I can count the dates in my teen and young adult life on one hand. I attended Prom, saw Dante’s Peak (starring Pierce Brosnan) in the theatre, watched the Nutty Professor on dvd, and went rollerskating with one guy. I went to see Jurassic Park 2 with a high school friend whom I was attracted to…with both of these guys, there was a mutual attraction, but it never became a relationship of any consequence.
I had an innocent almost-romance with a guy before college, but no dates with him, other than sitting on a bench talking. We just talked a lot and hugged each other.
That minimal dating experience leads me to meeting the guy I thought was ‘The One.’
When I met him, I thought he was the perfect young man:
gentle, sensitive, kind, great listener, well-mannered, funny, wonderful conversationalist, common interests and similar religious background
I actually met him at a weekend single’s retreat. Once we started talking, we were just about inseparable for two-ish days.
When I got home, I told my mom I believed I met the guy I was going to marry. I think she must’ve been worried. I told her he was so kind, so gentle, and so thoughtful. I told her he wouldn’t ever hurt anyone, and probably not even a fly. I was so proud of myself for being the kind of girl who could catch his attention. We lived more than 6 hours apart from each other, and we didn’t establish anything that said ‘I like you enough to pursue you.’ So we exchanged addresses and that was it. This was late 90’s, so we had very limited ways to keep in touch (occasional email or handwritten letters, since land line phone calls were so expensive). [Side Note: Do you remember Rocketmail? The precursor to Yahoomail.]
That summer I often looked fondly at the Kodak picture of us taken the last day of the retreat. I told myself there was something special about him. I was confident he liked my figure in my modest gray top and jean shorts. I developed the film with doubles and wanted him to enjoy a copy, so I mailed it with a letter. I was not patient and I called his family’s home a few days after mailing the letter. His mother answered: “We’ve heard a lot about you. I don’t know what was in that letter, but he was smiling the whole day.” Then she called him to the phone with a nickname that should have graduated with kindergarten. How embarrassing for him!
And that should have been one of my first clues about his parents, who play a large part in this history. The second clue was when we’d been on the phone close to 12 minutes and his mom or dad (or both, because it happened sometimes) picked up another phone to say he’d been on the phone too long and it was time to say goodbye. Equally embarrassing for him. He was almost 19 years old. Hmm.
Oh yes, and he said he really loved the picture I had included. When he confessed the truth later, he said he always thought I looked really weird and very old in that photo. He had only pretended to like how I looked in it. Wow. I mean, I know you shouldn’t stand halfway in the sun and halfway in the shade when you take a pic because it messes up the light/shadow. But really old and weird? Thanks a lot. And, Thanks for embarking on the lies and manipulation from the beginning.
Fast forward to that fall (still 1997) and we both moved to different states for college. This time our distance was about 3.5-4 hours. We had a little more access to email now. Regrettably and admittedly, I was always the one to email him first. He didn’t have to work for my attention. That is sad. He didn’t have to make the effort and this brought my value down. I didn’t realize this at the time, though. I checked my email as often as possible and printed all his emails, reading them often, and underlining parts that could hint at any possible attraction. I was not interested in dating other guys, but that didn’t seem to matter because no other guys were asking me out.
I had a talk with another of my guy friends. He urged, “You need to tell this guy you met how you feel about him. If you don’t take that leap of faith, you’ll never know. Would you want to die not knowing if you two could have been together?”
While that’s good advice, why did it mean I again had to be the one to initiate communication with my ‘dream guy?’ I probably contacted him again to hint a little more strongly that I wished I could visit him. He replied he’d like to see me as well. The bridge that started our official boyfriend-girlfriend status was a classmate giving me a weekend ride to the area where my guy was attending college.
I went to see him, he held my hand a lot, hugged me, gave me a present, and kissed me. Gasp!
Lub-dub, lub-dub, lub-dub…
I returned to my college apartment melancholy and missing him already, determined to stick with him and not date anyone else. Long-distance.
My first boyfriend! Why wasn’t I overly Happy?
I was subdued. I wasn’t lovesick with a stupid grin and barely seeing where I was walking. I was depressed.
Strangely, I was soon asked on a couple of dates by a friend. I said yes because one was a situation where his date bailed out last-minute, and another one was car shopping and lunch, so I guess they weren’t ‘dates.’ The guy never made any romantic moves, so I didn’t violate anything. Friends, right? I traveled once more to visit my guy two months later (he didn’t come see me) and he told me he loved me. I was hooked. Nobody else for me, thanks. But I still felt lonely almost all the time.
We both served church missions and dated others casually afterward, until I moved near him in 2001. We had an almost completely-chaperoned courtship for 15-ish months and got married spring 2002.
If I would give advice to other young people today, it would be to Date A Lot. Date As Much As You Can. Date a variety of others. Talk a lot. See how your dates treat and are treated by their parents. See how independent / reliable / trustworthy / resourceful / confident / mature they are. Please do this. Please do not latch onto one person when you have barely dated. There’s no rush to get married. Getting married young won’t solve any of your problems or get you a head start on life. It won’t help you grow up faster. I’ll be discussing this again, because it’s so important.
This all needs to come out of me.
We haven’t even gotten to the abuse yet.