I was having lunch with some friends the other day and we got onto the topic of being single –somehow–can’t remember what started it because all of us are married. But I brought up something that happened to me a week or so ago. A woman at church turned to me and said something about not realizing how…old I was, or the story of Matt and I or something because she kind of interrupted herself and said she didn’t know the whole story and then somehow she got my age out of me (she’s tricky like that). Turns out we’re only four years apart and yet I have preschoolers and her oldest is 13. She said something about how old she was when she had her first child and I said, “that’s how old I was when I had my first boyfriend.” Then she asked me something along the lines of, “what took you so long?” But in a nicer way that didn’t offend me. At the time I just said, “I was fat and socially awkward” but I keep thinking about that because I know that’s not the reason it took me so long.
Here’s the thing about being single that people who were married young or married their first boyfriend/girlfriend don’t seem to quite understand, being single is not a choice we make. Here’s another thing, finding a spouse isn’t the same as comparison shopping for shoes, we don’t just browse and make a decision to buy. Rather, it’s trying to find a shoe that fits and all the stores seem to be out of our size for the moment. So what I wish I had been quick enough to say to this woman is: it’s not something I could control, but the Lord knew what he was doing and put people in my path when I needed them, for the time I needed them and when my husband and I FINALLY got together, we were both the people we needed to be.
On impulse at lunch I decided to tell the long, sometimes complicated story of how Matt and I got together. It really is my favorite love story, and maybe that’s just because I get to live the results of it, but it is what it is.
Flashback with me–way back to when I was 20 years old. My first true memory of being in love with Matt. I honestly can’t remember him before this memory but I must have known him because I already had a crush on him at this point. I was at church and my sister was talking to him and I was awkwardly lurking, watching but unable to speak because I only had one chance to wow him with my wit and the pressure was too much.
fast forward to the next summer – he worked at a pool store and there was an opening for a job there. In fact-there would only be two employees on that shift…Matt and the new person. I had no interest in pools and the location seemed far away (which is funny because it less than a mile from the house I ended up buying years later) but I knew if only I started to work there, he would get to know me and would fall deeply in love with me, we’d get married and have kids and live happily ever after.
But that job didn’t feel right, and at 20 I didn’t recognize it as the spirit telling me it wasn’t right but in hindsight I know it now. But at the time I went with a different job and my childhood best friend (another Jessica) took the job at the pool store. Matt and her started dating! I went back out to school in the fall and they got engaged!! And a few days after Christmas they got married! She took over my life plan! If only I had taken that job I would have been marrying him!
And it’s not like they got married and I could just forget about it, his brother was married to my sister so I saw them at family events (baby blessings, birthdays, etc) and it was a little awkward.
Skip forward (again) a few years, I graduate college, move back to Richmond, eventually get my first boyfriend, send him out of the country and “play the field” for a while. Meantime, Matt and his first Jessica get divorced and he gets set up with people (not me for some reason). During this time, we both heard about each other’s love lives from my sister and brother-in-law.
Over the next few years, my sister would invite me over for dinner or I’d just drop by to hang out and frequently, though not as much as I would have liked, Matt was there too. I would get so excited when I pulled up and saw Matt’s car. At first it was like I was twenty years old and couldn’t talk to him. I don’t remember this but Matt told me that once we were eating dinner and my b-i-l suggested Matt and I go out and I apparently objected…vehemently. I told him it was probably because I liked him and was sure he didn’t like me so I wanted to avoid the moment of him acting awkward because he wasn’t interested. We eventually developed a wonderful frienemy-relationship, trying to get the newest niece to say our name first.
And in between all of that, I would be dating someone or he was dating someone. I even tried to set him up with my roommate at some point because I was dating someone at the time and figured he didn’t like me like that, but I wanted him to find happiness.
Finally, my brother-in-law orchestrated a plot involving identity theft (he texted Matt from my sister’s phone) and then a little pushing (he told me just to text Matt and ask him out). Finally I texted him and asked him to “hang out” (again I was too nervous of rejection to straight up ask him out). But we finally went out on our first date, ten years after my scheme to get him to fall in love with me.
My brother-in-law told me not to let Matt do anything “ordinary”, so I figured we’d check out Jumpology, which if you don’t know, is a building full of trampolines. I’m sure it’s fun but when we walked in you can see the main room and there were a million kids jumping and leaping and one very depressed looking adult bouncing on the middle trampoline. So we left and I suggested laser tag – I know that’s a good time. We had a lot of fun and I kicked his butt the first game. He kept asking how I was doing so well…I have no clue. I shot at anything I thought was him. Then we talked for about an hour in his car before he asked if I was hungry. So we went to a late dinner where I talked a bunch and tried to embarrass him at one point. At the end of the date he pulled into my driveway, we got my purse out of the trunk (for safe keeping – laser tag was in a shady part of town) and I panicked. Instead of the customary first date hug I’d gotten used to…I gave him a high five by the car and went inside.
Shockingly, he wanted a second date. I’ve decided that he was nervous on that date because he was not getting any of my jokes or sarcastic remarks. He kept saying, “really?” After I said something ridiculous and I began to wonder if we’d be a good fit or not.
A day or two after our second date, he sent me a text (a series of texts actually) basically telling me that he really liked me and kept thinking about me and wanted to go out with me again. I had the strangest mix of, “omw that’s adorable and I love it!” And “omw this is getting serious and I don’t know if I’m ready”. (Note: omw = oh my word).
I agreed to another date though and the day of our third date I went to the temple (already planned- it wasn’t a special trip). I prayed a lot to know what to do: date Matt, don’t date Matt. And I clearly heard, “move forward with Matt”. Not “date” but move “move forward with”. Which is why that’s the last time I prayed about whether or not I should be with Matt, I just knew to keep moving forward.
I wasn’t nervous after that. We stayed in for our third date and ordered pizza and watched The Incredibles. Except that we talked through the whole movie, stopping at our favorite parts of the movie to watch and then kept talking. I will say that I did have one thing I was concerned about – what his love language was. I love cuddling, and I wasn’t sure if he was the cuddling type. So while we ate pizza I casually asked, “are you familiar with the love languages? What’s yours?” Once I found we were compatible there–then I knew. JK.
Now, almost five years of marriage, we still talk all the time, about anything that interests us and I still consider him my best friend. I eventually told him my pool store plan to snag him ten years earlier. And he told me he had liked me back then too (meaning when I was twenty but also when we were developing our frienemyship) but he thought I didn’t like him because I never talked to him.
And we talked about what it might have been like if that had worked. We agreed that if we had gotten together ten years earlier we may not have worked so well because in ten years we both grew and learned so much about ourselves and relationships. We appreciate each other so much more for the time and experiences of those ten years.
That’s a long way to get to the point that it comes down to the Lord’s timing and He knows what we need before we are ready to find the right person for us. Some of us “take longer” to get married than others, we have relationships we’re so certain will work out and then have our hearts broken; we have relationships we completely regret; some of us don’t even start having relationships until most have already had their first child. But there is no set timeline for when we find “the one”. Some are ready at 19, some at 31, some even later. And while waiting is hard, when it does happen, it all becomes clear to that person “why it took so long”.