The sun had barely crested the Seattle skyline and I was already at my best friends’ house.Her mom, Joy, grabbed a bowl from the cabinets and a box of cereal and set it on the kitchen table. I pulled up a stool and sat down, pouring out the sugary cereal and adding the milk that Penny, Carrie’s other mom, fetched from the fridge. My twelve-year-old self lived in books and fantasy worlds of unicorns and dragons, rather than the real world of dark bruises and a shattered living room lamp, swept up and never discussed.I wanted to tell her on the first date, but I knew that would probably be weird. She kind of gave me this half-shy, half-amused smile. But as time has gone on, I also realized that she knew something that I didn’t. I tried so hard to keep that fire going, to keep that emotion alight, but it got harder and harder. And what was even more interesting was that once I realized this on a conscious level, and started trying to find more opportunities to give, the more we both, almost intuitively, became lovey-dovey. From the excitement of dating a woman I felt like I could marry. Imagine a whole nation of people constantly chasing the emotions they had when they were dating. That’s a recipe for disastrous marriages; for a country with a 50% divorce rate; for adultery (the classic attempt to turn the fire back on); for people who do stay together to simply live functional, loveless marriages. How many people are in pain simply because they’ve been lied to.
And even worse, it seemed that the harder I tried to be sentimental and lovey-dovey, the less it was reciprocated. Or, once we had a daughter, when I shared the responsibility of watching over her. Because as our marriage progressed, I found myself offering to help out around the house more and more. It took me longer than I care to admit to understand what was happening. Through giving, through doing things for my wife, the emotion that I had been so desperately seeking naturally came about. An emotion that, once had, somehow magically stays within a marriage forever. And I’m saddened to think about how much those messages bounced around in my head for so long.
Unlikely friends, proximity brought Carrie and I together more than anything else.
We were the only two girls our age in the neighborhood.
“We’re going swimming at Greenlake, why don’t you run home and grab your suit?
” Penny tossed out the suggestion, and I’d duck through the back alley and run home to tell my mom I probably wouldn’t be back for dinner. Why wasn’t I getting reciprocal lovey-doveyness when we were first married? From Disney movies to my favorite shows like “The Office” to practically every pop song released, love is constantly sold as an emotion we have before we’re married.