Fifteen years ago, I started a new job. On the second day, I met the man who would become my second husband.
It’s eerie to think of the kismet involved. I had signed up at a temp agency just the week before, something I had sworn never to do again, only now my life had been turned upside down and it was my best, fastest option. While I was still filling out application forms at the agency, the rep brought in a client from across the hall and introduced us. They were going to place me over there, at a real estate agency, but at the last minute they changed their mind and offered me an assignment at an engineering firm up the road.
What would have happened if I had started at the real estate place instead, back in 2005? Maybe I would have pushed forward and become an agent and/or a broker, just in time for the crash?
If that random moment hadn’t gone the way it had, I probably would never have met my hubby or anyone else who worked with him. Different cities, different hobbies, two worlds that were unlikely to collide.
We met and clicked right away. It was not a meet-cute. I distinctly remember that we had a conversation about how dust is mostly composed of human skin. I mean, eww. But at least he knew who he was dealing with.
Looking back, I understand that my new work buddy was just doing what he always does, which is to befriend new hires and show kindness to support staff. This is why he is entrusted with mentoring interns and budding engineers, because he goes out of his way to make people feel welcome.
This is also part of why the two of us get special treatment anywhere where we are regulars. We used to get table service at our local Starbucks before the world got crazy. We both see “customer service” as a game of generating rapport. It was something we recognized and amplified in each other.
When we met, we got into a certain amount of trouble. We kept hanging around each other, became lunch buddies, and drove a great deal of gossip. Apparently everyone assumed we were having an affair. People made bold comments to my face. It was super awkward and embarrassing. Eventually, though, we had to wonder whether everyone might be onto something.
Hmm. Why DO people keep thinking we’re together?
Every friendship makes its own little world. Whatever connection or spark there is between you, you both feed it. It doesn’t take long before you have your own points of reference, your own shared outlook, maybe even a private language. You can both crack up laughing without even looking at each other. You see or hear something and immediately know exactly how your friend would react. You get each other’s style and sense of humor.
For whatever reason, most people see romance in a completely different way, even though friend-romance is fun and easy where traditional ‘romance’ is exhausting and stressful.
What is he thinking? What did she mean by that? Do they like me or don’t they? - Are all things that friends basically never ask about each other.
My hubby and I were able to be friends, platonic friends and professional colleagues, because we both are good at friendship. He has lots of female friends, I have lots of male friends. I have, hmm, maybe a dozen male friends I’ve been close to for 25 years or more, none of whom I’ve dated.
In fact the transition from lunch buddies to “boyfriend and girlfriend” was fraught. We argued about it for weeks. If you think that was bad, it took us more like a year to eventually decide to get married.
A lot of people in our position never move forward because one or the other is afraid to “ruin the friendship.” To me this is a disaster. Almost every image of “romance” or a “love story” in our culture is based on the pursuer-distancer model, where one person chases the other and there’s supposedly some kind of magical physical chemistry. One kiss and *swoon*!
I used to be caught up in that fantasy, too. I finally got so sick of the inevitably painful results that I got down on my knees and prayed never to feel that way again. Can’t I please just be with someone I like, respect, and trust, who makes me laugh, and feel affection instead of misery?
He makes my knees weak *now* - but he didn’t when we met. I wouldn’t say either of us was particularly attracted to the other at first. It is pretty funny to think that we have in middle age what we might have wished for as teenagers.
This is what I would tell anyone who has a crush on their friend. Go for it. Companionate marriage is the best and most stable. We have so much fun. We’ve traveled the world together, saved tons of money, gotten fit, become better cooks, and basically live much better and happier lives because we belong to our own two-member mutual admiration society.
The kind of friendship we have, one that is supportive yet challenging, silly yet serious, enmeshed and yet independent, is very much like our other friendships in many ways. It’s simply that we’ve known each other longer, pushed each other’s limits more, and built up more trust. None of that comes from a lighting bolt of instant attraction or pheromones. Instead it is layered over time, like lacquer.
Now that we’re getting older together, what we have is irreplaceable. You don’t snap your fingers and suddenly pop a 15-year relationship into existence. He never knew that I would one day be leading him by the hand through the emergency room because he was temporarily blind, just as I never knew he would keep me alive through a month of coronavirus. All we knew was that we liked each other and we couldn’t seem to quit talking to each other. Through all these years, those things haven’t changed.
Still my favorite, best friend, Husband Level III, luckiest introduction of all time, love you sweetie.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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