I remember talking with a friend in high school about boys. Because obviously, what else do you talk about at 17? (or 27... or 37...)
We both decided it would behoove us to date a wide range of people.
Why not date a starving artist? A jock? A nerd? An older man? Some dude with an accent? I'm inherently curious by people who are different than me, and my 20s seemed like the time to date whoever the heck I wanted.
So I did.
And you know what? Dating through that lens was really hard. I spent nearly a full decade looking for people who were interesting to me, but not a good fit for me.
There was Art Guy who actually wore a pair of Levi's featuring a two-foot shlong he'd screen printed on them himself (Does it surprise you that the same guy also did this?). There was Long Distance Relationship Guy who always took my calls, but could never call me. There was PHD guy, who was a great conversationalist, but then disappeared for days on end (turns out he had a major secret drinking problem).
These relationships always made me feel unsettled, sad and crappy about myself. But I didn't know better.
I believed relationships were inherently challenging.
Most of the ones I grew up around sure seemed that way. I knew very few married couples who struck me as happy. My parents, many of their friends and family were either divorced or constantly complained about their relationships. Much of the marriage advice I absorbed was to "wait as long as you can to get married," "get a prenup" or"don't even bother." One adult person actually told me, a tweenager at the time, that they "hoped I married an asshole so we'd have lots to talk about when I got older."
It took me years to realize that I was actually ashamed about wanting a healthy, happy relationship. At 27, I decided to actively seek one. I had awesome relationships with family, friends and coworkers-- why should a boyfriend be any different? So, I did something really revolutionary and actually thought about what I wanted in a partner. Then, I wrote it down.
A few of the 30+ listed items?
- Is kind and courteous
- Likes my friends and family; wants to spend time with them
- I like their friends and family; want to spend time with them
- Has car
- Can fix things
- Calls/texts me back
Some things on the list might strike you as duh, that's the bare minimum, but as someone who dated four guys in a row who didn't have cars (they claimed it was for environmental purposes or they just "liked" biking or taking the bus... but hey, can I borrow your car again, please?), getting basic was needed.
One week after I wrote this list, I started dating Josh.
He wasn't like the other guys. First of all, he's a super-smart engineer, and passionate about his job. He picked me up for our first date in a vehicle he owns (!). He's ambitious. Kind. Funny. Responsible. Thoughtful. Handy. And he really, really likes me. Josh hit on every single one of the points I listed, and so many more I never even knew I wanted.
While things haven't always been easy for us (like the time he moved to Mexico for two years, nbd), we've always been able to talk openly and honestly. I've never had a romantic relationship like that. With Josh, I always feel heard and supported. He sees me for who I am, and loves me because of it (or maybe in spite of it).
I love him sosososo much.
Today, Josh and I are celebrating our second year of marriage (and about eight years together?). Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know it's not like 50 years or anything, but it's something. The biggest lesson I've learned?
With the right person, love doesn't have to be so hard.
Yes, hard things happen. We've had our fair share of hurdles, and I know there are biggies in our future-- stuff I can't even imagine. And next month, things are about to get a whole lot realer when we add a baby to the mix. But I feel confident knowing that I picked the right person to slog though the tough stuff with.
So for anyone out there who may be lost in the dating world: Kiss all the frogs (or DJs or guys without cars or artists with shlong jeans) you want. But marry an engineer. At least that's what worked for me.
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PS Here's the photos from our boxing gym wedding two years ago. Makes me smile.