I AM PROTECTIVE

I Am Protective

Dating.

“You have rice in your hair.”

Not exactly what every girl wants to hear on a first date. What possessed my now-husband to ask me out for round two is still a mystery. An embarrassing burrito date at Chipotle turned into an epic love story I never expected.

More than a decade later I still dream about our early dating relationship. We put in hours of effort to present the best versions of ourselves and hide our imperfections. There’s a reason you don’t read a list of flaws on someone’s Match.com profile; who would sign up for that? My husband would have been scared away before we ever got started – be honest, we all would!

As our relationship deepened, we developed a sense of trust and felt safe divulging our secrets and imperfections. I learned he had exactly zero cooking skills (y’all, he thought egg sandwiches in the microwave were dinner), and he learned that I obsessively clean when I am feeling anxious. Everything was so exciting and full of energy. We discussed hopes, dreams, fears, and the future. Life seemed breezy and light.

He proposed on a beautiful fall day when he took me ziplining in the Ozarks. Our engagement was eight months of planning for our lives together. We addressed all the ambiguous issues of life in marriage counseling, promising a wise counselor that we knew there would be tough times ahead in life.

We vowed to love and treat each other well in front of our friends and family on a hot day in July. What could possibly stand in the way of our feelings for one another?

Newlyweds.

You think you grasp the concept of how deep and sacred the marriage commitment is as you’re walking down the aisle, but it becomes real when you see that commitment in action. In those early stages of a relationship, it’s easy to mistake the feeling of being “in love” as actual love. Love is undoubtedly all of those things, including butterflies, excitement, and passion, but on a deeper level love is a choice to put someone else’s needs before your own, even when it’s difficult to do so.

Falling in love as full-time students, we were living an unrealistic lifestyle with limited expectations and responsibility. We definitely had a “whoa, this is real life” moment after we were married, and it was a harsh reality. It started even before we returned from the honeymoon! My husband forgot to set his alarm and we nearly missed our flight home. It was a silent ride to the airport, and I didn’t feel very “in love” at that moment.

He worked nights while I worked days. Suddenly we had to figure out health insurance, taxes, and our old junker cars dying on us. I did not feel “in love” when he dyed our yellow bath towels blue by adding his jeans to the laundry. I didn’t feel butterflies when I saw the amount of student debt we collectively had together.

But when life gets real that’s where love becomes deeply rooted and grows. It’s the soil where commitment is proven. We made a daily choice to say “yes, I am committed to standing by your side, no matter what life brings our way.”

Just… a married couple?

Can people really make it a whole lifetime together? I choose to believe they can. We’ve come a long way from being newlyweds, but I promise you that passion and spark is still there. We keep it alive on a Tuesday evening cooking dinner to jazz music. We fan the flame by taking a long run and talking about our days, or planning a weekend getaway.

We have stability and security. Our marriage is a solid foundation; at the end of the day we are willing to share all the hurts, sorrows, or victories together. I can face anything knowing he’ll be there to experience it with me.

We might be just a plain old married couple now, but I think this journey as husband and wife is one of life’s greatest adventures. Is ours a perfect relationship? Oh, absolutely not — I don’t think those exist! We argue, say things we don’t mean, and have struggles just like everyone else. But every day, we work hard and choose to put each other above all the other things vying for our attention.

That’s the secret to staying together, even if you get rice in your hair when you go out on a date.

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Author

A native of Wisconsin, Leah currently resides in Dallas, Texas with her husband and 100-lb Golden Retriever, affectionately known as Gordon the Golden. She loves a good joke, tacos, and spends entire vacations reading novels. When she isn't managing Tangram Sky Interactive, her internet marketing company, she is probably out on a run logging miles for her next long-distance race.

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