The story of how I met the love of my life looks entirely different than I ever imagined it would. Our story doesn’t start with love at first sight, or attraction from the beginning – it starts with friendship.
I got to know Nick because at the time, my roommate Rachel was dating his roommate. During our last semester of school, Nick became the token guy friend in our house of girls, who I’d often find sitting on my couch, hanging out post-run with my athletically -inclined roommate. The girls and I often joked that Nick must have a thing for one of us in the house, but he seemed content with our friendship. The most I knew of Nick was that he really liked sports and having a good time. Our friendship was loose, based on the relationships of others in the house. To put it bluntly: He wasn’t on my radar.
The next summer after graduation, I ended things with guy in my life with whom things always seemed to be on-again off-again. It was painful to cut off communication with this beloved friend who had been my constant for almost four years, but I was ready to embrace my status as a fully single twenty-something, with no strings attached. Within a few weeks, as Nick and I went out in Philly with our college crew, we both sensed a shift our interaction. I was surprised to find myself finally putting out “single” signals. We were clearly flirting, but that was the norm for how I interacted with most of my guy friends in the past, so I didn’t read too much into it. But before I knew it, over the course of the next weekend, we ended up holding hands and kissing on the dance floor. I was caught up in a whirl-wind… I had no idea what to make of this new development, but it was nice to recognize there were actually other guys out there.
Nick began confessing his feelings for me, saying he had “waited so long for this,” and that he wanted to give us a shot. He was willing to make it work long distance from New York, and we could drive to meet up on the weekends. We both expressed concerns about ruining our friendship. I was terrified more than anything, and feeling completely unprepared for Nick’s apparent level of emotional involvement. However, I found myself agreeing that I would give it a shot – so long as it was clear we were just dating. Going on dates. Not in a relationship. Because I was not ready for that level of commitment.
I proceeded with this mindset through the next two months of dating, emotionally holding Nick at arm’s length while simultaneously practicing the monogamous commitment of a relationship. We weren’t dating other people, and visited each other at least every other weekend. I traveled home with him for his sister’s wedding and met both sides of his family. I was confused and unsure, sending completely mixed signals with my outward actions. Meanwhile, Nick was falling in love. After months of internal turmoil, and many discussions with trusted friends other than Nick, I drew the following conclusions as to why things must end between us:
1. I had too many unresolved issues from a previous relationship.
While I had been officially broken up with my ex for a year, he and I were still blurring the lines of our relationship, communicating long-distance, nearly every day. I had been living in the in-between for so long, I didn’t know how to be fully present or single. Looking back, had I been wise and truly willing to move past a relationship that never seemed to work out, I would have taken the time to see a professional counselor and work through the reasons why I found myself stuck in this precarious and unhealthy on-again, off-again state.
2. He wasn’t a “spiritual leader.”
Although Nick had made awesome strides in his own life and relationship with God in the six months prior, from my perspective, he hadn’t arrived. I could visualize the path he was beginning to walk down and the spiritual velocity he was gaining, but in the past I often found myself the spiritual leader in my relationships, attempting to set the bar for how things “should be.” I didn’t want to continue the pattern of dating someone in hopes that they would eventually “catch up” to me. As I look back on this reason now, I think I was selling him short. My unrealistic expectation was that he model the maturity of men who had been walking with Christ for decades. At 23, I required that my future husband be able to espouse theology, challenge me intellectually, and completely resist all sexual temptation. I was so focused on my predetermined checklist, that I did not consider his ability and willingness to grow.
I blindsided Nick with my conclusions one night during a phone conversation in September when I said, “I can’t do this anymore.” He argued with my reasoning, and couldn’t understand why I didn’t see a future when he really thought he had “found that person.” He asked me to at least meet up with him and talk through things face-to-face. Reluctantly, I agreed, and we met the next night halfway between Philly and New York.
I was resolute – nothing he could say or do would change my mind. Nick offered a compromise – we would do what we originally said we would do. We would just date. He wouldn’t push me to be his girlfriend. We would back up. We would start over. But I had already decided the story we were writing wasn’t the one I wanted. It was a dead end road, and we were wasting each other’s time.
We pedaled backwards, and resumed our friendship. After finally being honest and getting on the same page, our friendship actually grew stronger. I didn’t feel like I had to sugarcoat or hide things anymore. I had nothing to lose, so I was able to love Nick for who he was as a friend, without the pressure of trying to determine his marriageability.
(There are many more chapters to our story between this moment in time and when our romance resumed, but I’ll save those for a future time.)
You know how the story is supposed to go – things are not supposed to work out with the rebound guy. He’s just the one to help you move past the heartbreak of your last relationship. This wasn’t supposed to be what my story looked like. I wanted a picture-perfect story that was by the (Christian dating) book. I wanted a grand romance. I didn’t think a legitimate love story could be tainted with confusion and gray areas.
Please hear this: what I know now is that there is no formula. There isn’t a “secret” to landing a spouse. Everyone’s story looks different, and God truly works in mysterious ways. My love story is anything but perfect, and yet with all its missteps and do-overs, it really is better than I imagined. While setting standards for a relationship is a worthwhile practice, I would also caution against setting so high that you leave no room for God’s redeeming work and His grace. You might be so busy searching for your imagined ideal of “the one” that you end up overlooking the love of your life.
What does your love story look like? Did you know without a doubt, right away? Or are you one of those who gave love a second chance?