On one particularly angsty night, I got both my parents together and let them know that if they didn’t let me have a boyfriend now, “all of the good ones would be gone” by the time I turned 16. In my head, this was an airtight case. It was absolutely bulletproof. All the good guys would be gone by the time I turned 16 if they made me wait any longer, and all my parents would be left with is a spinster for a daughter and no grandchildren. I couldn’t believe they hadn’t taken that into consideration, because if they had, they surely would not be enacting this dictatorial mandate.
Needless to say, my impassioned speech was not successful. Once again, my parents were somehow completely unconvinced by my peerless logic and insider knowledge. Their only desire was clearly my unhappiness.
15 years later, however, I’m beyond thankful they stuck with their decision not to let me date. Despite my many compelling arguments and sound reasoning, they managed to stay strong. And, surprisingly, once I finally did turn 16, all the good guys weren’t taken, and I just so managed to snag the very best one. Call it trauma from truly believing I actually might end up a spinster (Pride and Prejudice was my favorite book and movie back then) or Divine Providence, either way, I held onto that good man and he held onto me. Now here we are, one stint in the Navy, two international moves, a jet setting lifestyle with visits to multiple foreign countries every year, to settling down on a homestead and (almost) three kids later. It’s the only life I’ve ever known, he’s the only man I’ve ever known, and I can’t imagine my world any other way.
We Didn’t “Play the Field”
Contrary to what pop-culture might have you believe, dating isn’t a game show, and sharing parts (or all) of your sexuality with a man isn’t as casual as a baseball game. Dating is fun, but it shouldn’t be treated as just for fun. Dating should be regarded as a serious undertaking. I mean, this could potentially be the rest of your life we’re talking about here. Why waste your time on anyone who doesn't feel the same way or just isn’t marriage material? And if you do happen to get lucky and find the one right off the bat, don’t feel the need to continue dating around just to be really sure that he’s “the one.” If he’s truly the one, you aren’t missing out on anything, trust me. I’m not saying you have to manipulate yourself into marrying the first man you meet, because that’s a massive mistake, so if he’s not looking to “settle down” anytime soon, and you are, don’t let him waste your time. It’s necessary and good to find someone compatible, but once you do, don’t self-sabotage by second-guessing yourself.
Waiting to date until I turned 16 forced me to be choosy. I mean, this was obviously a big deal. My parents had seemingly kept me from a good thing, and I had already wasted so many precious years of my young life not dating. I wasn’t about to waste even more time on the wrong guy. So when I started to see a long-time guy friend of mine in a new light, before I had turned 16, I paid attention, but I didn’t jump on board right away.
I let my interest in him grow naturally along with our friendship. As we grew closer, my interest in him deepened, and so did my care for him as an individual. I didn’t feel the need to rush things or hurry them along, though, because the way I figured it, if we couldn’t maintain a friendship, how on earth were we supposed to maintain a romantic relationship? And besides, at the start of our friendship, and even right in the middle of it, I legitimately only saw him as a friend. I wasn’t physically attracted to him at all. As I learned more about him and his character, that’s when I started to see him as potential boyfriend material. The physical attraction aspect, on my part, came much later during our friendship, after I realized that I couldn’t fathom an end to our relationship. And just to clarify things, this wasn’t due to the fact that he was some hideous creature. He’s actually, objectively speaking, extremely attractive. That “spark” for me simply came a little bit later, and that’s just how attraction works for some females. Sometimes you just need a little time to warm up.
Our bodies and souls have only ever known each other’s, and we are the beginning and end of each other's romantic history.
My husband was the first and will be the last man I ever kiss. Our bodies and souls have only ever known each other’s, and we are the beginning and end of each other's romantic history. There’s a comforting and sweet finality to that and a unique intimacy that can only be achieved through such circumstances. It’s a peace that helps form the undercurrent of our entire marriage, and it’s a reality that gets to be savored each and every day.
I don’t have to worry about his past flings and he doesn’t have to worry about mine because there aren’t any. I know, unequivocally, that I take the top spot in his heart and mind because I’m all there is, and all there ever has been. Together, we have nothing to regret and everything to look forward to.
I Didn’t Need To Break Up with Him To “Find Myself”
Sometimes something so good, so wholesome and wonderful becomes a part of your life, and from that day onward, the day you realize what it is that you have, you know you can’t let it go. That you’d be a fool, and you’d be missing out on the most incredible thing that’s ever happened to you for the rest of your life. You’d be missing that story, you’d be missing that person. And that’s where I somehow found myself at just 16 years old.
After an on-again, off-again friendship that had begun three years before and developed into something so much more, I found myself on my knees begging God to either remove this boy from my life immediately (if he wasn’t meant for me) or to never let me be separated from him for the rest of my life. He was the story I wanted. I didn’t care for anything else apart from him. I didn’t want to search down the different pathways of my life to find out what might have been without him. I only wanted to know about what life was like with him.
At the ripe old age of 16, I didn’t know if I was technically allowed to have these sentiments. It all reminded me a teensy bit of The Little Mermaid (except in my case, I had known the guy for longer than approximately 12 minutes), and I did wonder if I was getting ahead of myself. This was the only guy who I had ever harbored more affection for than a crush, after all. But still, this… feeling was there all the same. I wasn’t willing myself to be one way or another, I just simply was. And I let myself be. A week or so later, I decided that the feeling I was experiencing was love, and so, naturally, I decided to tell him about it.
