Yesterday my husband and I celebrated nineteen years together. Nineteen. That may seem like a drop in the bucket to some of you, but it is significant to me for a number of reasons. First, nineteen years is nearly half my lifetime.
Second, the tendency toward wishy-washiness that I’ve discussed many times in regard to writing didn’t just appear along with my novel-publishing dreams. It was alive and well during that initial dating period, which as you can imagine, made for a bumpy start.
And third, the fact that our romance was (and still is) viewed by some as unconventional created an additional layer of difficulty. I was twenty; he was thirty-four. I was still figuring out what I wanted to do with my life; he’d been gainfully employed with the same company for a decade-plus. I’d only been in one serious but very short-term relationship; he’d been married and had two young daughters.
Plenty of people told me I was too young/immature/short-sighted to understand the consequences of such a decision. They told me I shouldn’t be with him. I wouldn’t be happy. It couldn’t work. My ever-present hesitant side was inclined to agree. This didn’t look like any kind of love story I’d ever seen. It certainly didn’t align with the one I’d imagined for myself. And yet . . .
There was something about him. Something that got ahold of me and wouldn’t let go. Something that kept drawing me back to him again and again even after the whispers and opinions and speculation started flowing from the mouths of both those who knew us and those who didn’t. Those judgments hurt. They caused tension and discomfort. But still we persevered.
And now, nineteen years later, I can honestly say I wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again. Has it been all candlelight and roses? Of course not. Many of the premonitions from those early naysayers have turned out to be spot on—step parenting is indeed tough (in fact, next to “wife,” it may be the most difficult role I’ve ever taken on) and our untraditional circumstances have absolutely presented some challenges and obstacles that go beyond typical marital woes.
But having grown some and experienced a little more of the world, I’ve learned two things: 1) whether conventional or not, all relationships come with their own special set of trials, and 2) discovering a deep connection with another human being is a gift to be treasured regardless of what it looks like.
So, as Valentine’s Day quickly approaches, I’d like to recognize all the love birds out there who have found that special something. Whether or not it looks like what you thought it would or like society says it should, I encourage you to embrace it, fight for it, and celebrate it every chance you get.