"Will you be my life companion?" He proposed to me with those words, and he still hopes for a lifelong friend. I knelt too, equal in posture. Our differing heights allowed me to gaze up at him, remembering the spot of our first conversation as a couple.
With hurried heartbeats, sweaty palms, and quivering voices, my eyes grew wider, stunned by the sight of the ring's perfect sparkle. He awaited my answer with as much patience as a nervous man can muster.
Seven years, six of them married, and three happy babies since that day, my eventual stuttering of "Yes!" remains a spoken commitment, renewed on a daily basis. It is a yes toward the same friendship that began when the thought of romance made us both cringe. The memories of complete disinterest and stubborn declarations that I would never consider Jim as a potential boyfriend make me smile in gratitude for our love. It came about as a continual realization⎯a slow discovery of compliment and balance⎯rather than a sudden momentous occasion.
At first, I found him to be weirdly quiet. I, loud and quite loquacious, wondered if he was mute. With my constant talking, he rarely had an opportunity to prove otherwise. Soon, quiet admiration and respect gradually grew into a friendship during the years full of my crushes on other boys and his dates with other girls. I noticed his gentle chivalry and killer dance moves. In my best ruse yet, he thought me to be a lady, albeit a clumsy one with zero rhythm.
Years full of video games, ping-pong, movies, music, football games, and late night pizza went by, plus chats on religion and philosophy books. Our parents joked and our siblings nudged. All of this slowly sparked a wonder about the possibility of love between us, there since the time of braces and babysitters. One conversation led to a million more. After nearly a decade of knowing him, I reluctantly accepted a kiss. It was then I decided I would rather not kiss another person for as long as we both shall live.
Friendship is an environment in which we become comfortable with ourselves and each other. It encourages a confidence for us to speak our minds, share our thoughts, and expose the philosophies that make us who we are (even if it is at very different speaking volumes). It is without apology or expectation, and it reveals the nakedness not of our bodies, but of our personalities. Communication that breaks the barriers of fear, shame, and embarrassment can be fostered, nurtured, and received with empathy. In it exists the courage to accept myself and him for not only who we are, but for who we are meant to be, as individuals and as companions. It is our friendship that teaches me that our marriage, at its foundation, is a shared pursuit in the same direction, no matter how difficult a day is or how separated or frustrated we might feel.
Friendship, in so many ways, is my marriage. Continuing its emphasis is essential to us. The pursuit, the chase, the romance, and the fun that is so prevalent in courting has the chance to thrive in our mundane daily grind. Humor, even if I do tell bad jokes, is more easily turned to in moments of stress and helps to lighten the load. Annoyances have the potential to be handled with more fortitude than temper. Friends talk, friends laugh, friends enjoy doing nothing and crave for more of it. Friendship desires to continue especially when times are tough. While it may grow tired, it does not quit.
Without friendship, Jim and I are not much more than two very different, stressed-out adults living in the same house with a lot of bills, cranky children, and dirty floors. With it we become two people engaged with one another, interested in the day's happenings, and tangled in one another's dreams and disappointments⎯even with the bills, the children, and the very dirty floors. It's the part of our passion and desire that will last for a hundred more years.
My deepest desire is that friendship with my husband will keep fueling us. Friendship is still preparing me for the journey of marriage, for a life's companionship that fulfills as it flourishes, and I hope I never allow it to stop.