Love and Marriage

Prompt: Your current relationship; if single, discuss that, too.

Basically, I’m married and I love it.

I met my husband at the Young Single Adults ward when I was 20.

Mormons are officially of marriageable age when they’re legal adults, and in order to encourage inter-faith marriage, all single 18-29 year old’s are encouraged to attend either student wards (if they’re attending BYU or something similar) or YSA wards. John was 18 and thinking about serving a mormon mission.

I often joke that I sucked as a mormon: Even when I did things “right” (like getting married young), I still managed to screw it up (like preventing a guy from going on a mission because he married me instead).

***

I told him after three dates that I had a certain hereditary mental illness. I had a three-date/ meeting cutoff for telling people, back then, because I’d learned the hard way that if I told them right away, they wouldn’t give me a chance at all … but if I waited and told them after I was emotionally invested, there were some who would throw it in my face and use it against me, or dump me without a word. I decided that a three-date cutoff was the perfect time: Enough time for them to decide whether they liked me more than the stigma of mental illness, but not enough time to break my heart if they bailed.

He spent all night researching it on the internet, and became a mental health advocate in my corner for life.

***

He proposed to me over a waterfall, and we took my parents out for Thai food at one of our favorite date spots to tell them. My mom took my hand and rubbed her thumb across the ring, saying, “Do you have something you want to tell us?” and I said, “Well, we’re engaged.” My parents were delighted. Mom especially thought John hung the moon and stars.

***

We had a lot of difficulties the first 10 years of our marriage. An unexpected pregnancy. The deaths of five people who were very close to us, including parents and grandparents. Natural disaster damaging our home, and trying to repair it. Health issues. A complete shift in religious beliefs, on both our parts. Financial strain. Bankruptcy.

All that said, the shadows come no-where near the sunshine of it all. On balance, there has been much more laughter than tears in our relationship.

***

When we were first married, John got a Playstation because I’d never played video games before. We would play couch co-op RPGs on a regular basis. He even watched me play all of Final Fantasy VIII, and never complained about me hogging the console. He bought me FFIX and FFX, but I didn’t like them as much. Plus, it’s more fun to play a game with the person you love; not with them sitting to the side running commentary.

He introduced me to Netflix, and we used to peruse the website catalog trying to decide which movie we were going to watch on his next weekend. We watched a bunch of classics we’d never seen before, and he introduced me to such B-rated gems as Caveman and Howard the Duck. We watched Fast & the Furious that we could quote it by heart. To this day, we’ll still quote random lines like, “What’d you put in that sandwich?” or, “You embarrass me!”

***

We used to drive to Canada on a whim and stay the weekend, pigging out on Kindereggs.

Before I met John, I did not like tomatoes. Or mushrooms. Or spinach. Or hot sauce. Or sushi. Or Mexican food. Or pizza. Or salmon. I’d never tried bbq ribs or crab or lobster. I’d never had clams.

You’re probably wondering what I did like. Well … cheese hot-dogs. Spaghetti. Chicken nuggets. French fries.

I did not have a sophisticated palate, you could say.

John encourages me to try new things. Consistently and insistently, until, wincing, I open my mouth to that bite of eel on his plate and concede that it is not so bad. I learned that most of the foods I disliked had been blandly prepared, all soggy and overcooked. Canned mushrooms and spinach, btw, are not a good way to introduce a child to those foods. That’s how you make a life-long aversion.

***

When I was pregnant, John fixed me breakfast every morning. During the early months of the pregnancy, we would go on long outdoor walks, but as it progressed along with the season, that shifted to mall-walks. But John knew how restless I was, and was always willing to go on a drive or ramble. That didn’t change after our son was born, either–he just matter-of-factly incorporated the tiny baby into our rambles.

One year, on Easter Sunday, John filled our living room with chocolates and flowers. When we were dating, he taped balloons all over my car. He likes to surprise me, to bring home unexpected and heart-touchingly thoughtful gifts, or to plan out clever dates that involve hiking up to see the sunrise or riding an out-of-the-way road with brand-new sights to see. They always become fond and much-revisited memories.