The poor guy nearly curbed his truck when the words all but tumbled clumsily out of my mouth. This was actually my saving grace, however, as my declaration was first met with complete silence, followed by a very cautious, “Ohh… thank you.”
Looking out the window allowed me to hide my disappointment. I had known this could happen, of course. After all, we had only been dating for six months. But in my mind, love was love, and it would have been an injustice and an even greater tragedy to keep it to myself. Either way, I was not too disappointed as, I reasoned, my love for him had nothing to do with his love for me. I hadn’t actually lost anything. I had accomplished my goal. Yes, it would have been nice to have been told “I love you too” back, but that wasn’t my intention. The boy I loved now knew that I loved him, and that’s all I had wanted.
Fast forward a few years to prom night (he had already told me “I love you too” a year or so ago), and we were both high school seniors. Prom was over, and so was the after-prom, and there we were, about to go our separate ways for the night, except he couldn’t let me go.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen next,” he whispered.
Happen next? I thought. “What do you mean?” I asked, pulling away from our embrace even though he was trying to prevent me from doing so.
“I just don’t want this all to end. But it is. This was it, our last night as high schoolers, and six weeks from now, I’ll be at the academy, and I won’t be able to talk to you, or anyone else for that matter, and I’m just not ready to say goodbye. I don’t know what’s going to happen next.” He smoothed a strand of hair out of my face and pressed his lips together into a thin line. A crease appeared between his eyebrows.
I pulled him back into our embrace, tighter this time. “We get to decide,” I told him. “We get to decide what happens next. And I’ll tell you one thing,” I continued, “I’m not going anywhere.”
And I didn’t. And he didn’t. We wrote letters to each other all summer long while he completed Plebe Summer at the Naval Academy in Maryland (I still have them, to this day, tied neatly with a little red ribbon and placed inside a wooden box). We FaceTimed and flew across the country to see each other whenever we could. And it was lonely. And it was hard. And it sucked. But it was also a whole lot better than the alternative. l didn’t want to experience life without him. I didn’t want life to suck in a whole new and totally different way.
Whatever “finding myself” meant, I didn’t need it because I was right where I wanted to be, and that was next to him.
Influenced by the movies and shows I had watched growing up, I had debated whether or not I should break up with my boyfriend before we went off to our respective universities. Did I need to be single to “find myself”? Was that the only way I could accomplish this seemingly important task on my own? What did “finding myself” even mean?
After a few hours of deliberation, I decided that whatever “finding myself” meant, I didn’t need it because I was right where I wanted to be, and that was next to him.
We Grew Up Together instead of Apart
Good relationships have a way of keeping you in check. True friends always want the best for one another, they want each other to embody that goodness, they have an innate way of sensing whenever the other is getting off course, and they aren't afraid to call them out.
That’s what Ben and I did for each other during our college years, over and over again (he called me out more often, if I’m being honest here), but thank goodness he did because I am who I am today and we’re still together because of it.
True friends always want what’s best for one another.
Although there was no selfishness involved in these call-outs, they did end up benefiting us personally. Each course correction we discussed with one another served to keep us on the path of how we wanted our future spouse to be. What I mean is this: Even though I called Ben out on his pessimism every so often, for his own mental health, it ended up serving me too, because not only is Ben not a pessimist, I think being married to a pessimist would be really difficult and aggravating. Ben called me out often for my risky/destructive decision-making, and although this was most obviously for my own good so that I would stop getting hurt, it has ended up serving him because I’m now a person he can wholeheartedly trust to make good decisions not only for myself but for our children as well.
We watched each other struggle repeatedly with these things during our long-distance relationship, and although witnessing each other fall back into these patterns of behavior over and over again was quite vexing, we also noticed an overall positive trend for the better.
Left alone, I most likely would have either continued to succumb to my self-destructive tendencies till they became a near-irreversible trait, or gotten so hurt due to one of these bad decisions that I would have ultimately self-corrected but would have had to carry that scar with me for the rest of my life.
By being brave in giving and receiving constructive criticism, my boyfriend and I shaped each other into the husband and wife we are today. It was by no means intentional; neither one of us sat there and thought, “Geez, it’d be really unfortunate to be married to someone like this, let me ‘fix them.” No, we were always looking out for and wanted the best for the other, and in pursuing that, selflessly, we reaped the benefits of a better and more suitable future spouse.
I shake my head when I think back all those years to the 16-year-old versions of my husband and me. I can smell the rubber turf of the football field we lay on together the day before he told me he had a crush on me. I can feel the after-prom anxiety we experienced when we realized that this was it. It was time to go off to college in two different parts of the country, and who knew what would happen to us next?
I smile and think, if only she had known. The jungles of Japan, the mountains in Nepal, glittering oceans, and goats, and chickens, and children would all be hers. She was doing the right thing by just being herself. She wasn’t losing anything at all by surrendering to the path that had been placed in front of her. The life in store for her was so much better than she had ever imagined or hoped for. And with every trusting step forward, she was one step deeper into the story her heart longed for. She just hadn't realized it yet.
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