Last Summer, in the middle of some interesting times, a friend of mine sent me a link to a story she had written. Her post, entitled: Weekly Anamnesis: Misunderstand – recalls a memory shared. While I have a different perspective and different recollections, my friend invited me to add my version of this interesting time. I’m not so sure my perspective adds much to this story, but I can’t let it go without offering my take.
1999 was a very interesting year. It was a time of great change and transition. For the first time, since leaving Portland a few years earlier, I was on the move again. Fresh from a a painful breakup and preparing for another cross-country move, I attended conneXions99, a young adult conference in Washington, DC. Those few days in April were pivotal to the rest of my life.
I was broken and lonely when I arrived in DC. While I knew a few of the people at the conference, and some other folks in town, like all times of transition, it was confusing and disorienting. And, just coming out of a relationship, I was vulnerable. I also made a lot of new friends – including the woman who would become my wife almost nine years ago!
Moving to SW Michigan was much harder than my move from Oregon to Southern California. I had made some really good friendships in SoCal – it was a good life and it was hard to leave. My life in Michigan was more monastic – which I suppose was appropriate, since I was attending the Seminary. I found a great house – more of a shack, but it was in an awesome location. It sat on a thousand acre private game reserve over looking Lake Chapin. It was just the kind of place I’ve always wanted to live, except, for the first time in my life, I was tired of living alone.
This is where the story by my friend, Ducky, begins. Being somewhat young, and somewhat available on a college campus has its advantages. However, when one is ambiguous about their standing, it can be confusing – from the inside and the outside. This is why I understand my friend’s confusion as to my intentions. But as she mentioned in her version of the story, there was a “small connection made” back in April of 1999. Yet, I was averse to pursuing it.
You see, for most of my adult life, I had made relationship choices the same way I chose cars. If it looked nice, I tried to acquire it. The problem is, a car can be sold – but a relationship doesn’t end as easily. During the 20 years between the ages of 20 and 40, I had been married, divorced, and been in a few other significant relationships – none of which had lasted more than two and half years. This is not only a bad track-record, but only an idiot would refuse to seek a new path.
I decided to quit being an idiot
When one realizes their life has become unmanageable, it becomes imperative to turn their life over to a Higher Power. In doing so, I felt impressed to stop dating. I stumbled across Josh Harris’ book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and read it in one evening. The principles outlined in that book, enabled me to see the mistakes I’d been making, and I decided to put them into practice.
Deciding to do something, and actually doing that, can leave quite a chasm in one’s life. Intentions and actions – purpose and practice – they don’t always match. And so was the challenge of learning to be in purely platonic relationships, even with potential mates. I was determined to build friendships, not love connections. However, I was not very skilled in this arena. Which is a plausible explanation as to why my friend Ducky was confused.
“Deciding to do something, and actually doing that, can leave quite a chasm in one’s life.”
Then things got complicated. As I mentioned, I met my wife at the same event where I met Ducky. Jennifer and I were building our friendship, but due to the presence of Ducky in this situation, Jennifer was keeping her distance. This made it easier for me to keep my distance from Jennifer too. Not only was I about protecting my own heart, but I wasn’t interested in seeing anyone else get hurt either. In 40 years of life, I had been the part of too many broken hearts. It was losing its appeal.
In the book, Josh Harris suggests that people not get distracted by dating, but rather build friendships in group settings. Even if sparks fly, or there appears to be chemistry, don’t act on those feelings. Instead, let your friends suggest love interests – to confirm what may be obvious to oneself and others. This is the approach I was inclined to take. I wasn’t going to break my dating fast until others suggested there might be potential with someone in my life. In the meantime, like other times when I’ve been unavailable, I seemed to have more women friends than usual, and this is never easy.
The tipping point came one week when I had the flu. Ducky and Jennifer made the journey to my country cabin to bring me food and encouragement. Jennifer and I remember it as an awkward visit, Ducky tells me she doesn’t remember the visit. In my heart, I had decided that Jennifer was an amazing woman – but I didn’t want to hurt Ducky, who seemed to have a crush on me. Jennifer told me later that she too was seriously interested in me, but didn’t want to step on the toes of her good friend Ducky. And so we left it at that, for weeks.
An opportunity presented itself to explain my true feelings with Ducky. Friends, nothing more. And as she says in her post, nothing more has been discussed since. However, it wasn’t long after that when a friend approached both Jennifer and I to wonder aloud, “Why aren’t you two dating?” The long story short, we began to date, but from the beginning, I again took Harris’ advice. I explained to Jennifer that I was done with recreational dating. If I was going to date her, it would be for the purpose of courtship. While that was a bit scary to both of us, it also offered a bit of purpose that allowed us to avoid some of the pitfalls of contemporary dating.
Two years after I met her, eleven months after we began dating, and four months after I proposed, Jennifer and I were married. And I’ve never been happier or more content.
Interestingly enough, Ducky ended up marrying a former love interest of Jennifer’s – and thus completes a perfect soap-opera-style story!
PS: Remind me to tell you the story of our engagement sometime.