I thought that finding my husband was going to be easy.
Not the part before it—Lord knows that the waiting and the wondering couldn’t be harder. But when your number was finally called, I thought it was supposed to be simple.
I thought that when it was my turn, kind of like the stork, he’d be dropped on my doorstep one day—no mess, no fuss, veil and rings included.
I thought he’d wander into my life with a sticky note on his forehead, “Dear Stephanie, this is your husband, Love, God.”
I thought that when I laid eyes on him, something in my heart would jump, “that’s him!” it would assure me with 100% accuracy.
I thought that when you were in a really good relationship that it’d be smooth sailing. I thought that your compatibility and love would be so great that conflict would be a thing of the past. I thought that they’d bring out the best in you to the point that all of the bad stuff would fade away forever—a distant memory of an imperfect self.
I thought he would love me so much that my insecurities would vanish and that I would be in a constant state of romantic euphoria—like being a little tipsy or swallowing sunshine or the last 12 minutes of a romantic comedy.
I thought that when I found him that I’d be ready to get married—not a doubt in my mind as I sped towards the altar, picking out flowers and bridesmaids dresses with efficiency and style.
I thought that this was how everyone felt. With marital euphoria plastered across social media, there’s no room in that Instagram to show conflict or the conversations that were had along the way.
And because I thought these things, I spent the first six months of my relationship with Carl afraid that something was broken.
I didn’t know anything when I met him—there was no man-sized basket. He didn’t have a sticky note on his forehead, and I didn’t know instantly that he’d end up being my boyfriend.
God hasn’t given me any sort of decree. He hasn’t declared anything about the future, has not labeled him in any way, he just helped me get to the right place at the right time to be in a really good relationship and is letting us work out the details.
I’m not perfect—in fact, this whole process of dating has revealed more insecurity, more messiness, and more toxic fear in my heart than I ever knew was there. The bad stuff has been brought to the surface to be picked through and discarded like ratty underwear or a neglected medicine cabinet.
Carl loves me so much, and sometimes it really does feel like I’m tipsy on sunshine. But sometimes it feels the opposite.
Sometimes I feel neglected and rejected and forgotten. And sometimes (most of the time), those feelings have absolutely nothing to do with him.
On some days I feel warm and adored—like I am quite possibly the most loved woman on the planet. I feel confident and ready, itching to step into the future I can’t wait to see. And some days I don’t. For those first six months an indefinable panic kept coming back like the cold you can’t get rid of, leaving me afraid of the future and all of the things that we didn’t yet know.
And nobody talks about this. Relationships and engagement look like the smoothest transition, accompanied by perfect hair and an award-winning photographer. One minute you’re dating and the next, you’re engaged, and someone was there to capture both perfectly-styled moments to share with Facebook friends around the world.
These are the things we love to share—good stories, the perfect date, the shine of the ring, but nobody talks about the questions that have to be answered. Nobody talks about the doubts and the hard talks. Nobody talks about the process it takes for a stranger to transform into the person who knows you best—and nobody mentions that that’s hard.
I spent six months wrestling with the reality of my doubts and questions and the fear that I felt when I held it up to the perfection of what I could see of someone else’s story.
But here’s what I know to be true about stories, now more than ever: Every story needs conflict. Perfect stories don’t change you—sticking with you long after the credits roll, making you want to buy the soundtrack. It’s the perseverance through the hard stuff that makes a story beautiful.
Conflict also breeds intimacy—without it we never get the chance to really know each other, to really love each other. I believe that true love is formed in the middle of the night, when ugly tears have replaced a calm, put-together smile.
My story didn’t begin the way I thought it would. It’s not the easy story that I thought would be waiting for me on the doorstep with a blue bow—a ready-made husband for a fully-ready bride.
We’ve asked hard questions and had even harder conversations. I’ve wrestled doubt and fear and comparison. And I’ve cried like a baby more times than I can count.
And I like this story so much better.
Because I don’t want a relationship that’s smooth and wrinkle free. I want a relationship that’s strong because of the things we’ve endured, and the love we’ve fought for in the moments when it was the hardest.
The best, most beautiful love I’ve ever experienced has come out of the hardest times. And I’m amazed by the man who continues to sit across from me, feeling more and more like home with every conflict and every victory.
How has your story unfolded differently than you thought it would? What beauty and grace have you seen in that difference?