Friday, September 13, 2019

A Love Story That Happens to be Mine


I'm writing this because I still, even now, struggle to believe that Jon and I are real.

It still. Feels too good. To be true.

I think I just really believed it wasn't going to happen for me. I believed that so hard that I haven't quite admitted I was wrong yet.

So I'm going to tell me a story, and you're welcome to listen in.

Jon is pretty much your textbook jock. Football team in high school, then construction instead of college, then the firefighter/EMT gig, which was his dream for years. My initial take on him was that he was a nice guy. Lots of muscles. Not too much depth or substance. Attractive, not interesting. Vanilla with Pecs.
That's what I thought.

I'm like. A super nerd. Math team in high school. Graduated from the nerdiest of all nerd colleges with intellectual arrogance to spare. I thought I wanted to be with someone just as nerdy as me. Someone who would talk Plato and Nietzsche and Dickens. I thought anyone who couldn't do that wasn't good enough for me. Wasn't smart enough for me. Wasn't interesting enough for me.

Turns out it's Waaay more fun listening to Jon tell me everything that's wrong in an episode of Grey's Anatomy or Chicago Fire, how many bones are in a human foot, or what exactly happens when you shoot someone up with Narcan. See, Jon is a a total nerd too. Just a completely different kind, which I love. Turns out it's way more fascinating to be with someone different than you, someone who knows all sorts of stuff you don't and sees the world in a completely different way, than someone just like you.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Jon and I met at a Fourth of July party four years ago. We played football in a pool with a watermelon. I thought he was cute, but I didn't talk to him. I saw him a year later at the same party. He was setting off fireworks. That time I thought he was pretty. darn. attractive. And I talked to him just long enough to find out where the bathroom was. Classic Abby.

We had our first actual conversation at church just before he left for Maine on a work trip. I saw him notice me, and I told myself I didn't care, and it didn't matter. He spent the next year wriggling into my friend group. I spent the next year seeing other people.

Then someone I really liked broke up with me. And when my friends gathered around to support me, Jon was right there, seeing his chance. For the next couple months he was just someone to talk to. Someone to lean on. He became one of my best friends. And then one day he was like, Look I know I have no chance with you, but you should know how I feel. He told me how he felt like it was just something he had to get off his chest.

And I was mad. I was mad because the timing felt awful what with the breakup and some other confusing nonsense with male humans. I was mad because I loved talking to Jon and texting Jon and sitting with Jon in church. I just really didn't want that to be all ruined just because he had to go and catch feelings.

A few weeks before I had tried to set him up with a cute girl at a coffee shop, but he wasn't having it. I tried, guys, I tired.

But Jon did an amazing job making it clear that he had no expectations from me. He didn't need me to give him an answer. He didn't need me to like him back. He made it really clear that he wanted to be my friend, first and foremost, that I wasn't responsible for his emotions in any way, that no matter what, our friendship mattered to him, and that he wasn't going to walk away just because he wanted more and didn't get it.

And I was so thankful because I genuinely thought I would never want to be more than his friend.

Now I just want to clarify something real quick, men. There's a right way and a wrong way to go about a situation like this, and Jon did it the right way, but I've had a couple guys in my life do it the wrong way.

The Wrong Way
You tell the girl you like her; she says she doesn't like you back. You either don't believe her or decide you can convince her otherwise so you Lie to her and tell her you're totally down to just be friends, and then you proceed to treat her As If She Is Your Girlfriend. You talk to her like she's your girlfriend, you express physical affection like she's your girlfriend, and you put her in a position of having to either constantly remind you that's she's Not Your Girlfriend or capitulate out of sheer convenience. You might get your way for a while, but trust me, this just isn't healthy for either party.

Jon's Way
Jon, on the other hand, meant what he said. He was down for being my friend. He didn't push me to hang out. He encouraged me to join group activities sometimes, but mostly he let me come to him. He let me be the one to initiate (or not initiate) physical affection (I'm talking about stuff like hugs not stuff like kissing). Jon did a lot of just talking to me. Showing me who he was. Showing me I was wrong about who he was and what he had to offer. That's what changed things.

Oh and it also helped that a bunch of older, married people started coming up to me and telling me what an absolutely amazing person he was, and I Should Be So Lucky.

It wasn't one thing that made the difference. It was everything. It was every reason I could think of not to be with him torn down and a thousand completely opposite reasons built up in its place.

So, finally, I quit being an idiot and told him he could ask me again.

And he did.

But I still made him wait a month to kiss me, because I really wanted to be sure, and I'm really thankful we did that. Our relationship is stronger for it now. We still look back on that month super fondly because when you're not kissing, hand-holding is the sweetest thing in the world, and you'll never quite get that back. I'm so thankful for those memories.

A lot of people have commented on how fast Jon and I got married. But the thing is, he spent so long tryna, and I spent so long tryna not, that by the time we got together, it was already over. All those big important conversations had been had. Every reason we could possibly imagine for Not being together had already been dismantled.

But when my girlfriends ask me how I "knew" Jon was the one, now that's something else. The answer is I didn't. Marrying him felt like the most natural thing in the world, but I'm someone who's always going to fret and question and wonder if I'm doing the right thing. The idea that you can be sure of something as infinite and independent as another human being just doesn't make sense to me. Jon is The One because I married him, and he married me, and we both made promises. That's it.

I will say this. I will say this one last thing:
I always knew that if I was going to marry someone I had to love that person in the same way that I loved Africa--not as something small enough to fit into a human body, but as something as vast and varied as a continent. Not as something standing in front of me, but as something I could live inside. Not as something I could memorize, but as something I could explore for a lifetime and never fully know.

Jon was the first person I ever loved like Africa. And there was a moment when I realized that, and maybe that's the moment I "knew". I don't know. But since Africa was never quite real to me, neither is Jon. Not yet.

Ask me in a few years if I believe I'm married to Jon Libby yet. I'm genuinely curious when me and reality will catch up with each other.


  1. This is...beautiful. I read it twice. Thanks for a good perspective on what a healthy relationship looks like.