Marriage and the Mirror

My marriage to my husband was a good one. It was not perfect. I described yesterday how it is impossible in my opinion to have a perfect marriage. Our marriage had good times as well as bad. Though never so bad that we could not see eye to eye and realize we wanted to make our marriage work. I am not counting his illness as bad. Though the illness was bad it did not define our marriage or put new meaning to it. We were close before his illness, we remained close throughout it. I feel very lucky to have had the time I did with him.

I often called my husband my “pity date”. He knew it. We met once, at which time I really took little notice of him. I mentioned how I look a person in the eye to see who they are, but there was a time where it seemed all the young men I dated fit a similar mold. They were older, well off and very good-looking. I did not choose who I would date from their looks, though to be honest there were one or two I did. They were the worst dates, stuck up on how good-looking they were, with little or no personality. It seemed I had fallen into a pattern where the better looking young men asked me out, while the others who were quite nice were afraid of rejection, so they failed to ask me out. I most likely would have gone on some, as I said appearances are not important, rather who the person is and their personality were important. I mention this pattern as it will explain the “pity date” reference. On that first meeting with my soon to be husband, I was preoccupied with other things. I barely noticed him and he seemed smug and I was not interested.

When we met the second time, he murmured something I could not hear. I kept asking him to repeat himself. It took 4 or 5 times before I understood what he was saying. He was asking me out on a date. I looked in his eyes, I saw hurt and sadness and bravery that he had gotten the nerve to ask me out. I thought to myself he must have been rejected many times and it took a lot of courage to ask me out. I felt bad. I had been on dates with others I was not fond of, though I normally found out after the date. I thought about the date my husband was asking for. I had nothing to lose from going out with him. Maybe I would give him a little more confidence in himself so that when he met the right person he would find it easier to ask the person out. So I accepted his offer to take me to dinner. As I said, I felt it was a “pity date”. By all accounts from those who knew me, they felt the same. I thought, one date, he would be happy a popular girl had dated him and move on with his life with more confidence. I was the one being smug looking back on that day.

Friends and family told me not to date him. They did not know him. They just felt he was a stranger and that I should be cautious. He did not seem dangerous, just shy. So we went out on a date. I was sure we would have little in common and that it would be an awkward date. I was determined to try my best to make it seem like a normal date. I did not need to worry about that date. It went fine. He took me to a nice restaurant, hoping to impress me. I, still thinking it was a one date and done, tried to pick the cheapest thing on the menu. As we sat there and got to know one another, he seemed nice. He still had a sad, hurt look in his eyes, but when he looked at me his eyes brightened, a little glimmer of happiness in them, it was when he looked away I noticed the sadness. After dinner he brought me home, it was awkward as I really still was not sure if I wanted to date him again, he was trying to lean over to kiss me. I decided to let him kiss me and get the date over with.

When he called to ask me out again, I surprised myself when I answered yes. We dated almost every night for some time. My pity date had become a date I respected. One of the things that most impressed me about him was what he did not say. I mentioned all the dates above. They all had a kiss of death. The moment the date would tell me they loved me, I stopped dating them. I wondered how they could possibly love me when they knew so little of me. They knew about me, they might have even known me for a long time, but I felt none had ever gotten to know me, really know me. I was not sure I loved myself at that young age, how could they possibly love someone who did not love themselves? My husband did not tell me he loved me right away. It took time until he started to tell me and I asked him to stop and not say it. That it would be the end of our dating. So, he did not say it. It took a while before he tried to say it again, this time I knew we had gotten to know each other and did not stop him. I had fallen “in like” with my pity date. Yes, I know I did not say love. That would come later.

When he first asked if I wanted to get married I said no. I must have said no for several weeks or months before finally agreeing. My co-workers at the time, many of whom he was friends with, were placing odds and betting on the chance the marriage would take place. The majority felt I was going to either stop it before the wedding or just not show up on our wedding day. Most knew I never wanted to marry, that included my husband. I wanted to go through life single, free to do what I wanted. But something had changed, maybe I was just growing up and maturing. Looking in the mirror right before the wedding, I still was not sure. In all honesty I was not sure I would go through with the marriage even as the wedding was underway. Then it seemed easier to just go through with it and if it did not seem to be working out, we could just get divorced I thought to myself as I was saying “I do”.

As time passed before my eyes, my like for my husband turned to love. He became the person I looked forward to seeing after a long day. The one to keep me grounded, whether I was just joking around or in the midst of a severe panic attack. He was the one I came to depend on. I cannot say when it happened. I only know that one day I woke up and he was not just some man I married, he was the man I loved. From whenever that day was that I had come to love him until he died I always loved him. Sometimes I may not have liked him, I am sure he could say the same about me. But underneath whatever had prompted not liking him, there was a deep, strong, trusting love. As for my husband he told me he loved me every day after we were married. I on the other hand was somewhat stingy with the “I love you’s”. They did not come easy for me, but they did come and I would tell him.

When he first became ill, I remember sitting in the emergency room with him, very worried. I texted several close friends and family. At one point when he had fallen asleep, I texted to one that I needed to tell him more often that I loved him, that I had not told him enough. Through his illness, upon awakening and before sleep I told him I loved him. I told him throughout the day often too. My husband had always told me he loved me often and accepted that the words were not easy for me, so he was quite happy when I started telling him regularly. Do I regret not having told him more often in the early years? No, as that is not who I was. It took more changing for me to be able to tell him. I am glad I was able to tell him often in the last 3 years of his life. His face would light up every time as if he were hearing it for the first time.

If there is anything to be taken from this, it would be two things. First tell someone you love them often if in fact you do love them. It costs nothing. It can bring more happiness than money can buy to the one you are telling. Finally, if you ever think of going on a pity date, go ahead, enjoy yourself, get to know the other. Be sure the date will be safe. Maybe the person will end being your “pity date”. But then again, they might just surprise you and be the person you were looking for all along, but did not know it.

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