In honor of Valentine’s Day (we know I love this completely made-up holiday), I’m doing a mini series on our marriage. This will only be three posts–past, present, and future–and I’m just going to share snapshots of our relationship at different points. I hope you enjoy!
Chris and I have known each other since high school. We were in the same youth group at church and while we didn’t run in the same circles, we were around each other often. He was a year behind me in school and a scrawny band nerd. I knew of him, everyone called him “Graham,” and I did not care about him one tiny bit.
In high school, Chris Graham was not on my radar.
I wasn’t on his either.
Four years and a million bad dates and relationships later, our friend Aaron returned from college and invited both of us to a bonfire one night. There were other people there too. Well, okay, one other person, so it wasn’t a set up, but just friends from high school getting together to hang out.
And by the glow of the fire, I saw Chris Graham with new eyes. With new heart eyes, to be exact. He hadn’t changed much from high school, still scrawny and kinda nerdy (he would disagree with this, but it’s my blog so I say what I want), but I was smitten. I was drawn to his quiet confidence and dirty, hippie ways.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
What’s funny is Chris wasn’t interested in me at all. I would like to share a romantic story about how we locked eyes from across the flames and it was love at first (second) sight but it wasn’t. I liked Chris and he was, at best, just polite toward me.
Mission accepted. (Said dumb, clueless girls everywhere.)
We had our first date the day after my birthday in the fall of 2004. I was a youth leader for our high school group at church and he played in the band. We had spent the weekend at a retreat in southern Indiana and as he walked me to my cabin that night, he asked if I’d like to have lunch the next day. I said yes while trying to remain calm. Then I went home and had to inform my family that my birthday lunch was cancelled (yes, I did cancel my birthday celebration…), because I had a date with Chris Graham.
We went to Subway.
I think I paid.
It was just as romantic as it sounds. I thought he was broke so I felt bad and bought our sandwiches. Come to find out later, he wasn’t broke, he was just never going to put up a fight if I wanted to spend my money instead. Rude.
This year we’ll celebrate our ten-year anniversary and when I think about our start, how unconventional and weird it was, I get the giggles. My husband was the most clueless man ever to walk the planet. He didn’t know how to date. He didn’t know how to woo. And he really didn’t know what to do with loud, slightly-aggressive Mary Ritter.
About a month later, we had our first kiss, and it was just as awkward as our first date. I liked him so much, (and he sorta liked me? I’m not sure.) and, after our first kiss in my parents’ garage one night, I remember thinking it might have been the worst kiss of my life. It was the exact opposite of everything I had imagined it would be. AND I HAD IMAGINED IT SO MANY TIMES.
I might have built it up in my head so much, we didn’t have anything to do but crash land.
I’m not sure if movies and books made me think all love stories had to be picture-perfect, but ours was not. We were weird and awkward, bumbling and ungraceful in our courtship. We also had a built-in audience for our blossoming relationship with a whole high school youth group watching our every move and just so happy we were dating.
We dated six months and then broke up.
Specifically, Chris Graham broke up with me.
I’m not going to lie, it was devastating. I thought we were heading toward marriage (hello, Christian community that moves too fast toward marriage–that was me) and then he ended it. I couldn’t recover; I lost a ton of weight by only eating cookie dough for weeks (true story; so gross). I didn’t want to hang out with friends. I couldn’t focus on my last semester of college. I couldn’t stop sleeping all the time. I finally told my parents I thought I needed to go see someone about my depression. I couldn’t find a way out of my funk.
It took me months–like three or four—before I felt half-way normal. Not back to normal, but alright with being in the land of the living again. It was–at the time–the worst experience of my life. Looking back, so many horrible things were heading my way, but in the moment, I just couldn’t see out of my broken heart.
So when Chris Graham wandered back into my life the fall of 2005, the people were NOT happy. Repeat: the people were NOT happy. No one was happy or excited or encouraging. It took an army to rouse me from the trenches and no one was ready to do that again. Plus, they weren’t sure I would survive this time.
We kept our slow-moving, possibly-dating-again relationship under wraps. I would recommend not doing this to the people you love, but it’s what we did. We didn’t know what we were doing, we decided to not jump right back into what we had before, and we were somewhat scared of each other. I demanded too much and he demanded too little. We were either going to get it right this time, or we were going to hurt each other in ground-shaking ways.
Not to spoil the ending, but a year later–exactly two years after our first date–we got married on a crisp fall day. I walked down the aisle barefoot and all my favorite youth group kids helped with set up, passed out programs, and posed with me for pictures. It was a day spent surrounded by our best friends and family (who were now pro-Chris Graham again), and we just had the best time.
But dang, our start was rough.