During my first year of graduate school, there was an especially dreary winter in the Northwest. Slugging through my workload, slush, and doubts about my future, I was invited to a dinner party at an acquaintance’s house one Wednesday. Being an introvert, I didn’t really want to go, but I thought being social would be good for me, so I made a fruit salad and I went.
When I walked into the kitchen, I noticed one of the other guests right away. His salt-and-pepper hair gave away no hint of his age, and we did not speak directly, but I observed him throughout the night while we ate pizza and played board games. Was he smart? He was in grad school. Was he funny? He made some jokes. Was he kind? Well, it seemed like it.
When I was a young girl, I had some probably common but unrealistic ideas about love. I really thought “love at first sight” was a possibility, and I imagined the romantic setting in which “the One” and I would see each other and instantly know we were meant to be. My fantasies about meeting Prince Charming never included a near-stranger’s living room on a slushy February night, several years past when I had thought I would be married. By this point in my life, I knew love at first sight was a myth and that those childish romantic dating fantasies should be severely curbed by logic, by the testing of a man’s character, and by experience.
But I was surprised by what happened next.
When all of us had finished eating, our plates and cups scattered around the room, tall-dark-and-handsome did something unexpected: he stood up, unsolicited, and started gathering everyone’s dirty dishes to put away. Since girlhood I had longed for a husband with a humble and generous heart. This small act was only a brief glimpse of his character, but it was a telling one.
It was a little bit like lightning: a brief flash that revealed just enough. The French phrase coup de foudre literally means “a strike of lightning,” but it is used metaphorically to describe an unforeseen event like falling in love. Although I still don’t believe in “love at first sight,” I do believe our brief meeting revealed a lot in a very short amount of time. I saw very little of him over a couple of hours, but it was enough.
The evening rolled on, and when the party was over, we walked out at the same time and spent an hour standing in the rain talking. It didn’t take a lot of time to discover the most important things about him—the “non-negotiables,” like whether we had shared interests, beliefs, and goals. When we parted, he had my number and we had a date.
We didn’t fall in love instantaneously, but we did know quickly that there was the potential for a lifelong love. Over the next few months, what the brief “flash” had revealed was confirmed. Our relationship progressed quickly. If it had happened to any of my friends, I would have cautioned them, but in the context of my own life it wasn’t really that strange. But that is exactly what the coup de foudre is—heaven’s gift of an unexpected and brief flash that illuminates the incomprehensible.
We were both mature and experienced enough to know who we wanted to be as well as whom we wanted to be with (as much as anyone can know). It didn’t take long to find out if the other person was going to fit the bill. We got along with each other’s families, we made each other laugh, and we trusted each other. The more I got to know him, the more the character that I had caught a glimpse of the night we met was proven. In less than a year we were engaged, but I knew within weeks of meeting him that I wanted to be.
We’ve been married two years now, and we’ve faced many struggles. But I am encouraged when I look back on the night we met and remember two things: first, that I knew his character from the very beginning, and it hasn’t changed. Second, that our relationship wasn’t founded on a random guess, but on a coup de foudre. I had been thinking about my future husband’s character for many years, so I didn’t have to guess when we met; I knew he was the kind of guy I was looking for. Because of these things, I have confidence in our relationship and know we have a solid foundation for our marriage. I didn’t see all this that night—but I saw enough.
Editor's Note: When She Knew is a Readers Write column. Share your own story here.