Tuesday, May 19, 2009

How I Met My Husband

One of the most daunting aspects of dating is the rejection. It is never easy to be on either end of a rejection, so the fear of being rejected or of having to reject someone else can make people very hesitant to even try. When I was young and single, I was not at all comfortable being upfront or obvious if I was attracted to someone. I found it even hard to talk to guys I found attractive, because the attraction created an extra nervousness and awkwardness for me that would not have been there otherwise. So for the most part, I ended up with boyfriends who picked me, rather than ones that I sought out.

Throughout my twenties, I was mainly focused on educational goals anyway and was not looking to "settle down". I didn't feel like I needed to give too much thought to the long-term prospects for a relationship, and it was enough for a relationship just to be enjoyable and satisfying in the present. I didn't get married until I was 31, so it's fair to say I "circled the buffet table a few times before I decided what I wanted to put on my plate", so to speak.

The last one of the several romantic relationships I was involved in before I met my husband lasted for seven years. It almost ended a few times because I really knew deep down that it wasn't right for the long-term. There were breaks over the years where we saw, or at least tried to see other people. But the truth is that it's hard to end a relationship that is generally comfortable and loving if there is no animosity to use as a push-away. It was too easy for us to keep drifting back together, rather than working to meet other people.

The pattern finally ended when I accepted a job that moved me about 250 miles away, and I knew if we were ever going to successfully break up, having this distance between us was our best shot. It was especially hard for me because I didn't know a soul in the new town. I had one friend from college living about 85 miles to the south of my new location, and I reconnected with him and drove down there on some weekends just to have something to do.

The first few months there were sad and depressing. I was grieving over the loss of this warm and supportive relationship. I was lonely. I was working on adjusting to the expectations and requirements of the new job, including what was the most difficult aspect for me--giving presentations and speaking up in meetings.

My ex-boyfriend, John and I were still talking to on the phone at least once or twice a week, and he suggested I try match.com. I had never heard of it, and in fact, the service was not even a year old. At that time, it was a very basic service-you wrote a description of yourself, and answered a few questions about the type of person you were interested in, but there were no images. It was also heavily male-dominated at that time. I think the listings were something like four or five men to every woman, and what's more they were often geeky guys-guys who were really comfortable with computers, which it stands to reason would be the earliest users.

The truth is that I have always been attracted to that type. I think it's the intellectual aspect--it's always been high on my list, as I wrote about in What Women Want. Intelligence and geekiness just seem to naturally go together. I have a story about that, which I will tell at the risk of digressing. Many years ago, when I was still together with John, and he insisted on introducing me a guy in his neighborhood that he had grown up with. This guy (I can't even recall his name) was a magnet for women. John was somewhat bewildered by this. He couldn't figure out why girls were always calling him and chasing after him, so he wanted me to check this guy out and tell him, from the female perspective, what qualities made him so appealing. We went over and hung out with him and his girlfriend du jour for a while, and after we left, John wanted to know what it was exactly that made this guy so great. My answer? Absolutely nothing. I had no attraction to him whatsoever. I thought he came across as vapid vain, and empty-headed, all total turn-offs to me. Sure, he had good looks, but I wouldn't have given a guy like that a second glance under any circumstances. This came as something of a surprise to John--I guess he thought if you were attractive to some women, you were attractive to all women. But it's not so. Every woman has her own preferences, and you should never underestimate the power of "chemistry". I don't really understand what causes "chemistry", but I know it when I feel it.

So, returning to my main story-after feeling really empty, disoriented, and emotionally drained for a couple of months, I woke up one morning finally feeling clear. It was like the clouds had parted and the emotional hang-over had come to an end. I finally took the plunge and put a listing up on match.com. I was living in a very rural area and I didn't get very many matches at first. I found I had to go up over 85 miles to start getting matches, because at that point I was able to pick up three metropolitan areas. Then there were a lot of matches, and it took me a long time to read all the listings. I didn't have my own computer at the time, and I would stay at work after hours to read through all of them. It took me a while to narrow down the hundreds of results to four individuals who seemed really promising. At that point, I was feeling very determined that I wanted to be with someone who was totally and completely right for me. I did not want to get sucked into another comfortable, but not-quite-right relationship that I would have a hard time breaking off. I knew that I would need to be assertive. I would need to actively look for what I wanted in a life-long partner, and I would need to be decisive.

