It is scary to love somebody.
I never thought I would write a sentence like that and actually mean it (Disney definitely didn’t tell me that one). But hey, I just wrote it, so let me explain myself.
My boyfriend A and I were best friends before we began dating. There was a time where I thought I’d never be anything more than that in his life. I thought it would be like a friend thing until one day I moved away for school or my career, got married to somebody else, or heck, maybe even joined the military.
One day in late October, we were out on one of our usual walks. During these walks, we sometimes read a book called The Purpose Driven Life, prayed together, or simply pondered the character of God, His presence in our lives, or the meaning of life itself. Deep, I know. On one such walk, we got to talking about lighter matters, and he suddenly thanked me for being his friend. He thanked me for being there when other bad things had been happening in his life, for encouraging him, and for comforting him. I smiled, thinking it was nice to be appreciated, and I exhaled happily.
But he surprised me by taking my hand in his. It was the first time anybody had ever done this to me. Sure, I’d touched guys’ hands before. In choir when I was in high school, we had to hold hands and pray before we rehearsed, and I always was so happy to hold the guy’s hand next to me who I had a crush on. I’d held little toddlers hands. I’d held my dad’s hand. But never, ever, had somebody, outside of prayer or tucking me into bed at night and reading me Dr. Seuss, taken my hand in his in an act of romantic affection.
I choked on my breath a moment, and then I held it. I looked down at my hand, realizing how funny it was to see it looking so small inside of my best friend’s large strong hand, to feel his warm skin, and to know that he felt mine, and I began beaming. I even skipped a few steps. I was so happy. He was trying to tell me he cared for me.
“Will you go to lunch with me?” he asked me.
“Like, real lunch?” That was all I managed to ask while my mind spun a thousand different directions. I had never been asked out before, and I wanted to make sure that was indeed being implied by his question in this social context (I’m sounding like Spock here).
“Yes,” he laughed. “Do you like Chinese? I’m a big fan.”
I lied. “Yes, I do.”
“Does this weekend sound good?” he offered.
“Oh it sounds great,” I replied.
And that’s where it began. We sat at a table near a sunny window in a nearly abandoned Chinese restaurant for our first date, and I kept waiting for firecrackers to start off somewhere or a wedding ring to appear. Something to signify, “FIRST DATE.” I half expected it to be written in the sky or maybe even a life marker would appear like, on my spine or something that would be engraved in my vertebrae saying, “Had first date,” with a big check mark next to it. There’s no Facebook timeline life event for that, is there?
A lot of firsts came up after that day. And seconds. I counted how many times he held my hand at first. I counted how many times he took me on dates. Eventually that stopped as I lost count, but every time had this magical feeling of being like the first. They say that’s puppy love, I think.
He gave me my first kiss too, and it felt really strange. When I was a kid, I used to kiss my parents on the lips goodnight or goodbye, but when six or seven rolled around, that all stopped. So, the feeling of another human being’s lips on mine was entirely foreign. I have heard him retell the story of our first kiss, and it was something he was so thrilled about and enjoyed every second of. I think I was stunned and being very analytical about it the entire time. It wasn’t until many kisses later that I was finally able to figure out that you could communicate love through a kiss. I think there is an art form to kissing that somebody should write a book on for people like me who need to know what to do in certain situations. That book would have been very much appreciated at that point. Maybe on the first page it would have written, “During your first kiss, don’t think too much. That is the worst thing you could do.”
I remember a giant face coming at me, eyes closed, nose and mouth getting closer, my eyes got big and stayed wide open as his lips touched mine (they were surprisingly warm, which, in hindsight, shouldn’t have surprised me, being that he was alive with a beating heart), and then I remembered you were supposed to close your eyes- so I did. Before that, I half expected to see his eyelids flutter open, revealing his ginormous blue eyes looking at me from an inch away and I wondered what he’d see if he did that.
“I’m having my first kiss,” I thought to myself, repeating it again and again and again. Panic set in. Oh my gosh. I’m having my first kiss.
How was one supposed to kiss? I had no clue. I remembered thinking, “Move your mouth. They do that in movies” So, I think I mouthed the words “Wah wah wah” about three times and then afterwards, kept my lips puckered up tight as I stood rigidly, consciously placing my hands on his waist to indicate affection and openness as he pulled away smiling.
“Dang. I messed that up I think,” I thought to myself. I may have even apologized to him for it being weird.