I am not always good with the unexpected or surprises. I am embarrassed to report that I have sometimes snapped at him or been impatient because I had plan A in my mind, and John deviated and went with, say, plan A.2 instead–mostly the same, minor tweaks. I have learned to relax and go with the flow a little more over the years. I have learned to show gratitude for sweet gestures instead of impatience that we’ve gone off-plan.

***

He’s a wonderful father. In a lot of ways–sensitivity to noise, introversion, attention span, distrust for new/ unexpected things–our son is a lot like me. This is sometimes baffling to John, who is robust and outgoing and loves to push boundaries and try new things … but he is accepting of it. He never tries to push our son beyond his comfort zone. He is proud of our son’s achievements, and actively looks for hobbies and activities they can share together. His goal is to be a father who is present and supportive; who spends quality time with his son, accepts him for who he is, and supports him as a person. He’s pretty great at it.

***

He listens to me, and respects my perspective and observations. He supports my dreams and goals, as I support his. We push each other to try new things–experiences, ideas, food, hobbies.

In a way, we grew up together. I think a lot of your growing happens in your twenties, and we got married at 19 and 21. Over the past 15 years, we have definitely evolved as individuals, as well as a couple.

Sometimes I think about what if. What if we hadn’t gotten married? What if I’d applied for that writing program in New York? What if I’d gone to BYU? What if my parents never moved to the US after I was born? What if John’s parents had not moved back to our state?

In most of those what-if’s, I think we would have found each other and gotten together. Once we’re together, I have a firm belief (born of all the hardships we’ve overcome) that our relationship can survive anything. In every parallel universe I imagine, our paths converge and we end up together.

***

What’s funny is, our relationship began before we met. A series of coincidences and similarities. We were born in the same country. Our dads both worked at the local Army base–his as an enlisted soldier, mine as a civilian in the JAG office. Our dads both retired when we were about 13.

When I was 17 and he was 16, there was a bicentennial trek thing the Mormon church did. There was a big, country-wide one, and several smaller local ones. Our stake put on a smaller local one, and we both went on it. We were assigned to families, and people wore pioneer-style clothes. I quickly gave up on my bonnet and began stealing a cowboy hat and handkerchief from a boy I was friends with (Brandon). John was in Brandon’s assigned “family group”, and clearly remembers Brandon suddenly being hatless after the first day. We both remember major incidents from the trek, such as when a handcart ran over a toe of one of the youth leaders, and when one of the family groups “murdered” their flour baby to make pancakes, and the sound of a violin being played late one night as we camped in a field beneath the stars.

Later, when I was 19, I went to what turned out to be John’s high school prom. He remembers my date–a friend of his–and remembers said friend introducing his date (me) to John. He has very little memory of what I looked like or what I was wearing, other than the fleeting impression I was pretty.

Through our teens, we attended numerous weekly church-related youth dances and activities in the same region. At several points before we finally met, we were in the same room under the same disco ball, listening to the same music while we watched the same crowd stare shyly and unmovingly at one another across a crowded room. We share the same memories of those awful church dances.

In a strange way, the tapestry of our lives has been winding together since before we knew each other. Sometimes it makes me wonder about the other fleeting interactions in our day–how many of these people move in and out of our lives, mere background characters at the moment, but with the potential for so much more? How many times did John and I meet, our lives briefly touch, and then dance away again before we really saw one another?

***

 

My family raised me to value discussion and therapy, and the result is that I am like the white-water caps on a river, churning up endless discussions of feelings.

His family is more reserved, and the result is that he is like the deep, still waters of Lake Tahoe, with its calm glassy surface and endless depths. A wind-ripple of waves will disturb the surface, but it is not the chaotic and fleeting expressiveness that typifies the flowing river.

Sometimes I get impatient with the stillness of the lake, and he gets overwhelmed by the crashing river, but mostly it works really well for us. We balance each other.

***

My husband is my best friend.

 

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