My husband and I first met online before we met in person. I had just broken off my engagement. In my boredom, I started hanging out in Yahoo Messenger (naturally), which was like Reddit, but not really so much. We met in one of the computer geek rooms, where he slayed with his awesome advice while I tried to figure out if I was in the right place. Back then, meeting online was much less commonplace than it is now, so much so that when the pastor marrying us asked for our backstory, we asked him not to use it in the ceremony. Our officiant ignored the request, but nobody could understand much of what he was talking about during the ceremony, so it wasn’t a big deal.
I drove downstate a few months after “meeting” my then-boyfriend to see him in person, which gave me a few hours to overthink the whole relationship. By the time I arrived at his job (daylight, check; public place, check), I was reasonably sure the trip had been a mistake and I should have stayed hidden behind the keyboard, but then we saw each other. It was a long-ass drive, he’d spotted me, he was adorable, and I already loved him, so I stayed.
His grandmother had just died, and his great aunt and great uncle were in town for a couple of days—I’ve always had a knack for timing—so we stopped by his mom’s house to have dinner with all of them. Lessons from that evening included:
- His mom had scent sensitivity issues, and I was, of course, wearing a scent
- His mom thought that Chicago, my home since birth, was primarily ruled by gargantuan rats and liquor store robberies
- He and his mother were very close
- Aunt Helen and Uncle Jerry were a blast, once again proving my grandparents’ generation way cooler than my parents’
Despite me apparently trying to kill his mom with cologne and threatening to encroach on her time with her only son, she seemed to be at least mildly tolerant of me. We have a solid relationship now, aided by a mutual love for both her son and our daughter, her first grandchild. Time and distance hasn’t hurt things, either.
By contrast, my family adored my then-boyfriend immediately. He was a genuinely nice guy, he bought Grandma butterscotch in a glass jar from Navy Pier, and my former fiancé was such a piece of work that they figured they should throw their support behind the new guy so I wouldn’t go back.
We spent a little over a year taking turns making the three hour drive to the other’s house for the weekend. While I was always thrilled to see him, I liked the weeks he drove better. It wasn’t so much the drive, although that was no treat. The main issue was I had this habit of staying over Sunday night and Peoria at 5:00 am Monday morning to drive straight to work. I hated Mondays more than Garfield on that I Hate Mondays poster. I also stank at getting to work on time, possibly because I kept stopping off to nap at the mall parking lot in Joliet.
Once we were engaged, we realized there was a lot to sort through before we got married, but the chief concern was where we were going to live. We both had established lives and responsibilities that kept us tethered to our homes both metaphorically and physically. He had the family business, which consisted of franchise locations he couldn’t run remotely, and he knew his mom would be upset if he moved away. I had a career that was finally progressing, my former fiancé’s little boy, who I still spent time with a few days a week as we tried to maintain our relationship, and my own family considerations.
Ultimately, we decided to be based near me. He had earned a degree in computer engineering and had been working as a programmer before he needed to take over the business after his father died. His programming job prospects in the city were better than my project manager prospects downstate.
The other main consideration for me was the fact that I had rheumatoid arthritis. RA is an insidious illness that spends all of its time chipping away at your body joint by joint and organ by organ. Medication can help with symptoms and in some ways slow the progression of the disease, but RA is part of every major life decision, including this one. At the time, I was several years post-diagnosis and my meds were working well, so the disease wasn’t slowing me down. Full steam ahead!
We bought a house not too far from my apartment a few months before we were married. The wedding…is a story for another time. Suffice to say it was small yet memorable. After a lovely, dry-heat filled honeymoon in Arizona, we settled into married life.
We are alike in many ways, which makes for synchronized-swimmer level synergy but also means we are both living with stubborn, sarcastic perfectionists. My mini me Amelia was added to the mix about nine years ago. Our snow globe of a life was shaken vigorously, but when all the glittery bits settled, our new trio was just right. The first 20 years haven’t been perfect, but they’ve convinced me I’d like at least 20 more.