The first kiss was a big one to add to my list of firsts.
But there was also our first fight. That, well, that was not so great.
Then we had our second, third, fourth, and fifth. Fight is a big word. I would say that things only reached the term “fight” probably once or twice. Mostly, we had our disagreements. These existed over tone, communication (or lack thereof), not being considerate of another person’s feelings, etc.
We had our first recovery from those bumps in the road too. Then our second, third, fourth, and probably even more to come.
We learned what it is to forgive, to overlook, to “pick our battles.” We learned remember how much we love the other person in those moments when we aren’t seeing eye-to-eye.
He had relationship baggage from a previous relationship that had a damaged problem-solving/communication system in it. I had no problem solving skills for a romantic relationship, only those I’d gained from my own family interactions and observations (which, thankfully, were fairly positive, save the times my little brother and I bit each other to problem solve). So, between the two of us, we learned. Baby steps, trial and error, and now, we’ve finally established a good, healthy routine for when one of us gets our toes stepped on by the other.
Let’s just say that a lot of honesty, humility, kindness, respect, love, and forgiveness have to be injected into those situations on both of our parts during those times. But it’s all worth it.
Additionally, we have also had our first dreams. Dreams of traveling together to see the world. Dreams of going to France to the Louvre, to Broadway, to Hawaii, to places scattered about Europe, Asia, and even one or two in our own country. We have dreamed about the family we will have, the intense children we will likely give birth to with both of our very emotional and deep-thinking personalities. We have thought about raising them and how we might pay for college. We have dreamed about the place we will live, the jobs we will have, the roles we will play in our family. We have dreamed about our wedding. We’ve thought about how big it will be (small), who we will invite, the fact that we are going to need to take dance lessons together before hand so I don’t destroy our first dance with my klutziness, and where we might have it. We have looked at engagement rings on the computer together and spend many evenings even talking about the fears of getting married. We have even dreamed about falling to sleep side by side when we finally do tie the knot.
We have done a little home planning. The extra bedroom in his house he offered to convert into an office for me for all of the studying I regularly do there in whatever place seems most appealing on that particular day. He surprised me by taking me to the store and letting me pick out any desk which he then assembled later that afternoon while Lady and the Tramp played in the background. He told me that I could design my office however I wanted, although so far, I haven’t done anything with it. It’s just an empty room with a desk, which to be honest, is very ideal for the college student. There are absolutely no distractions in that room except those which exist within my own mind. We picked out new blinds for the house recently, and he let me come along and help, since it may end up being my house one day too. We are installing solar panels, and he included me in the decision regarding the payment scale. My grandma gave me some of her old dishes for the kitchen, which I then added to his kitchen to begin building up our stock so that one day, we can make more in there than spaghetti.
We had our first sleepover, believe it or not. That sounds much naughtier than it was. His best friend and his wife came to town, and we stayed up with them until about two or three am. We blew up the air mattress for them in the guest bedroom where they slept. Rather than driving home at that hour, I got permission to stay the night, not knowing what I was walking into. A let me have the bedroom to myself while I showered and changed into a pair of his sweats while he waited in his office until I was decent. I got a glimpse into my future married life with him that evening. Two body pillows on either side of him that were a “must” left very little room for me. I’m not huge, but I’m not a twig either. I gotta have a little space. I spent half the night with my leg hanging off the bed with its Tempur Pedic mattress (which I am sure is very comfortable if you actually get to lay your entire body on it). So, I made my first mental note: kick out a body pillow on the honeymoon or get a bigger bed…or else this marriage is going to have one cranky sleep-deprived wife in it. But it was so nice to fall asleep with my hand in his. I woke up at one point very disoriented and when I turned my head, I saw him sleeping beside me, the moonlight resting on his peaceful face, and I smiled. I laid there watching his chest rise and fall, and thinking about how lucky I am to be loved by such a sweet soul. The next morning, when I woke up, messy hair and stinky breath, no makeup and rumpled sweats and t-shirt, he got rid of one of those body pillows and let me snuggle up next to him. I lay in the crook of his arm and we spent almost an hour talking about nothing terribly important, like our plans for the day or how nice it was to wake up next to each other and start the day together. I liked the feel of his fingers running through my hair, or the occasional kiss he planted on my forehead. He’s my best friend, and I felt so protected and taken care of in that moment.
