Feeling mushy. You've been warned.
Two nights ago we had our first real Valentine's Day date ever. As in, he wasn't on duty, no children were in attendance, and we were at an actual restaurant on the actual day of the actual holiday. AMAZING.
That date has caused a series of flashbacks of our story, of how we came to be. So, here it is:
By many standards we appeared to play a game of "fools rush in," when we met March 28th and married October 24th, but outward appearances can be awfully deceiving, no?
We had both been through several relationships of various "seriousness" in our college years, and learned exactly what we did not want. Snuggs came to our relationship with the notion that he might be a really good partner for a lady who already had a kid or two. (He's right, he would've been awesome at that.) I came to our relationship feeling completely "over" relationships and determined to "date like a guy" and not get emotionally involved. So much so, that I actually had a lunch date with another man on the same day that I met Snuggs for the first time on a dinner date.
Many people are surprised to learn that we met through match.com. We were living about two hours away from each other, and though we would learn later that we had some common contacts that could've eventually landed us in the same room, it was doubtful that we ever would've ended up together if not for internet dating. That said, I'm not endorsing, or even encouraging the use of match.com. I had somewhere in the range of 150 dates through that site before I met the love of my life. I don't think match.com has anything to do with why we've "lasted."
I don't remember much of the first emails we sent back and forth, but I can recall every detail of our early phone conversations like they were just yesterday. Those handful of calls before our first date are treasures in my heart. I'll never forget imagining him in my mind, trying to draw conclusions from every note of his voice, but even more than that I remember the constant laughter. Talking to Snuggs was easy from the beginning, like talking to someone I'd always known, and he knew exactly how to make me smile and laugh countless times in any conversation.
While I liked talking to him on the phone, I'll admit I was awfully doubtful going in to our first date. I'd had some less than desirable experiences with police officers who thought that their badges entitled them to rule the world. I honestly thought, "THIS will never work. He's a cop. He's going to be a hypocritical self absorbed jerk." It's a good thing I was only in it for the purpose of "dating like a guy," otherwise I likely wouldn't have shown up.
I pulled up to Red Lobster and saw him waiting at the door. "Wow, he really IS bald!" I don't know why I was shocked, I had seen a picture or two. I guess you just don't expect a man who is barely twenty to actually be THAT bald. He started the conversation by telling me that he had bought me roses, which his dog had eaten, and that because he was upset with his dog and put the dog on the porch, someone came by his house and stole his beloved dog. I didn't know whether to run, laugh, or cry. I don't even like roses-AT ALL. At that point I was pretty much holding my breath and hoping things would get better. We sat down and within moments he ordered nearly every simple carbohydrate on the menu. No salad? No side of veggies? TWO varieties of potatoes on the same plate? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I can't do this. Just as I was beginning to enter fight or flight mode he busts out the following phrase, "Yeah, I'm a pretty confident kind of guy." STICK A FORK IN ME, I WAS DOOOOOONE. SO DONE.
Except, somehow I stayed. Somehow I knew there was good in him, and I don't mean that as in...way down in a deep little corner there's a sliver of hope. I mean, I could see the heart of pure gold shining through this man in front of me. I had hope, enough hope to get me through dinner, and so I stayed. By the end of dinner my hope had grown to interest, and I agreed to extend the date to catch a band at a bar nearby. By the time he took me back to my car my interest had grown to the tiniest little flutter, and I wasn't ready to give up. (He reportedly called his sister at this point and informed her that I was "the one." ...WHAT?)
We spent the next three days talking A LOT on the phone, and I began to fall. By the time he came to my town three days later, I had decided that I was busting out the big guns, and took him to a sweet, quaint, perfect little winery. He hates wine. Fortunately the conversation was enough. We were walking the grounds of the winery when I felt it. It made me panic. The urge to kiss him. I felt like I could throw up all over the place. Evidently that's when you know you've got a winner. I didn't do it. I couldn't do it. So I just kept on, feeling ill as a result of the attraction churning around inside of me. We went to the mall, of all places, because the guy supposedly needed some new pants. He danced and sang in the dressing room and I was hooked. When I look back, that was the moment I knew I didn't want to let him go. Not that all it took to catch me was a little song and dance, but rather, that was the moment that I knew that all of the other stuff I had learned about him already was genuine, and I was in. He drove me to my car and as we were saying goodbye, I did it. I leaned in and puckered up and closed my eyes. And...and...and...nothing. Those two seconds seemed like forever, and then he said, "Can I kiss you?" (DUH!) I didn't know whether to breathe a sigh of relief or bust out in laughter, but I did neither, and instead got my kiss!
Three days after our second date we had a third date, a REAL kiss, and I went home and wrote him a letter that I would give him on our wedding day telling him that I knew without a doubt that he would be my husband. I was right. I'm always right ;)
And he is...my husband. We've been together for almost five years. And I was completely shocked while we were on our Valentine's Day date. The man is hilarious, and I had somehow forgotten that, or rather, lost track of it. It's hard to crack jokes when you're juggling children, and budgets, and night shifts that turn in to day shifts that were supposed to be afternoon shifts that end up being canceled, rescheduled, overtime with "schedule adjust" for pay. It's hard to catch jokes when you're sorting laundry, and cleaning spitup, and wiping poopy bottoms, and such.
But two days ago it felt like we were courting. It wasn't a fancy date, we actually went to a local pizzaria. But we weren't in a rush, we had up to three and a half hours of childcare lined up, and after dinner we didn't get up. We sat. We talked. And he reminded me of just how witty he is, how silly he is, and how much he loves me for just me. Not because I'm his wife, or the mother of his children, or the chef, laundress, or housekeeper. He just loves ME. He loved me before I was any of those things, and he loves me still, and he loves me more.
Marriage is hard. Even our really good marriage is hard. But it is good, so, so good. Though we both love each other for just the people we are, the people we met on that blind date at Red Lobster, our love has grown, developed, strengthened, and matured as we've moved through these last five years.
It still amazes me every time I think about how wise he was when he chose the song for our first dance.
Brad Paisley's "Then" has been the truest representation of our marriage I could ever have asked for.
"We've come so far since that day, and I thought I loved you then."