This year, for the first time in my life, I have a real Valentine. And I never thought it would be me. You know that feeling? Everyone else experiences wonderful things, but it feels like it might never be your reality? Maybe that’s just me: I’ve always felt that way about most things. I think because for most of my life I’ve watched my peers experience things I was always left out on. So I still sometimes have those expectations of being left out, you know? But somehow, my reality this year is that I have a boyfriend I love deeply, and he’s my Valentine.
What happened? 😄 That sounds dumb to ask, but looking back: what was it that I did?
The thing is, I never really pursued romance as a teenager and young adult. I actually purposefully tried to avoid pitfalls I saw other Christian young women fall into because I saw how unhealthy it was. I didn’t pine for the love of my life so much that I became obsessed with the idea. I didn’t watch a lot of romance films, hardly at all (except some 80’s classics. “Say Anything” amirite?) I didn’t write a thousand “Dear Future Husband” letters. I didn’t make a list of attributes I wanted to find in a partner (“He must be taller than me, he must have blue eyes, he must have a six-pack, ect.”)
Somehow, I knew that a romantic relationship, a real one with depth and meaning, would be a lot of work with someone who I would love despite their outward appearance. That reading 200 different “dating/courtship opinion” books wasn’t going to set me up for the perfect path for marriage. That anything I could learn from sappy romance movies would be foolish and just a lot of false advertising of what real emotional intimacy was like (it really all is, fake. Even the kissing!!! The mad frantic Hollywood kissing you see IS NOT REAL LIFE, PEOPLE. IT’S NOT. XD)
I didn’t “do” a lot of things like that as a single woman.
What I did do was be someone’s friend.
James and I were just friends for many years, and that was all…but being friends is why I love James like I do today. We liked the same kind of movies; we were raised with very similar beliefs, had similar childhood upbringings, shared enough common tastes to keep talking. And that’s all we did; we just kept talking, more and more and more. He was there when things kept falling apart for me and when things were good. I was there for those same similar moments in his life. During that period of time, we learned one thing we both knew: We liked talking. Spending time together. Laughing together. We genuinely liked each other as people, as friends.
I remember about six months before we became a thing; I realized I had feelings for him. I didn’t want to just say it outright, so I attempted my idea of flirting during our skype chats. Which was to ask things like, “If the zombie apocalypse happened, would you come rescue me?” 😄 He didn’t let on at all that he was understanding my hidden intentions (he did, mostly 😄 ) and I began to legit think he really wasn’t interested in me that way. But why would he be. I was a woman from a dysfunctional family allllll the way in the desert of Arizona about five states away from him. Surely I was just too much to pursue outside of being just friends.
Of course, I later came to find out later that he’d really liked me for a long time and had been waiting for the right time to tell me. (So yeah, now I know what it feels like to be the girl in the high school movies who’s completely ignorant that the hero of the movie is in love with her from across the cafeteria for most of the movie. XD)
But in his ways, he had shown it all along: he always made time for us to talk weekly. He bent over backward to help me rescue my computer multiple times. Always kindly let me be myself and express what I wanted or needed. Just, before we started talking about my first visit, the idea of having a long distance relationship felt impossible (for me before we met in person, it still felt seemingly too difficult and I refused to commit too quickly before I knew I was ready.) And the timing wouldn’t have been right if we hadn’t happened exactly when we had. That was God’s incredible life planning. We’re so thankful that we’re now already over a year from our anniversary of “when we realized we like-liked each other”.
I’m sitting here writing like I’ve always done on Valentine’s Day, writing the thoughts I have on this particular day. I have a big one I want to share, to document, from this past year. It’s my biggest takeaway from this first beautiful relationship I’ve had the honor of being a part of. ❤ It’s something I believe with my whole heart about relationships and making them work.
Be the best of friends first.
And yes, while I know every relationship is going to be different and sometimes things can fall apart because of circumstances out of your control, I truly do believe this is a key ingredient to surviving the bumpy waves of forging and maintaining a romantic relationship with someone. I truly do!
We have to be friends, the best of friends, first. Because we already love our best friends, don’t we? Everyone needs best friends, for they are dependable. They are the ones who are tried and true, the ones who get you for you! One has to know a person well to feel at all safe and trusting in the formation of a romantic relationship, and the only way to know that about someone is to get to know that person as a good friend!
Making friends takes time…but take that time. Don’t muddy who you are together by dating only because they’re cute and you feel a “spark” or because they have money or because your church friends think you two are a good match. No! Forge friendships out of shared common ground and start building them. Spend time together because, hey: you just really like hanging out with this person! They make you laugh and smile, you can talk for hours and it feel like 30 minutes, you can tease and be respectful at the same time, you celebrate your little life victories together, and you empathize, cry, and are there when the dark times come, when the bad news hits, when one more thing happens. James and I did that for several years as just friends and it was wonderful and a comfort to have.
Relationships… and ultimately MARRIAGES… will actually last when you both genuinely like each other and can fight for each other one day at a time. Chemistry, physical attraction; they’re all well and good and have their place, but they are not what you want to pursue as a basis for “I want to be in a relationship with them.” Those things can (and generally are) temporary. Genuinely liking someone because you truly know them and enjoy them, on a mental and emotional level, is so much deeper!
