I should have been elated.
I’d met an amazing guy a few weeks before, a man who shared similar values, interests, and aspirations with me. We’d met for dates ranging from drinks at a hip cocktail bar to simple walks in the park. I loved spending time with him; conversation was rich and effortless, and time seemed to fly by whenever we were together. He had just asked if I wanted to check out a new coffee shop after work, but rather than feeling the typical mixture of excitement and nervousness that precedes a date with a guy you like, I felt afraid. I could feel myself falling hard, and that was what worried me.
You see, I’ve always had this fear that I’m too much. Too loud. Too opinionated. Too emotional. And the more time I spent with this incredible man, the more I began to worry that I would tire him, or that he would become overwhelmed with my loud personality. Then he would give some polite excuse and fade out of my life, leaving me heartbroken.
A prior relationship had taught me to be cautious, to constantly guard against the disappointment that comes from living with a vulnerable heart. For its short duration, the relationship was characterized by my frequent invitations or requests, and my ex-boyfriend's just-as-frequent excuses and limitless reasons why he couldn’t be bothered to spend time with me. I began to think that I was the problem, and that my expectation of spending more than a couple of hours on a Saturday with my boyfriend was crazy. I began to give him “outs” in order to protect myself from the inevitable hurt: “If you want, you could come with me to my friend’s birthday party. But I get it if you’re too tired or busy” or, “My mom invited you for Sunday dinner. But I understand if you need to rest before the work week kicks off.” Though the relationship ended, it confirmed my worst fears: I was too much for any man to deal with.
So when my now-husband suggested that we meet for coffee one Monday afternoon, I wanted to see him, but I was afraid. If I didn’t play “hard to get” or seem distant and unattainable, maybe he would lose interest. So I declined his offer. “I just have so much work to catch up on,” I explained, hiding the real reason I didn’t want to meet up: my fear that since we had already seen each other over the weekend, he wouldn’t be able to handle more time with me. The disappointment in his voice was audible as he responded, “Okay, but could we at least FaceTime if you have time later?”
I was shocked. I had given him an “out,” an opportunity to not feel obligated to spend time with me, yet his response showed a genuine desire to continue getting to know me. I was so used to playing the “hard to get” game that my future husband’s disarming honesty took me by surprise. Even more surprising was the realization that I felt the same way—I didn’t want to play it safe, I wanted to express the admiration and burgeoning love that I felt, even though it would open me up to the possibility of being hurt.
Though I wouldn’t say that was the exact moment I knew this man would be my husband, it was the beginning of that certainty. The certainty that God had created me for this person, and this person for me. The certainty that despite my numerous personal failings, I am loved and accepted as I am. The certainty that my husband loves me because of my loud and crazy personality, and not despite it.
So while my husband’s striking good looks, shared values and beliefs, and common cultural background were definitely attractive to me and excellent indicators that this was the man of my dreams, it wasn’t any of these factors that ultimately made me realize he was “the one.” It was the simple fact that he wanted to spend time with me, the real, unvarnished, imperfect me. Through his honesty, my husband blew past my insecurities and fears and pursued me in such a way that I knew he wanted to get to know me and, ultimately, to love me. His desire to grow our relationship was evident from that Monday afternoon FaceTime, showing me quite plainly that there were no games, no scores to be tallied—simply genuine affection.
Now that we are married, our relationship continues to deepen and grow through the joys and challenges of life because it is based on a genuine friendship that delights in the company of the other, rather than on irrelevant externals. Chores like doing the dishes or grocery shopping are transformed when you get to do them with the person you most enjoy being with. Even hardships, like the week I spent in the hospital while pregnant with our daughter, become bearable when your best friend never leaves your side and holds your hand through every moment of pain. No matter what life throws at us, I know that I can always count on my husband to be there, to show me with his actions that he chooses to be with me, just like he did that Monday afternoon long ago.
Editor's Note: When She Knew is a Readers Write column. Share your own story here.