Today’s post comes form the lovely Sarah Siders, who I happen to know because she works with my brother on an Army Base in Kansas. I hope you enjoy her lovely words today.
“I think we’re going to break up,” I announced to my new boyfriend after everyone else left the church that night. “I break up with all my boyfriends.”
We’d only been dating two days, yet my previous relationships told me everything I needed to know about this one. Relationships with me end badly. I figured it was only fair to let this new guy in on my secret.
Ironically, I started this relationship believing it would end. But on the other side of my inner cynic was a hopeless romantic, one who hoped someday a man and I could love each other with a true and lasting affection. I’d just never seen it done. Not in my life anyway.
I don’t remember how he responded to my anxious forecast, but I have no doubt he calmed the storm with his trademark patience I would come to expect over the years. I do remember we left in the same car that night. And the next day, we were still together.
After barely a month of dating, or in my world, after 30 days of not breaking up, we curled up beside each other on a crusty, aged couch along his living room window. It was already dark, but we wouldn’t say goodbye for hours. I never wanted to leave him, even though he terrified me. No matter how dim my pessimistic predictions, I couldn’t make him go away.
As we lay there talking, he whispered the three scariest words, words I knew meant we were over. “I love you,” he said, his voice tender and sincere. But they sounded like the end to me.
I couldn’t say it back. I didn’t know how I felt. My mind flooded with all the fearful thoughts. It was too soon for the L word. Why was he being so pushy? Doesn’t he know you’re supposed to wait on those words, like a year or something? The men who said “I love you” before wanted me to say it back. And then we broke up. The L word is a break-up precursor. Doesn’t he know the rules? Now we’re doomed.
As the anxiety whirlwind spun a dervish in my mind, I sealed the words inside my mouth. Eventually I mustered, “I can’t say it back yet.” I braced myself for the awkward guilt I knew would follow my confession.
“I’m not saying it for me,” he consoled. “I’m saying it for you. I don’t need you to say it back.”
What? Who was this guy? I didn’t know, but in that moment, he was the man who loved me, and he didn’t need me to love him back. I decided maybe I did not need to break up with him.
He exuded a disconcerting confidence, the kind that could give love without leaving behind a gaping hole in need of a refill. He didn’t need to coerce me into saying something I didn’t mean.
He was a strange man indeed.
He loved me with a thick, rugged kind of love, gently and slowly burrowing beneath the scales of my soul. His squinty eyes beamed affection and admiration at me, but his romance never showed up grandiose. It just showed up. And kept showing up.
During the coming months, I stormed, nearly ending our relationship on a monthly basis. I tried to find good reasons to write him off like the other men, but I couldn’t deny this one was different. His persistent love rendered me uncomfortably vulnerable. I wanted to crawl away to save myself from the inevitable pain, but every time I tried, he talked me off the ledge. Calmly, relentlessly. And down I came.
All the while, he showed me he wanted a grown-up life with me. He quit his job at the grocery store and took a new job at a bank, a job with potential for growth, something that could support a family. He bought a new car. He met my parents. At first, it didn’t go well.
At our gregarious family dinner table, he was awkwardly introverted. We all wanted him to crack jokes like the rest of us. Instead, he sat quietly with his thoughts, not competing for attention’s center. He drove me crazy, yet his quiet confidence was what I needed so desperately in a man.
His love persevered, present but never fancy. A love
with nothing to prove. It confused me, but drew me at the same time.
We dated only eight months before we learned my brother would leave for his second deployment in May. It was less than four months away. We considered a wedding after he returned, but suddenly I knew. I wanted to marry this man, this sturdy, bearded man who I couldn’t convince to stop loving me. So why wait?
There was no time for the romantic proposal I’d dreamed of, an evening full of surprises recreating our relationship or a knee drop in a four-star restaurant. We started planning the wedding immediately, without a ring on my finger, and part of me felt cheated. But there was no time for doubt.
One night only weeks before the wedding, he whispered to me in the dark again. “Sarah, will you marry me?” His voice was timid this time, but still sure. And finally, I felt sure too. “Yes,” I replied as the ring slipped around my finger.
We married in the middle of May, a year and a day after our adventure began. After nearly six years of marriage, I doubt his love less and less each day. His love shows up in sickness and in health, in childbirth and mortgage payments, in diaper changing and lawn mowing. His love shows up even when mine doesn’t, just like he promised.
Bio: Sarah Siders is a social-working writer in a Midwestern college town, where she unsuccessfully tries to keep her chocolate stash secret from her husband and son. Sarah is the author of the eBook, My Birthright For Soup, and is currently working on her biggest project yet, Dream or Die, a primer on recovering dreams and vision for our lives. She laughs and thinks out loud on dreaming, relationships and the hilarity of parenthood at her blog home, www.sarahsiders.com. You can also find her on Twitter: @sarahsiders.
Interested in contributing to the Love Showed Up series? Send me an email at leannerae (at) gmail (dot) com and let’s have a chat about it.
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