Looking at the pictures, you can see the love just seeping from David and I :) We love each other so much, it's crazy! I've had a few people - particularly young unmarried ladies - comment on how picturesque we appear. And, in a lot of ways our life is like a romantic movie. But, in a lot of ways it isn't. We have our tough seasons, just like everyone else.
I've been thinking about this post for a long time. What should I write about? Should I share all the crappy stuff we've been through? Be really candid? Or, will that scare people away? Will it be too revealing? Should I give advice...like a "how we got so happy" post? Maybe 10 steps in 10 years? No...that would be unrealistically pretentious. So, I've decided that I'm just going to share out story.
Our story: what's worked, what hasn't. Take what you like; leave the rest.
1) We were available for each other.
The night we met, December 31, 2002, David and I were both in that fun college dating time in life. You know, the season where you just kind of have a good time and mess around with different people, hoping that it won't go any further than you want it to. I was pretty blunt as a collegiate - I would tell guys, "look, I know this relationship isn't going to work in the long run...but wanna make out?" Not exactly stellar moral behavior, I admit. Then, one day a very wise man asked me, "So, if God brings Mr. Right along your path and you're messing around with that guy...will you notice Mr. Right or will you be too distracted?" That got my attention! So, only a few weeks before I met David, I called it off with all my little flings.
2) David pursued me.
In the beginning, the night we met, David asked ME to dance. Now, don't get me wrong, I was sending all the signals I could! But, ultimately, I let him make the first move...and the second, and the third. He emailed me first, and quickly! He called first, he asked me if he could have the honour of calling me his girlfriend, he kissed me. Being a leader-type personality, this is really hard for me to run with! What if he doesn't do it?? Well, part of this is just that David had the guts to step up to the plate. He's someone who knew he had a good thing and wasn't going to let it slip away. It's not like this in EVERY relationship - there are almost always exceptions to things - but ladies, don't settle for a guy who doesn't pursue you! Isn't it so hard watching your best friend keep chasing after some guy she really likes, and you're like, "He's just not that into you!" Yeah. Watch the movie ;)
3) We waited.
Alright, this one is going to sound super weird to a lot of people. But, for us, I think it's a major reason why our relationship totally rocks. We waited to have sex until we got married. Yup. We were virgins until our wedding night. Now, don't get me wrong, we weren't like those face-eating people on that TLC show who never kissed before we said "I do." We allowed our intimacy and our commitment to grow at the same pace.
I'm going to say that one again: We allowed our intimacy and our commitment to grow at the same pace.
And, this wasn't just in the physical area. We grew in intimacy as we got to know one another more and more, as we spiritually connected, as we shared our secrets with each other. But, we didn't give it all to each other until there was demonstrated commitment to the relationship. You know: commit to not dating anyone else, commit to prioritizing one another, commit to marrying each other...and then commit it all.
4) I watched for flags.
I wasn't just keeping my ears and eyes open for red flags, I was looking for yellow flags too! Was there any reason I shouldn't devote the rest of my life to this awesome guy?? Examples of flags:
- RED FLAGS: he hits or in any way abuses you or other women, he refuses to take responsibility for himself, he can't keep a job or pay his own bills etc, he doesn't have any successful relationships in his life, he has unresolved severe mental health concerns, okay...you get it.
-YELLOW FLAGS: you don't have the same core values or beliefs, no chemistry, you don't like any of his friends, doesn't respect your boundaries, nothing in common, etc.
With David the craziest thing is: there were no red flags OR yellow flags. I had never been in a relationship like that before! We don't fight like cats and dogs? We don't disagree on major issues? My friends and family totally love you? You're so handsome I can't keep my eyes off of you? You treat me (and your mom - big sign) like a queen? How is this all even possible?!
5) We sealed the deal.
We got married. I know a lot of people don't really agree with marriage or think that it doesn't make much of a difference. But, I remember one of my super-liberal Portland State professors saying that she was in a 20 year common-law relationship with the father of her children, and things STILL felt different when they got married! Marriage isn't a piece of paper and it isn't a ring or a wedding. Marriage for us was the continuation of love already in bloom - not a monumental overnight magical change - but a step in the same direction our relationship was already going. It was a continued natural way to show each other that we meant FOREVER.
6) We kept the deal sealed ;)
Our first years of marriage were turbulent, although we didn't really think so at the time. But, there were all sorts of classic difficulties that we had (btw, being two virgins, sex was NOT one of those difficulties - lol!)
- I tested the waters in his commitment - will he still love me if I am THIS mean to him? Will he stay with me if he discovers the REAL me? I have heard of SO MANY people doing this...it's the classic way that we test intimacy (defined as allowing someone else to truly know you and seeking to truly know someone else). If I show him my shadow side, will he really stick around? I got that out of my system as David patiently pressed forward and re-re-re-assured me that he loves me anyway.
- In-Laws - Here's the blunt truth: I've never fit in perfectly with David's family. It's a combination of personality differences, value differences, and cultural differences. David continually demonstrated an unwavering transfer of his allegiance from his family of origin to our new family: him & me.
- We cut out anything that came between us - primarily this meant anything that would damage our trust in one another. Flirtatious girlfriends of mine had to go. Lunch or coffee dates with female friends of his or male friends of mine weren't allowed.
- Money was combined - this was a slow process for us, as I had lived on my own for 5 years before we married. At first we had separate accounts and joint accounts, then just a joint account and separate credit cards, and in time it all got joined.
7) Commit (over and over and over and...)
Commitment is the deliberate choice to do what is best for the marriage instead of what is best for an individual...it's the decision to make this relationship a desirable place to be on a daily basis. It also meant, for us, leaving all of our friends and family and jobs and security behind and hopping on a ferry across the ocean for two years and then across the country for a third year. I've told people that making that move as a couple took our relationship from two people with their own individual lives (friends, family, jobs, separate activities) to one couple in a new town forming new friendships, new activities TOGETHER. What a huge thing for our marriage - probably the best thing that happened to it!
8) Forgive (over and over and over and...)
Forgiveness is letting go of the right to hold someone accountable for a perceived wrong. This means they don't "owe" you anything - not even an apology - because forgiveness happens on one side in your own heart. Forgiveness in our marriage sometimes happens before the wrong even occurs; I don't even bother getting offended in the first place with things because I just know I'm going to let it go anyway! Sometimes it happens during or after the offence takes place. And, of course, there are lots of conversations if there's something that seems really serious. But, ultimately the question is, "Are we going to divorce over this?" If the answer is NO, then I might as well forgive - carrying around a grudge only hurts me after all.
9) Head overrides heart.
This is not what the movies tell you. In the movies, the girl always goes for the difficult, turbulent, steamy, sexy relationship instead of the reasonable, he's-so-obviously-perfect relationship...after all the latter is so BORING. But, you know what?! My love to David has always agreed with what my HEAD knew was RIGHT. My heart has been damaged - it's been hurt by previous relationships, by losing my father at a young age, by all the terrible things that happen to girls these days. My heart - my emotions - would tell me that "this is too easy, this is too boring, this is too not-dramatic! If we really loved each other there would be more fireworks and music and passion when we kissed." But, whenever I really thought about it, I KNEW that David and I were meant for each other, even when my feelings would make me question. I could stand back and THINK logically and see that we are a perfect match. Movies are not real life.
And, there ya have it. Movies are not real life. My life isn't a movie, and neither is yours. Because, the movies FEEL different than real life feels. But, I gotta say: this real life is SO MUCH BETTER than anything I could have dreamed ;)