“What’s the purpose of dating?” I used to ask my girls when they came home from school talking about all the drama that presents itself when middle schoolers date.
“To get married,” they replied, some days less enthusiastic than others.
“And are you ready for marriage in middle school?”
“No, I really want a car first.”
Then our kids found out our story and now that whole reasoning has gone to pot.
You see, we weren’t dating when we decided to get married. My aunt still jokes about how she got our save-the-date in the mail only weeks after my-then-friend, now-husband, emphatically told her that we were not dating.
We had dated. For months we maintained a long-distance relationship that demanded a 4-hour drive one way on Friday night and back the other way on Sunday afternoon. It was hard and Mr. Byrd took the brunt of it and drove to see me more than I ever even thought about making the drive to Houston to see him. The freeways and overpasses in Houston terrified me.
After months of trying to grow the relationship when texting was new (and expensive) and email could only do so much, he broke up with me. Yes… he broke up with me because he was wise and knew that we couldn’t keep it up for much longer. We knew we loved each other. There was no doubt that he was my best friend but there was also no doubt in our minds that we were not ready for marriage.
After we broke up we stayed friends. The emails between us were constant. I would pour out all of my problems and he would respond with stories about the girls he was dating. I hated those stories but I wanted to hear from him so much that I ignored them all. My friends also ignored how much I talked about him. Their solution to helping me get over him was to push me into dating other guys.
That’s how I wound up dating another guy the night that Mr. Byrd and I decided to get married.
Yes, I was dating someone else but truthfully, I didn’t have any feelings for him. We had only been dating a few weeks and I knew I was only doing it to dip my toe back into the dating waters.
So when I needed a date to my brother’s wedding, I didn’t even tell the guy I was dating and asked Mr. Byrd if he would want to go with me (as a friend) instead. It’d be an excuse for him to visit his parents since they lived by me and we’d get to hang out. Win-win with unknown wedding bells in the distance.
Before he left that night it was decided – we were getting married. I was breaking up with that guy the next day and then heading to Houston for ring shopping the next week. He was going to meet with my dad to get his permission and then we’d get married, as fast as humanly possible. Because I was dating someone else, we didn’t even kiss or hold hands that night. We just knew that we didn’t want to do life without each other anymore and that was what mattered the most.
16 years later, I’m walking through one of the hardest years of my adult life. Depression is pulling me down to levels that I never thought were possible. It’s hard to work. It’s hard to create. It’s hard to laugh. The depression is a result of a trauma that I went through a long time ago which I’m slowly reliving in nightmares and flashbacks. I’m having to go to counseling to figure out how those events have shaped my behavior today. Everything about me this year has changed as some days I’m scared and some days I’m emotionless. There’s days that I hide from the world and there’s days that I don’t eat. And hopefully soon, they’ll be days where my past no longer dictates my day.
This is the hardest year of my life – yet he’s with me. I’m not going through this alone and honestly, I wouldn’t make it alone. My best friend that I couldn’t live without 16 years ago is more than my best friend today. He’s the guy that I didn’t want to live without then and the guy that I couldn’t make it without now. He’s the one that brings me hot tea when I’m sad and walks through the craft store with me when I want to get out of the house. He’s shouldered more responsibility this year and has choked down questionable chicken when our girls cook dinner to give me a break. He’s the one encouraging me to go forward in healing, just like he encouraged me that I could drive over the high overpasses my first few years living in Houston.
I am beyond thankful for a God that brought us together when distance tried to keep us apart.
And this year – I can honestly say that I have never been more thankful for another wedding anniversary. 16 years ago today, we finished our race to the altar with half of the people in attendance still trying to figure out how we got there in the first place when we hadn’t even been dating.
In bad times and good times, in sickness and in health, he’s stuck with me and I’m so extremely thankful for that.
Happy Anniversary Mr. Byrd. I love you and I’m thankful for every bump, bruise, and overpass that brought us to this year. I love our life together.