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In April of 2014, I was sitting on a cushion on the floor in Nepal, eating dinner at a low table and constantly shifting trying to get comfortable. I’d chosen to sit with the guy next to me because he was so handsome, but within one conversation I classified him as “not my type.” I enjoyed talking to him and definitely enjoyed looking at him, but it was done; he was not for me.

That same man got down on one knee this week at the top of a cliff overlooking a stunning view of Alaska, and asked if I would spend my life with him and without an instant of hesitation, I said yes.

I fell in love with that man in the time between that early experience and the latest one and the surprise I found at learning how wrong my first impression was, represents only one of many aspects of my love story that were completely unexpected.

I’ve longed for this relationship since childhood, searched for it all through adulthood, studied the great loves of literature, the insipid loves of cinema, watched my siblings marry and my friends tie their knots. Even with all that exposure and insight, so much of real life and real love has been a surprise to me.

The most wonderful surprise I could ever imagine.

Lesson 1: I didn’t immediately know he would be “the one” 

I’ve told you already that the first few minutes of conversation had me convinced that this man and I had nowhere to go together. But even days later, I thought that I knew what I was talking about when I said ‘it’s a no.’ We were both in Nepal doing humanitarian service and one night the other American girls in the village were matchmaking with the members of our expedition and said he and I would be the perfect pair.

“Why? Just because we’re both tall?”

I assumed that’s about all we had in common, never knowing that we would talk for hours and dance together and seek the same adventures and he would understand my needs before I voiced them and we would travel all over the world together.

My point is, you might not be as wise and intuitive as you think you are. If you initially dismissed someone as “not your type,” but you keep ending up in their life or they keep ending up in yours and you find that you really enjoy their company or their conversation, maybe you misjudged them or the potential of your relationship.

This man that will soon be my husband is totally different than the type of boy I have always been interested in, but he is perfect for me in ways that I could not have foreseen for myself.

I always thought that when I met that person, I would know it. I also thought that if anyone ever threw me a surprise party, I would know it. But the day before my 21st birthday I walked in to a house full of cheering friends I completely did not expect to see and years later, I looked into this man’s eyes many times having no idea I was looking at my husband.

Sometimes you just don’t see stuff coming, so don’t be too hasty in your judgments of good people.

Lesson 2: A little boldness pays off

Three months after we met in Nepal, we got into a conversation over the phone (me in Utah and he in Alaska) that started out with a casual,

“went to lunch with [a mutual friend] today, when am I going to go to lunch with you?”

“If you were in Alaska, we could have all kinds of delicious meals”

“Maybe I should just come up there”

“Well, maybe you should.”

That accelerated quickly. We were kind of teasing and then all of the sudden, we weren’t. We were laughing through it like it was completely hypothetical, but suddenly I was booking a very un-hypothetical plane ticket.

I went up there assuming we were just going to be friends, that seeing a beautiful place with a handsome person is just good for one’s mental health, but I also went because I didn’t want to not go and then always wonder what would’ve happened if I had. On the plane ride up, the lady next to me said, “what are you doing in Alaska?” and internally I said, “I-have-absolutely-no-idea!-I-don’t-know-this-guy-at-all-what-am-I-doing??!!” Out loud I politely said, “visiting a friend.”

It was a risk to fly thousands of miles for a boy. It’s pretty hard to maintain the air of only casual interest with a move like that, but it has paid off in incredible ways. One of those Alaska nights, sitting in a restaurant having one of the most romantic evenings of my life, I looked outside and saw a boat parked nearby called “Wild Abandon.”

That is exactly what love requires I think. Just a little bit of wild abandon.

With great risk comes great reward, this I now know to be true.

Lesson 3: Showing who I really am is what he fell in love with

‘I am who I am and that’s all that I am’, but sometimes in dating I have been known to tone down my eccentricities in the hopes that it would make me more desirable. It’s easy to see the guys you’re interested in pursue other girls and think, “if I were more like her, he’d like me.” “That girl seems to have it all, I wish I was like that.”

