A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by a determined young woman who was interested in learning more about my husband and my "how we met" story. It seems she had found my Instagram post of the napkin he gave me on the night we met over sixteen years ago and wanted to know where and when it happened.
Spring cleaning unearths the most unique of hidden treasures... I came upon this today serendipitously while going through some boxes in our spare closet. It's the cocktail napkin my husband gave me on the night we met, April 20, 2000, sixteen years ago today. He was pretty shy and not the typical pickup artist with all the lines or moves. I think my smile and positive reaction to his approaching me and starting up a conversation emboldened him to pursue the opportunity to see me again. He made quite an impression on me giving me his number instead of asking for mine; and so this little napkin never seemed to find its way into the trash after I called him that first time, nor subsequently after I put his number in my address book. Sixteen years later, it is a symbol for me, not only of our "how we met" story, but of vulnerability... of taking a chance, risking your heart, and going for something you want. It reminds me that relationships begin (and end) with intention and action; and that they can only blossom with courage, hope, kindness and respect. #anniversaryofthedaywemet #firstmet #howwemet #springcleaning #cocktailnapkin #vulnerability #risk #relationships #intention #action #love #courage #hope #kindness #respect
At the time of her inquiry, I was out of town visiting with cousins while happily watching my kids transform into human prunes as they swam in the pool from morning 'til night; so I wasn't able to answer her immediately.
She had contacted me to simply ask if she could share our story with the 300K+ followers of her wildly popular Instagram feed The Way We Met; but in the absence of my response, her persistence led her to my website where she found a post I wrote about my marriage entitled Eleven Years of Wedded...
Her discovery of this post changed her initial intent. She went from just wanting to share our cute "how we met" story to imploring me to allow her to post an excerpt of my marriage piece instead. She said what I wrote about my experience was so brave and honest and that my perspective and reality check on love and marriage was something that would inspire her readers.
I never considered myself "brave" for expressing my thoughts and feelings through my writing, but rather just overtly honest (and sometimes uncomfortably so for others). Yet I appreciated her sentiments and contemplated her request thoughtfully.
It was an interesting idea... placing my words of sobering reality and an alternate view of "happily ever after" alongside all those tales of romantic adventure and endless love of couples, diverse in age and experience, sharing their story of meeting and falling in love.
I knew our "how we met" story was just as unique and quirky as the rest of them, and therefore would fit perfectly into her carefully curated collection of anecdotes. However, I wasn't sure that including my glimpse into what love, commitment, and marriage looks like after the honeymoon phase was a good idea. After all, doing so would be a clear departure from the uplifting "sunshine and moonbeams" and "love is in the air" themed content usually found and expected there. And that's what intrigued me.
Being curious about how it would be received by her audience, I decided to grant her request and provided her with a stripped down, heavily abridged version of my marriage piece that would fit the Instagram character limit. She then posted it on The Way We Met on July 19th:
"The word to most often follow 'years of wedded' is bliss. Ironic, as that’s not what most married people would say their marriage is full of. I’ve been married 11 years & it’s been anything but blissful. My husband and I met at a party in a kitschy karaoke bar, where our eyes met across a crowded room. He wrote his number down on a cocktail napkin and we were engaged 4 years later. Lying on the sand seductively smooching in the tides during our engagement session, we were the picture of true romance, burning passion & undying love. Our wedding was flawless, gorgeous, and dare I say, perfect. So perfect that it set me up for a big, fat fall. As a fiancé and woman about to marry the man of her dreams, I hung my hopes on ROMANTIC love; but as a wife, it didn’t live up to the hype. The false advertising I was fed as a girl - one born, bred and brainwashed by soap operas, romantic comedies & silly love songs - was debunked by the challenges of marriage. Intensity, passion, conflict, drama & attraction were the attributes I was indoctrinated to believe were the ingredients of true love stories. But, oh my, how they aren't. Work, economics, the death of my mom and birth of my baby