third date, she drunkenly said she loved me. I laughed it off as drunken affection overblown. The next morning, she said it again and every day since. She said she wasn’t embarrassed to admit it even though it was sudden and too soon. It took me a bit longer to say it back. She wasn’t even my girlfriend yet, just a girl for whom I had considerable affection.
On my birthday, she showed up with a massive cake that my family later greatly appreciated after they got most of it, but first, she met my friends. She hung with the fellas as I drunkenly screamed karaoke at the top of my lungs in my birthday suit. Not my actual “birthday suit,” a few years back I took to always wearing a suit on my birthday. Yes, corny jokes abound on this side of the internet.
Sometime later, we became official.
It was nice — too nice.
I didn’t know what to do with myself. I wondered if I was being lulled into a false sense of security by her likability. In my prior experience, it wasn’t Love if it didn’t hurt constantly. If you weren’t constantly on the verge of ripping your heart from your chest and throwing it in the trash, why even bother.
The wounded puppy in me railed against the walls.
“What’s wrong with you, why aren’t you hurting me? And when will the other shoe drop?”
I flinched every time she lifted a finger. Truthfully, sometimes I still do. I wouldn’t be caught off guard. That’s when it happens. That’s when people hurt you, when you let your guard down. If you’ve read my blog or have ever dated anyone ever, you know that people are perfectly capable of hurting you no matter how dutifully you watch. But, she had a saintly level of patience and understanding. I envy it. Finally, when nothing happened, I went the other way.
“She’s too good for me.”
Prior to meeting my now fiancee, I adopted a 5-year dating-to-parenting policy: one year of dating, one year of living together, one year of engagement, one year of being married, then one year-ish of trying and being pregnant; and that is assuming a “perfect” relationship. She was a month short of 33 when we met. (Sorry, I had to mention it because it’s relevant. Don’t kill me!) Television and science had beaten into me the difficulty of getting pregnant after 35, and, under my life plan, we wouldn’t even start trying until she was 37 at the earliest.
I didn’t think it was fair to her to stay together if it meant she wouldn’t be able to have the kids she wanted because of me. I decided it would be better to let her go find someone who would be ready for a baby and kids before she would turn 35. Resolute, I packed up a bag of all of her stuff and hopped on the bus to her place.
It was the longest bus ride of my life.
I called everyone I could think of to help convince me that I was making the right call. I couldn’t reach anyone I usually talked to about stuff like that, none of my brothers, not my best friend, there wasn’t even a stranger at the bus stop to whom I could plead my case. Well, there was, but I was bawling like a weirdo, so the stranger opted to walk instead. I wished like hell I could talk to my dad, but he too was gone. I really missed him right then, and now, as I remember the story. I felt so lost. Deep down, I knew I was making a mistake, but it seemed like had already come too far.
Finally, I called my mom. I don’t usually call my mom for dating advice because her advice is usually, “call me when my grandbaby is here, dammit,” but I did it. I laid it all out: the age difference, the children, the monotony of a stable relationship; everything. In an unusual departure from her grandmother inquiries, she told me to wait. She said something along the lines of “you know I want you to have children, but at the end of the day, that’s up to you. I don’t know if you will or won’t have kids, but what I do know is that I haven’t seen you this happy in a long time. If this girl (who she had only met once) is making you happy, then you owe it to yourself to let this play out because kids grow up and leave, you need someone who makes you happy still after they’re gone,” and it was perfect. It was exactly what I needed to hear to talk me off the ledge.
I arrived at her apartment content with pretending nothing had happened, but… her stuff rattled in my bag and gave me away, so we had it out too. We didn’t argue. I told the story of my journey to her apartment that night. Her response, too, was perfect.
First, she checked me a bit. She reminded me that she was an independent woman who made her own decisions, of which I was one. I know I will lose feminist points for writing this “out loud,” but it never occurred to me that she was making her own choice to stay — not in the ‘I have such raw animal magnetism that she was helpless to resist’ way (obviously I do), in the ‘I kind of just thought relationships were something that just kind of happened to people’ way, like tripping and falling: sometimes it just happens.
It wasn’t just her, I never thought of myself as having been picked by anyone. I can think of a million places in my past that lesson would have come in handy, both for my confidence and sense of security, and the relationships themselves. In hindsight, in some ways, I should have been more grateful to my exes. God bless the broken road, right?
Second, she told me why she chose me. She was someone who spent the majority of her adult life waiting for the right man. She dated and stopped. Dated again and stopped. In the process, she lost faith in herself and gave up hope for a storybook future. A husband and family were no longer the goals, she just didn’t want to be lonely anymore. She said I gave her hope again, that I was worth taking a chance on because she saw something in me that she had long since given up on, and even if we didn’t work, she enjoyed the time we had.
Not the storybook speech you were expecting? Well, it was exactly what I needed. In my strict adherence to a five-year plan, I forgot about the love part — the part where you just enjoy being with the person and throw caution to the wind. I was trying to manufacture a fulfilling relationship instead of enjoying the one I was already in. She gave me permission to live in the moment and took away the burden of worrying about the distant future. I decided at that moment, I was staying for as long as she would have me. Lastly, and this is important, she CHOSE to let me stay after all of that. Things were tense for a while, but we survived and then we prospered.
Prior to our relationship, I started a pre-blog. I would periodically write about major events from my past: dating history, racism, etc. For my pre-blog, I dug up a few of my old dating profiles and shared them with my readers… on Facebook… I shared them on Facebook. In one of my profiles, I described my ideal partner. As I was reading it, I was struck by how much of it I already had in my life.
We did crazy things together all of the time. We were total goofballs. I was there when she changed jobs. She has been with me through all of my job chaos. She believed in me when I doubted myself. I credit her with a lot of the strength behind settling my first case. She pushed me to start this very blog. We watch nearly every Notre Dame game together, and she was a bigger fan than me. We cook together, even though it’s been a learning process. That first date really did change everything.
After realizing that, I knew I needed a ring.