I still remember my first love. Do you? Of course you do. It's something you just can't forget.
For me, he sat across from me in Journalism 101 at my university when I was 19. He stared at me until the end of class when he asked if I wanted to buddy up for a research project about carbon monoxide. From that moment on, my life changed. And it wasn't because I married him—because I didn't.
We were together two great years, and I was convinced that he was my soulmate. But some rough things happened along the way, my heart broke, and he ended up across the country, and we never spoke again.
I dated others, had a fun college career, and met a wonderful man I actually got engaged to along the way. He was funny, a quarterback with a passion for football, and we had fun. He changed my life, but it wasn't because I married him. Because I didn't.
After a few months of being engaged he broke it off, and I was left crying on a bathroom floor, with only my best friend to rock me and tell me I would survive this—that he wasn't the last stop.
Boy, was she was right.
I fell in love, fell apart, and fell into life's ups and downs, all along learning valuable lessons time and time again before my husband literally walked through the door. And I wasn't expecting him or searching for him in any way. I let life carry me along, had incredible experiences, and had so much joy in the journey.
I'm so grateful that it took time to find my husband, and that I didn't know him from day one. I'm thankful that the night I met him I was actually waiting on a date that never showed up because of car trouble (go figure), sitting at a restaurant table with my best friend and laughing over glasses of lemonade. He sat at a table across the room, came over to ask me if he could buy me dessert—and he changed my life. And yes—this one became my husband.
We live in a Nicholas Sparks kind of world (I'm not hating on Sparks, because I LOVE his books). In this society, we tend to feel that true romance and true love involves soulmates and fate and destiny and magic pixie dust that gives you the "aha" moment you see in the movies. And for some people, that might be how it goes. But the worst thing for you, or for anyone, to do is to expect that and compare your life to it. Your life is its own spectacular, winding, remarkable, unpredictable story.
Just like for me, the lessons from my former relationships formed me into someone I'm proud of. If you're anything like me, you've found the same things through your experiences of the past or the present.
When your spouse isn't your first relationship, these are the things YOU learn about yourself:
You develop confidence
You've established belief systems and opinions on your own
You know what you deserve and how to give that back
You have made lifelong friends along the way from all of your social interactions
You know the things you can't live with—and all the things you can
You can stand on your own two feet
You know what a broken heart feels like—and you have greater empathy
You are stronger
You are more understanding of differences
You have life experiences to offer to your children
You have a greater capacity to love
You understand what it means to love your choice once you choose your love
There should be no jealousy, no regrets, no hard feelings in the fact that you have one or two or three, or even ten, others along the way that taught you how to love. They also taught you how to sacrifice, how to value relationships and yourself.
There is nothing to be ashamed of to confidently say that your spouse came simply because the road led you to that very point in time where you could recognize him or her, and be the best version of yourself.
So yes—you do have a great love story, despite what the movies and books say. Or if you're still in the stage of dating, you WILL have a great love story. It's all about getting there one step at a time and becoming a better YOU. It has nothing to do with destiny, but everything to do with the journey.
I'm grateful for the heartbreaks. The joys. The people who have been scattered throughout my life like beacons and road signs, so that at the very moment my husband walked through the door, I was sitting at that table. And I was ready for him.