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The Road to a Marriage

After moving back to the US from New Zealand, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I was ready. Ready to take the next step in my relationship with my girlfriend. Ready to propose.

As you might expect, I had no idea what I was doing.

I met with her best friend and her best friend’s husband to talk about it. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t being completely crazy and also to get her advice about practical matters, such as an engagement ring, which I knew nearly nothing about. That wound up being a really helpful conversation. Although I’m not nearly as close with that couple as she is, I’ve always been grateful to them for good advice and support in key moments.

While I was meeting with them, my girlfriend texted me to ask what I was doing. I make it a policy to always tell the truth to her and always answer a direct question, so I honestly told her that I was at her best friend’s house. She immediately started texting both her friend and me asking what I was doing and what was going on. I told her I’d meet up with her afterward.

Once my conversation had finished, I drove to the Starbucks where we were going to meet. But it turns out that the hours they had listed on their website were wrong, so they were about to close. Instead, we walked over to a restaurant next door. This was one blessing out of many: rather than the harsh lighting and cramped interior of the Starbucks, we were able to get a seat by the fireplace (it was late January) and had the whole area nearly to ourselves. It was exactly the environment I needed.

We caught up a little bit and made some small talk. Although I know she was deeply curious about what was going on, she let me talk about it in my time. After we had put in an order for some dessert, I decided to just jump in and broach the topic. I told her I’d met with her friend to ask for advice about taking our relationship forward.

She was open to the idea. One of the things I like about her is that we can talk like rational adults about things like this. We discussed it a bit, and she mentioned that there were some things she wanted me to do before we got engaged. She wanted us to get advice from the couple who’d been counseling us to make sure there wasn’t anything we were overlooking. She wanted me to talk to her roommate to make sure her feelings were taken into consideration and she didn’t feel like her friends were moving on without her. And most importantly, she wanted me to talk to her father.

I made a list (we still have it somewhere) entitled “Things to do before I can propose.” The above items all went on it, along with other items such as “plan the proposal” and “buy a ring.” One by one, I gradually checked each one off.

We met with our counseling couple; a meeting which I think went well. One important benefit of a policy of absolute honesty and transparency is that there are rarely unpleasant surprises lurking beneath the surface. We brought up anything that might possibly be a dealbreaker or a problem, laid it out in the light for everyone to see, and talked each one over. Some people might hear that and think it’s ridiculous, or humiliating, or even violating. I respect those opinions and I wouldn’t tell anyone to do it who didn’t want to. But I can tell you that there’s a peace that comes from knowing someone has seen all of you and is not afraid of the ugly parts, the scars, the weaknesses and faults.

I also met with her roommate. This wasn’t difficult, since her roommate is an old friend (I’ve actually known her longer than my wife has!) and we can talk about pretty much anything. It’s friendships like these that last a lifetime, and I didn’t talk with her because I was told to. I talked with her because I respect her and care for her. It was a great conversation and a great memory. Once the world starts turning right-side up again, I’m sure she’s one of the first people we’ll make plans to hang out with!

I also met with her parents. This story is already getting quite long so I’ll save that part of it for another time, but I will say that I was very concerned about her dad spilling the beans. Not intentionally, of course, but he has a great relationship with his daughter and loves talking with her about the things he gets excited about. I must have told him two or three times that I wanted our meeting to be a secret. Of course, her mom ended up texting her and saying “we had a great dinner with Nathan yesterday!” and letting the cat out of the bag. Oh, well. She knew I was going to be having that conversation at some point, so it’s just something we all laugh about now!

One these and all the other items on my list were checked off, I proposed. That is a long story in itself which will have to wait, but (spoiler alert) she said “yes!” and we got engaged!

I tell this story today because today is our wedding anniversary. Between me having a heart attack and us getting two cats and the world turning upside-down due to a virus and a dozen other stories that I haven’t even written up yet, it’s been a wild two-year ride. In some ways, it feels like we’re newlyweds. In others, it feels like we’ve been married decades already. But I could not wish for a better copilot on this crazy journey. Two years down and a lifetime to go!

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