I had four matches that seemed ideal, and I began to correspond with all four of them. I didn't intend to be connecting with all four at the same time, but the first one was slow to write back, and I took this as a sign of no interest, which it turned out was a wrong assumption. But I got the idea that not everyone I contacted would write back, so I should not just focus on one person.

Being ideal on paper and having a enjoyable correspondence doesn't necessary mean there's chemistry, as I found out, when I had the first actual meeting. The first in-person date I had through match.com was with Ken, and he was very sweet, friendly, and fairly attractive. I really liked him as a person, but there was no chemistry, and I realized it immediately. We met at a park about half way between our homes, a 45-minute drive for both of us. We spent a couple of hours walking around, talking and getting to know each other, but I knew from the first moment it was not going to work out. At an earlier point in my life, I would have told myself that this was something worth exploring. He was clearly a terrific person, so maybe if I gave it a chance it could develop into something over time. But those days had passed. I was no longer willing to go down that road. Now, it was all or nothing, and I wanted it all.

Being single as long as I was, I had done my fair share of rejections. With a rejection, I want to start out as subtle as possible, because hopefully the other person is having the same realization, which is that it's just not going to work out. Sometimes, it doesn't go that way, and it's necessary to be more direct. With Ken, it was easy. At the end of the day, we embraced, and said how great it had been to spend a few hours together, which was entirely true, and looking into his eyes, I saw he knew what I knew, and it was such a pleasant relief to find that we were both on the same page. No hard feelings.

The second person I met in person turned out to be my future husband. After meeting the first person, I was so hopeful that it could happen so quickly, but it did. I was immediately attracted, and it took less than two hours for me to feel certain that we were going to be together always. The best way I can describe it is to say that in previous relationships, I had the sense that my love had boundaries. I felt like, okay--now I know what this relationship is doing for me, how it's meeting some of my needs, but I also know what it just can't be-you know, I had this sense of what needs were not going to be met. But when I finally met my husband, those boundaries just disappeared. I felt, for the first time, the sense of limitless, bottomless, uncontainable love. I knew there would be no end to it. And there has been no end to it. Our first date was on the fourth of July of 1996, and we have been married for eleven years. It's still inconceivable to me that we won't be together always.

So, that's my story, and here are a few things that I hope you will take away from it:

1. Sometimes you need to be assertive and determined to get what you want, and take decisive action-coasting along letting things happen to you just doesn't get the job done. Once you make up your mind that you will work hard to get what you want, it's often easier than you think it will be.

2. Rejection is just a state of mind. If you're looking for the person who's totally right for you, and the person you're with is doing the same, then it's either happening or it's not. Ideally, both of you will know it. Don't be afraid to be honest-you may meet someone who is a really wonderful person, but is just not right for you, and it's okay to say so.

3. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you're not attractive. Attraction is a matter of personal preference, and everyone's preferences are different. Too many people think they have some big flaw that makes them undesirable-they're too short or not smart enough or not pretty enough, but even if the flaw is real, be assured that there are lots of people out there to whom that is one thing that just doesn't matter. After all, my ex-boyfriend's neighbor seemed to find lots of eager women who didn't mind vain and vapid. Exactly what they saw in that guy will forever remain a mystery to me.

4. Never underestimate or try to fight "chemistry". I think there's a part of you deep down that better understands what you want and need than your thinking mind does. I believe there is such a thing as "true love"-it's not just that there's a good fit and a better fit, but there really is a totally, completely right person out there for you, and when you meet that person you will know it, and he/she will know it too. Respect the secret magic.


  1. Lovely post and useful as well. Thanks Clarissa it is a beautiful story.

  2. Loved reading this. Thank you so much. I totally get not finding that vain man attractive!

  3. Yes sir... I'm moving right along. Thank you for a delightful posting! Dixie

  4. Had to come back and tell you that I really appreciate your transparency and empathy for sharing. You've posted inspiration.

  5. A beautiful love story, Clarissa! You knew Mr. Right right away, and he felt the rightness too. Here's to chemistry and the determination to settle for nothing less!

  6. Great story!

    I am taking those 4 things to heart :) Sometimes it takes someone spelling it all out to make you realize how silly you've been.