I remember hearing this ad nauseam from people when I was single and/or dating uber-jerks that they were subtly trying to steer me away from.
I am a practical person. I rarely make decisions that are emotionally based. I think the idea of “soul mates” is laughable and potentially damaging. Romance is not my strong suit. When people told me I “would just know” when I met the person I was meant to spend my life with, I dismissed them with a shrug and silent “what-fucking-ever.” And then it happened.
I call it my epiphany. My husband, Jon, and I have known each other for almost 20 years. We went to high school together and ran with the same group of friends for ages. We circled the idea of dating in our early 20s, but one thing or another always kept it from happening. When we actually did start dating in our mid-20s, our relationship had an expiration date. He already had plans to move to Northern California to fulfill his dream of building an artist’s foundry, and I had no intention of packing up and moving to Humboldt County where the flagship store was Gottshalk’s. I don’t do nature and Humboldt County stoners become tiresome when you aren’t high yourself. We tried to make it work, but in the end, we realized it wasn’t going to be feasible and broke up. While I loved him dearly, I never allowed myself to fully let my guard down because I knew he was leaving. I wasn’t ready for the long haul then, wasn’t ready to uproot myself to follow him.
We didn’t speak for three years. Through the wonder of Facebook, we reconnected in January of 2008. Facebook messages led to emails which led to phone calls. I was still trying to shake a horribly horrendous ex-boyfriend and I would regale him with stories of the ex’s nonsense. We spent Valentine’s Day evening on the phone together as I ripped up the cat-piss soaked carpet in my walk-in closet (I mentioned romance isn’t my strong suit, right?). The calls became more regular, more intense. On March 28th, we were talking again about my jerk-face ex. The ex had recently called to ask me if I ever thought I would find someone who loved me as much as he did. I replied that, considering he treated me like shit for two years, I felt confident I would be okay on that front. Jon reminded me that he felt certain he too had said something along those lines to me at one point. After a moment, I said that I remembered that, but the difference was that Jon’s statement was and remained true. No one had ever loved me like he had; no one had ever made me feel as important or special; I had never fully trusted anyone before or since him.
The words ran through my head all night. Over and over I thought about that simple statement. Then, pow, epiphany. I loved him. Totally, fully, deeply, madly, completely loved him. And I just knew. I knew right then that I was done. Done dating dirt bags and assholes. Done playing games, done building walls around my heart, done wasting my time with people I knew weren’t right for me. I knew that the person I was meant to be with had been there for a very long time. We’ve been together ever since.
I still don’t believe in soul mates. I don’t believe that there is only one person out there who “completes” us. I can’t deny though, the extreme difference in my relationship with Jon and my relationship with all other boyfriends, including him the first time around. It just dawned on me that we have been back together for almost six years, and not once in that time have I doubted our relationship. Considering I never had a relationship last longer than two years, it kind of surprises me. That isn’t to say he doesn’t drive me up a wall sometimes, or that we never have disagreements or conflicts. We do, but we also communicate really well with each other. We address our issues as they arise, instead of bottling things up and exploding on each other later. We call each other out on our bullshit. No matter what happens, leaving never crosses my mind. I can’t imagine my life without him. He is my love, my closest confidant, and my biggest supporter.
We wonder sometimes if we are being naïve or delusional when it comes to the status of our relationship. So many people ask, typically with a look of knowing commiseration, how married life is treating us. We never know quite how to respond, because it’s clear they want to hear how hard it is, how exhausting and frustrating, but it’s just not for us. When we hear people talk about how the first year of marriage is the hardest, we high five because if that was the hardest, we are golden. Another friend, who is on her third marriage to an amazing man, had some words of wisdom for me regarding the “married life is so hard” questioning. She said that her first two were incredibly hard because she got married for the wrong reasons. Now, she says, even when things aren’t great, it’s not hard, because she is finally with a person for the right reasons, because they compliment each other and work as a team.
My words of wisdom on relationships? Find someone who makes you laugh, hard, shoot-milk-out-of-your-nose hard. Find someone who loves to learn new things, shares them with you, and loves to hear about the things you learn. Find someone who respects your opinion, even if they don’t agree, and is respectful in their disagreement. Talk to each other if something is bothering you, not to other people. Don’t expect someone to read your mind, and don’t set unreasonable expectations for someone. Be kind to each other. I don’t believe in “The One.” I don’t think if we lose someone we cared about deeply we are destined to be forever alone. I think all of us have many people who are our perfect matches, and some of us are our own perfect matches. Bottom line, don’t try to convince yourself something is right if you know in the back of your mind it is wrong. You deserve happiness and respect, in whatever form it comes.