David and I had been dating for six months or so, and I was trying to figure out if I really loved him. I had liked him from the beginning—what was there not to like? He was kind and considerate, smart and articulate, hard-working and careful with his money. He was really into me and would write poems and leave long romantic voicemails when we were apart. We could talk for hours about deep things, like the meaning of life and our hopes and dreams for the future.
Problem was I wasn’t very attracted to him physically. It’s not that I thought he was ugly—but I did think he looked kind of funny with his outdated glasses, and he was scrawny, and sometimes when we kissed I noticed his bad breath.
But he was such a good guy, and we had so much in common, and I really liked him as a person—so we kept on dating. Most days I was convinced I loved him.
Sometimes, though, doubts would flare like fireworks (not the romantic kind). On one such occasion we were at Myrtle Beach with his family for vacation and we had ended the night by watching Walk the Line, a movie about Johnny Cash. Something in the movie troubled me. Johnny Cash was everything David was not: ruggedly handsome, a rebel, the kind of man who needed a woman’s love to tame him. And I found myself, like so many women, attracted to the bad boy.
In comparison, David just seemed boring. One dimensional. Unattractive. Way too predictable.
After the movie was over, David and I sat arm in arm on the porch overlooking the ocean. It was too dark to see the waves, but we could hear them lapping as the tide rolled in. I told David about my doubts, about how the movie had made me feel, that I knew it was kind of silly and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but this was what I was struggling with. We had that kind of honest relationship, we trusted each other enough to be honest about our doubts. David listened patiently. I don’t remember if he said much, or if he just listened. I’m sure he reassured me that he loved me, as hard as that must have been when there I was questioning our love.
The story could have ended there. I could have decided that David and I just didn’t have enough chemistry and called it quits.
But I’m really glad that it didn’t. Something in me recognized that in relationships—and ultimately in marriage—there are some things that matter more than others. When we are in our seventies and celebrating our fiftieth wedding anniversary, I’m probably not going to be too disappointed that I didn’t marry that rebel on his motorcycle. Instead I’ll be grateful for all of the character traits that David has that helped us to have a long-lasting and joyful marriage: his consistency, his patience, his willingness to admit he is wrong, his trustworthiness.
Five years into marriage, I do not find David to be the least bit boring. That’s the beauty of giving yourself to another person: the more you give, the more you discover how deep and complex and vastly interesting that other person is. Over time the buttoned-up, straight-laced guy (he used to be Amish, after all!) that I thought I knew became more dimensional and more attractive to me. But it wasn’t that he was changing, it was that love was giving me new eyes to see him as he actually is.