If your relationship is already full of respect, trust, friendship, honesty, and laughter before you decide to start engaging romanticly, having the really hard conversation, getting closer on physical and emotional and mental levels, it will be SO. MUCH. EASIER. (Especially in my own personal case, in which we’re a long distance couple and have to be extra thoughtful and purposeful in our communication.)
If you’ve been honest about yourself and your needs and desires in life, and communicate clearly, it will be easier. When you have that history together, that time under your belt as “best friends”, if you’ve seen their actions line up with the words…becoming romantically involved will give all the fear and insecurity bigger stronger rewards. It will make riding the ocean of emotion and communication so very worth it. This is the biggest thing I’ve learned and am so grateful for taking this route for my relationship.
And don’t worry; honestly, physical attraction comes very naturally when someone wins your heart, at least in my experience. ^_^
So, today is Valentine’s Day and I actually have someone this time!
James sent me 22 ounces of chocolate and a stuffed tiger this week, and two cards in envelopes that I’m dying to open and read (haven’t yet at the writing of this, but I will during out skype call today.) ❤ For the first time here on my blog, I actually have a Valentine this year, one I’m so so blessed to have as my best friend and boyfriend.
And since today is the only acceptable day that I could do this, I now must take a moment to sing some of his praises. He is so much more than I thought I deserved or would ever get to have in a boyfriend or future “Someone”, ever. And he is a very humble guy, so all this praise below will fluster him greatly (he doesn’t flipping know how to take a compliment ROFL) but I told him I just had to write how much he’s blessed and changed my life by being himself. I don’t know why God was so gracious to let me wind up with someone I think is so wonderful but I’m glad He was.
James has never failed me when it matters most. He forgives me every time I fail. He gives me as much attention and affection he possibly can every day, from the sweetest daily goodnight messages to telling me he’s praying for me when I leave for work each day.
I have never felt safer in a man’s presence in my life, from when he walks into a room that I’m sitting in or when he smiles at me from the screen. He’s given me the warmest hugs and kisses. There is a genuine gentleness and peace about him that’s lacked from my life for many years that I can’t believe I get to feel from him. His spirit feels like Home to me.
James is also one of the funniest people I know; he makes me laugh all the time between his array of expressions and voices to his quick wit and teasing humor. I DID always want to be with “the funny guy” and he’s definitely the funny guy for me. 😄 He’s always eager to lift my spirits when I’m low and will do anything to make me smile, which I love! He truly makes my spirit happy!
James also harbors qualities I really wanted in a boyfriend (qualities I think most should look for in their partners but don’t often think about): humility, a willingness to listen and learn, gentleness, and the ability to apologize without feeling defensive. He is all those things and more, in ways I sometimes kinda thought guys couldn’t be (simply from my own life experience.) He is quick to ask for forgiveness, which really really speaks to his maturity. He is sensitive to my feelings and is gentle with me, especially when I’m in distress or having a bad day. He has been quick, ever since when we were simply friends, to listen to me and learn what I like or dislike (vice-versa, that’s why we watched each other’s movie recommendations five years ago. XD)
He tells me I’m beautiful every day, that I’m worth all the distance, that he’s so lucky to have me. I’ve never felt more loved in my life. He honestly changed how I saw myself as a person. I see myself differently in the mirror now; I was even able to lose weight when he helped me love myself at the weight I was. He has changed me for the better in so many ways like that! In just over a year, I’ve changed so much for the better for being with him, in my levels of self-confidence, self-acceptance, and self-worth. Not because he gave me self-worth, but he helped me see that I was already worth millions. ❤
I think the biggest thing James has done for me is show a true representation of God’s love for me through his own love. He is very slow to anger; he is incredibly patient with me, more patient than I sometimes deserve, I think. He always loves me even when I make mistakes. That no matter where I am, even when we can’t see each other, touch each other, hear each other, he still loves me. I have seen better representation for God’s great love for me through James than I have ever seen anywhere else. ❤
I thank God so often that somehow, through all the chaos in my life, I was allowed to have the comfort of friendship from him for so long, and now the comfort of his love that distance can’t stop. I feel so happy to have gotten to experience just the beginning of what they call “love.” To have had my first kiss with the most precious person on earth to me, to hold the heart of someone so eager to love me wholeheartedly, and let him see me, warts and all, and still feel accepted and loved. To have someone to call Home. ❤ It just blows me away. ❤
So, Happy Valentine’s Day, my Darling James! This year I can actually write to you instead of an idea of my future someone in my head; that feels wonderful! Thank you for being my best friend and loving me even when I become emotional wrecks and live with this crazy dysfunctional family, and live so far away. Thank you for always having the best fun with me, for letting me be my spontaneous silly self, for helping me feel truly beautiful, for trying to love me like God loves me. You’ve changed me for the better! ❤ I can’t wait to keep changing and growing with you; we have so far to go and so much still to learn, but I’m excited for it all.
I love you. ❤ We’re the best of friends and I wouldn’t have it any other way. ❤