Last weekend Michael and I took time to remember and celebrate the 20th anniversary of our first date.
Some would question why we would bother observing that particular anniversary. It’s not our wedding or when we got engaged. But it was the first step on our journey together. The actual event is emblematic of why we were attracted to each other, and why we remain interested in each other. Even on that first night, it was clear we were very different people, but that’s also one of the reasons we are a good team.
With all the stress of jobs and rearing kids, couples can forget why they ever even got together. The spark of their relationship can be snuffed out by the minutia everyday life.
It is important for couples to stop and remember – not just on an anniversary – but why they decided to build their lives together. They need to take time to nurture those initial emotions, and examine how they have changed as individuals and couples over time.
At a time when marriages are imploding around us, I am grateful that my husband and I still actually like each other. I am grateful that we want to spend time together. I am grateful that all aspects of our relationship remain healthy and growing.
It’s not that we never fight. But all of our disagreements are eventually solved with a thoughtful discussion and a compromise. And we’ve gotten much better about letting go of lingering resentments from those disagreements and moving on to the next family crisis.
I shared our first date story on Facebook with our friends and had a little mushy commentary at the end. Here is what I shared:
“The First Date … The Whole Story
Twenty years ago tonight I had my first date with Michael. We met that Fall quarter at The Red and Black. We were both reporters. He was a senior and I was a sophomore. I thought he dressed nice. (He was the only college boy I knew that wore dress pants to class.)
At the start of winter quarter, I was looking for someone to go to a story assignment with me – a symposium on the first anniversary of the first Gulf War. He volunteered to go along. (Years later he told me he had decided over winter break that he wanted to get to know me when he got back to school.) We attended the lecture and then decided to get something to eat.
It was a freezing night and I complained the entire way walking to his car at River Mill. He asked me what do I do when it’s really cold out?
“I continue complaining, but with more frequency and volume,” I said, foreshadowing what the poor man heard for four years in Pennsylvania and New York.
We went to the Athens Bennigan’s. I can picture the table we sat at and even remember what he ordered. I complained about my mother at one point and said to him “Don’t you just hate it when your mother does that.” He told me his mother had died a year earlier. I felt so awful and literally cried at the table. (So far the date is going great, don’t you think?) He tried to pick up the check. I fought him about it. I can’t remember who won.
We went back to his apartment to talk. We ended up talking on his couch, and he handed me a throw blanket that I put over my legs as I spread out, with my feet on his lap. What college boy has a throw blanket in his house? I was so warm and comfortable I didn’t want to leave, but I was certain my roommate would call the police if I didn’t come home.
He asked me out again before I even got out of the car. He wanted me to go with him that Friday night to a party. I turned him down and told him I needed to study. (I had a poli sci paper to write.) He told me he wouldn’t go to the party without me and kept calling me all Friday night. Eventually he was calling from the party. (I knew he wouldn’t hold out on that one.)
He called on Saturday to see if I would let him drive me to church on Sunday. We used to see each other all the time at the Catholic Center. I usually went with my cousin – who Michael thought was my boyfriend. I told him he could take me – I hated that walk. He asked me out again for Wednesday. And after that date I was a goner. I never dated anyone else. Persistence pays off kids.
Twenty years later, Michael is still the funniest person I know. He is the smartest person I know. He is still the person I would choose to spend time with above anyone else in the entire world.
He is truly my partner. We fight and we disagree, but in the end our decisions are almost always better for the discussion. We are polar opposites in disposition but it works to bring out the best in each of us.
He is my advisor, my confidant, my protector, my best friend. I am so grateful that 20 years ago he knew he wanted to get know me better and that 20 years later we still feel the same way. We are still growing as people and as a couple. I am grateful we are growing together and not apart. I pray for 20, 40, 60 more years together and am so glad that on that cold night in January the Lord gave me my perfect mate. “
I would encourage couples to think about, remember and discuss why they fell in love, why they chose to be together and why they are still together. Among the piles of laundry, book bags and lists of things to do, couples should stop and smell the roses of their relationship.