You shouldn’t wish to be anything different than the very best version of yourself.

On our first date, the man who’s going to be my husband asked if I would sing for him. I felt so sheepish and I know the mini performance didn’t go well, but I love music and I love musicals and that love came through and he valued getting to know a genuine part of me. Sometimes I’ll get going on a rant about something I feel really strongly about and then stop and think, “oh no, I said too much.” But he always smiles and says he loves seeing what I’m passionate about (even if it’s not an interest we share).

If you’re with someone who doesn’t want to see and understand the deepest and truest part of yourself, then you probably won’t want to be with that person when things get difficult and you don’t have the energy to put up a front anymore. Seek to be valued for the things that make you unique not dilute who you are to be what you think someone wants. You might be totally wrong about what they wanted and lose yourself in the process.

Lesson 4: Saying things that are scary to say, always feels better after 

This might be one of the most consistently surprising discoveries that love has brought into my life. I’ve spent a lifetime afraid of hard conversations. Afraid to tell a friend that I wanted him to be more than a friend, afraid to break up with someone that was more invested than me, afraid to say when something hurt me. I can already tell that one of the great blessings of my life will be that I have found someone that brings things out in the open and works very hard to keep the lines of communication open all the time. Ready to listen, ready to understand.

It was an inside joke with my Dad all through high school, that I would come home and tell a story about a heated conversation I had had with someone. I’d tell how they said one thing and I’d responded with a perfectly witty comeback. He’d always say, “Did you really say that?” And of course my answer was always, “no.”

I think it’s pretty common to feel strongly about something but just keep it inside because you don’t want to ruffle feathers or embarrass yourself. As a result, fears and resentments build and become much bigger issues than they should’ve been in the first place.

I’ve begun to get in the practice of just saying, “when you respond that way, it makes me feel like you might not have been listening” or “Next time we’re in this situation, is there any way you could be a little more sensitive to how I look at that?” I really want to avoid getting to the point of angered “you always’s” and “you nevers”. I often feel sheepish to approach these things, worried that we’ll come away from the conversation feeling disconnected or distant. Instead, it always makes us closer.

I always go in scared and come out more in love with him. 

Lesson 5: I can do better than my first reaction 

Along that same line, loving someone has the power to make you a bigger person than you were before. Sometimes something is said or done and my knee-jerk reaction is annoyance or petty anger. But falling in love has put the microphone up to a voice inside of myself that I didn’t even know was there before. It is a deep, resonant voice that reminds me that I love this person and if anyone in the world deserves the benefit of the doubt from me, he does.

Love means trusting one another with very vulnerable, fragile parts of ourselves. Once someone has trusted you with that, you have to be a wise steward of it or you don’t deserve them. 

Lesson 6: He was worth the wait

I’m happy to report to those of you that have read my articles on Meridian since age eighteen and watched my great desires to understand and recognize true love be frustrated or at the very least postponed, that this man was absolutely worth the wait.

I’m so glad that I didn’t panic and grab whoever was nearby to be a companion just so that I wouldn’t have to be alone. I’ve had a life full of many joys, but by far the most overwhelming and wonderful, is the joy of finding someone with whom I feel so deeply connected. Finding a relationship in which I feel so secure and appreciated and valued and wanted has improved every other aspect of my life.

A reader once wrote in and told me that recognizing when you’d found true love is a mystery until it actually happens to you. She compared it to her security guard friend who would work the graveyard shift and anxiously wait for the person that would come to replace him. In the stillness of night time hours, the guard would imagine he’d heard the next guard’s key scrape the lock many times, but when he finally heard the metallic ring of the real key, it was completely different and altogether more real than anything he thought he had heard before. The real thing was unmistakable.

The real thing is unmistakable. And I’m glad that I finally found him.

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