After three years of dating, we’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes, the simple dates are the best ones. They are the ones where you stay at home, go in the hot tub, snuggle under a giant blanket on a rainy day to watch a movie, sit by the fireplace together while I study and he reads, or even simply running errands together. Two weeks ago, we were at Costco, swallowing our last bites of polish dogs and attempting to take a stab at the berry sundae we were sharing, and it occurred to us that both of us were using our non-dominant hand to hold our spoons, making our ice cream consumption very ineffective. Laughing, we switched spots, and an elderly gentleman at the end of our table asked us, “Are you two getting married?”
I looked at A, and he didn’t even bat an eye. “We aren’t engaged yet, but we do plan to get married.” I felt so happy when I heard him say them so confidently. He didn’t even have to think twice.
The other night, I was buried under blankets and pillows on my favorite corner of his couch, and he was several feet away from me, buried under a microfiber mountain of equal proportions. It was dark, and the only light in the room came from the TV in front of his where we watched Gilmore Girls, one of my favorite shows. He has come to greatly enjoy the episodes and watches them with me now.
I sensed him looking at me across the room, so I turned my head. He was smiling at me, a sparkle in his eye.
“You look more beautiful every day I know you, Rebecca.” He always says my full name when he is serious or romantic.
How does one respond to that? Can I have a mental recorder, please, so I can keep that and replay it over and over in my head until I’m 80 years old? That is the best. And yet, even when he says that often, or tells me he loves me often, I can still hardly believe that he says it to me. It blows my mind that a human being outside of my own blood family could come to love me as much as them if not more than them. See, I wasn’t sitting there on the couch looking like a doll or anything. I had a stomach ache from not drinking enough water that day, I had messy hair from it on the blanket, it was late at night and I was tired, and I was just wearing my running clothes from that morning. No cute outfit, not fancy hairstyle or makeup, nothing. When he tells me I am beautiful, he really means that I am beautiful exactly how I am, inside and out. I count myself blessed to have somebody who loves me that much.
“I love you, best buddy,” I replied, grinning. I turned my attention back to the show.
“Hey,” he said, and I looked back at him. “After three years of ups and downs and learning to trust each other, I wanted to tell you again that I really want to marry you.”
“You do?” I asked.
“I do,” He replied, a twinkle in his eye. “My life is better because you are in it. I can’t even picture it without you. You could have picked any guy in the whole wide world. You are not only beautiful on the outside, but in your heart too. Why on earth you picked me, I have no clue, but I feel so blessed.”
He wasn’t looking for me to say anything profound in response, or any cheesy romantic retort. He meant what he said, and so, rather than saying something that would follow that up lamely, I held his gaze for several seconds, smiled affectionately, and allowed the silence to speak for me.
He reached over to me, kissed my forehead and tousled my hair. Then we continued watching our show.
When it ended, we spent another hour talking. I would think that after three (five years if you count our friendship time) years talking as much as we have, we would run out of things to talk about, but we never do. And last night, it was what I’d like to call, “a secret session.” It’s where we are straight up honest with each other. He leaves no stone unturned in his life. I know just about everything from past friendships, relationships, family and job action, who he texts, what games he plays on Xbox, how many Rockstars he drinks everyday (its shameful), and even punk things he did as a teenager before he knew me. He tells me everything.
I went home that evening thinking about him as I fell asleep, and it dawned on me that our relationship became so strong when we both decided to trust one another.
It takes a lot of trust to be able to tell somebody everything about yourself, or better yet, to let them discover things about you, both good and bad, and hope they still love you. After all, they aren’t family, so what’s to stop them from simply walking away?
It takes trust to be able to hear somebody’s tone get short when they are tired and hungry and to realize that it is simply that, hunger and fatigue, and that it isn’t a character flaw or their true colors coming out that they’ve somehow been hiding. We all get tired and hungry or stressed out now and again and it takes trust in another person to be able to overlook those moments and understand that they are still a great person in their heart of hearts.
It takes trust to give an apology for those moments of weakness or even to ask for forgiveness of the other person. It takes humility too.
I’ve been reflecting back on a lot of this recently. Love can be a scary thing. It definitely isn’t an emotion alone, because if that were so, love wouldn’t last through times of tension or disagreement or even “fighting.” It also couldn’t last throughout time (because what human being on this planet has the emotional energy to be puppy lovin’ all the time?) Love simply would crumble if its only component were emotion. Love is so much more, and I know one thing:
It takes trust to be able to love one another.