made the first few years of married life difficult. And divergent viewpoints made our 'opposites attract' love affair way less charming than it was before our I dos. The attributes that intrigued us in courtship became liabilities in wedlock. I came to recognize that love has to surpass the romantic realm and elevate to a higher vibration to withstand all life throws at it. It must let go of ego, find humility, cultivate depth of character and shed romantic fallacy. Love is so much more than a romantic snapshot on the beach; and love in marriage can be as simple as staying. As being true to the intentions that fueled its existence in the first place. I enter my 12th year of marriage as a wife, mother and woman who knows what it takes; yet knows it’s not easy to do, be, or live what it takes. The knowing is easy, but the doing is hard. Keep trying and the doing will happen. And that doing of it... is LOVE.” Abridged version of “Eleven Years of Wedded" by @happyalongthebu
Within a few hours, thousands of people had read the post, hundreds had shared or commented on it, and many of them visited my website to read the full unabridged version. Except for three or four comments that conveyed how much of a downer and depressing bubble burster it was (a valid response for some), there was a defining thread among the rest that was apparent by reading even a small sampling:
"I very, very much appreciate this woman's honesty :)”
"It will be twenty years of wedded for me and my husband and this is the truest thing I have read about marriage in all that time!"
"Why am I crying?”
"Amen 1000 times over."
"Thanks for this. I'm glad I read this wonderful story before I tie the knot this weekend.”
"Married 35 years - amen to this…"
"The truest truth I feel like I've ever read."
"I love the 'way we met' posts but many have made me feel like a colossal failure. Marriage is hard and from the outside many tell me I'm "lucky". No, I'm not lucky... I work damn hard to keep this train from wrecking! On the outside I can keep sh*t together, but half the time I'm an internal mess! I love your story so very much!”
"Thirty years today and this rings true."
"Loved this. This has been the most realistic post on relationship dynamics.”
"Thank you for sharing what a real marriage is.”
"Wow!!! Totally agree. Married 17 years and could have written this. Thank you for your beautiful honesty."
"This is such an important post."
"So true and beautifully said."
"You nailed it. Bravo."
Reading these and others like them, I was struck by the fervor with which people expressed their appreciation for one simple thing: honesty. So many of the other comments were two simple statements, repeated over and over, "Love your honesty." or "Thank you for your honesty."
As a microcosm of our society at large, this post and its reception demonstrates to me that authenticity in, and honesty about, our intimate relationships is a rare commodity these days. Aside from the blatant poison arrows slung at the institution of marriage by naysayers, most people don't respectfully admit that married life and committed love is far more challenging than they expected, and far less perfect than they desired.
Yet, so many individuals seem to appreciate when someone else says it for them.
In this societal climate of "put your best face forward" and "don't let them see you sweat," revealing the truth that one's life is not as perfect as it seems from the outside is often too vulnerable. The rampant comparing and competing among us is one of the worst plagues of our society. The hidden truths of our lives can make us feel ashamed, like we are doing it all wrong, especially because everyone else - most of whom aren't being truthful either - seems to be doing it all right and therefore (we assume) much better than us.
Well, guess what? They aren't. We are all in the same boat, even if some of us don't admit it. Some people are just better at putting on an act, playing a part, and convincing everyone around them that their relationships are perfect, or close to it. Just as being honest about mine is like breathing to me, keeping up a façade and concealing the unpleasant realities of their lives is natural for others.
This is not a judgment or criticism. I recognize and respect that we all have our own philosophies and coping mechanisms. We are all just trying to navigate through life and do the best we can with what we have been given. Yet, I still wish for those that have been programmed to conceal and pretend (like most of us have been) that they find the courage to speak out and remove the masks they wear that hide some of the truths of their lives from those around them.
I believe that living and breathing in your own individual truth will set you free, and that connection with that truth will always lead to connection with others; and more importantly, to connections that are worthy of your time, friendship and love.