Sunday, May 19th, was our 6th wedding anniversary, so I thought a little saunter down memory lane was appropriate… a month later. Yeah, yeah…
Michael and I met at church. I was sort of visiting with my parents. He was singing on the worship team and I thought he was so good looking, but he had a ring on his finger (don’t act like single girls don’t scope out the ring situation!), so I just enjoyed the service and didn’t think anything about it.
Later, I was in the foyer talking to a mutual friend (who we now call our “Fairy Godmother”) and up Michael walked. We were introduced, shook hands, made clever small talk and walked away. I remember thinking his hand shaking and eye contacting and clever small talking were too flirty for a married man and literally thought, “that man’s poor wife”. I know. The irony.
The next day, I visited Fairy Godmother’s work place — where my stepfather also worked. It seems, Michael had asked her for my phone number — to invite me to the church’s softball team’s game … riiiiiiiiiiiiight … Well, FG asked my stepdad if she could give my number to Michael and was told, “Stephanie’s her own woman. You’ll have to ask her.” (I should add that I was 26 at this point and Michael was 35.) So, she asked me…
My first response: “Isn’t he married?” (Followed by much laughter from FG.)
My second response: “If he wants my number, he’ll have to ask me himself.”
A week and a half later, we hung out after Wednesday night church. We ate at Friendly’s (with some folks who ended up being members of our wedding party) and then sat on a downtown park bench and talked … till 4am. The next day, I waltzed into my stepdad’s office and announced that I would marry that man. We’ve spoken every day since.
But before I let you think we rode off into the sunset on some white horse, I will remind you that a successful relationship takes work. Hard work.
And it took me telling him what I wanted. That conversation at one and a half weeks into the relationship went…
Me: I’m too old to play games, so the next man I date, I will marry. I think that man could be you, so you need to decide what you want and let me know so we can move forward or move on without wasting time and hurting hearts.
Michael: …Uh… OK.
And then there was the fact that folks literally placed bets on how long we would last. We fought a lot when we were engaged. I can be honest about that. In our defense, though, engagement is far from mystic choirs of angles and spotlights and happy fluttery feelings…
Then there were the phone calls from the “well-meaninged church mommas” to make sure Michael was sure I was the right girl for him… when really, they were trying to talk him out of marrying me.
And our pastor’s wife, Michael’s aunt and my mother all wanted to make sure I had my head on straight; which was actually quite helpful. That one kinda went like…
“Michael’s in his late thirties. He’s lived as a bachelor and without a mother since he was 23. We know you believe this relationship is God’s best for you. We also know that you have to recognize that he will likely not change and accept that. Because if you don’t, you will turn God’s good thing into your bad thing.”
I did decide I was OK with that. And I truly have been! And do you know what God did? God moved on that man’s heart and he actually HAS changed!! (Now, I’m not at all saying I’ve said nothing at all. There have been many times I’ve asked him to be more sensitive in an area or to put the clothes in the dirty clothes without having to be asked… But how we have maneuvered that is a whole other story.)
So now, we’ve been married 6 years, we have two kids, a house, some cars, some work. We seem to always be in transition in some way or another, but our bond of love grows stronger all the time as we intentionally purpose to face life hand-in-hand. Our love for each other makes us better. He’s embraced more structure and I’ve mellowed out … some. We enjoy each other. We laugh. A lot. We are grateful. So grateful.
The best marital advice we ever got was from Michael’s best friend and best man:
Always fight fair: Never character assassinate. Always remember you’re on the same team.
After all the years of not having each other, I know that our worst days together are far superior to the best of days we ever had apart. The prayers for that unknown mate, the dreams of a life together, the angrily, sorrowfully, jealously watching other folks in “coupledom” & “parentdom”, the lonely nights, the tears … all worth it.
It’s no fairy tale. We are still working on us. We will always work on us. But we work together with Christ as our center. Wouldn’t trade it for anything.
That’s our happily ever after.