The Second Proposal

I am not one of those who had multiple opportunities to marry throughout my life. I know people who could have married anyone. Had numerous suitors and sorted through them like a closet stuffed with clothing. Not me. I can count on one hand the number of men who were even remotely attracted to me and not one of them saw me as a take home to mom prospect. For me there has only been Will and now Rob.

My first engagement was storied. Surprise. One knee, rose, wine and a ring in a box. Very school girl fantasy.

Rob and I were not school kids though I was hardly a girl with Will either being 35 and all. But Rob and I came to be engaged after knowing each other for just a tad more than three months, and I would characterize the courtship as not usual.

The third anniversary of our betrothal is tomorrow  – sort of – and I don’t think I have every really written about it.

Rob came down to Iowa to pick me up for a Spring Break trip. He actually began planning this vacation for me early in our friendship when we were still just friends. Destination – Arkansas. We took Dee to my folks but had headed back to my home in Des Moines to visit with BFF and her husband before heading out. We went to dinner and saw the raunchiest comic/hypnotist show at a local comedy club before getting home around midnight.

A couple of weeks early, we’d talked about my coming to Canada. I made it clear that a move of that magnitude was not whimsical nor could I do any “test-driving” of living together. It’s not that I am old-fashioned. I just think living together is not a test for marriage compatibility.

“Let’s see if we are compatible by playing at house.” is a stupid idea that is mostly doomed to failure because I have rarely witnessed two people do this having discussed in advance what they want or where they are really going. And playing is how children learn things. Adults at play are … well … adults just playing. Nothing more or less.

Before you wonder, I told Will the exact same thing when he was basically spending every minute at my house within a month of our dating. I don’t live with someone unless we are getting married in the very near future. I don’t believe that two people learn anything from the process that simply having frank discussions about wouldn’t reveal and compatibility is like happily ever after – a matter of mindset and resolve. If I am in love and committed, do socks and underwear on the floor or snoring or never remembering to start the dishwasher before bed so there are clean dishes for the next day really matter all that much? Shouldn’t tightwadness or ditzy behavior have already been apparent? Sexism isn’t something that is easily cloaked until close quarters flushes it out and if you need to “test drive” someone, isn’t that really a red flag?

I knew that Rob and I were compatible. I wasn’t so naive that I believed that marriage is some flower and singing animal strewn forest of nuptial bliss. I didn’t need a test drive. Do you test drive friendships or do you just have them?

Before we went to bed, Rob took a box out of his suitcase and showed me the rings. An engagement band and a wedding ring.

“I’m not ready to ask the question, but I want you to wear this,” he told me.

I protested. I didn’t want this until he was ready. I could wait. He insisted.

We headed out the next morning to stock the ice chests for the trip and then hit the highway south with me ringed. It felt strange to wear a ring again. I’d taken my wedding ring from Will off the day after his funeral and it took months of rubbing my ring finger raw to get used to it being gone. Now it felt funny to have the finger encased again. I chalked it up to my whole thing with jewelry in general. I just am not meant to be adorned.

The second night in Arkansas – and again we were in bed – Rob said,

“You know what I wasn’t ready to ask? I’m ready. Will you marry me?”

And I said yes because I was too.

On the way back to pick up Dee at my folks’, we had a marathon discussion session. I don’t think I knew as much about Will after several years of marriage as I did about Rob after Arkansas. Very little was left unsaid. Full disclosure then and since. Too often we fall into this trap of believing that all will be revealed over time through gestures and situations and that another person can be learned through proximity. But I lived with my parents for 18 years and I don’t think either one of them ever really knew me. And it wasn’t for lack of time or love. We just didn’t talk. Really talk.

Closeness is more than sharing a bed and bath.

10 thoughts on “The Second Proposal

  1. Funny you wrote all that at this point in mine and John’s relationship…

    We however did do the “living together” thing before he proposed, however not for long… and we married rapidly. We both knew we wanted to get married and from Ryan (we were together for 7 years and finally married 2 months before he died) I learned that you don’t waste time when it feels right. And when we first were together, we talked. ALOT. Full disclosure. It not only was right, but we knew we were meant to be together.

    Until now.

    I speculate that during our courtship, I wasn’t myself. I JUST recently (in the last 6 months) have started feeling like MYSELF again. The old me. The me that was before Ryan died. And now, when all this is finally coming full circle, John and I have seemed to stop communicating as much. (Both our own faults… we’ve been forgetting to make time for each other…)

    In the end, I am most certainly happy we got married and didn’t just continue to co-habitate because if we hadn’t, end results may have been different. I love him through it all though, bottom line. I’m happy that we married before any of this surfaced because now we will be forced to work on our relationship and start communicating again (we just took a 3 day trip to a cottage by ourselves).

    I don’t know if that relates well to what you wrote but that’s what I took out of it 🙂


    1. It’s funny that you bring up the “feeling like myself” thing. We discussed that in yoga training last weekend. Patanjali says that our true self is always. It doesn’t waver or change but that our perception of self is subject to distortion that can be caused be life going on around us.

      I found widowhood to be a distortion that was projected at/on me and that meeting Rob was what finally allowed me to shed the idea that I had to grieve in some step by step way or at all.

      I am sorry you are having a difficult time in your marriage. It’s ebb and flow. Marriage. I think that’s where some people get into trouble, they view the ebb as a red flag when most of the time it probably isn’t. It’s just a signal to pay more attention. Enjoy your holiday.

  2. i went to dinner with a friend from work and stayed for 25 years. backed into that with no planning, discussion or foresight. i was 19. it turned out ok, but i would never again live with someone without a comprehensive negotiation of expectations and ‘rules of engagement’… not exactly the definition of romance.

    but somehow, through your story, there IS romance… congratulations. it’s beautiful.

    1. There is a lot of romance in security. Knowing that you are known, and loved and on the same page? Priceless. This whole silliness about spontaneity and flying by the seat of love’s pants is better left behind in high school. Couples empowered to speak their minds, plan and be able to cop to their fears, desires and needs? Again. Priceless.

  3. For me, I would never marry again. The legal ramifications are too big. I know too many women who have had to file bankruptcy because of bills their exes incurred without their knowledge. Also, I lived in fear for two years that my ex would try to pick up the girls from their school while I waited for those divorce papers that granted me sole legal and physical custody. My sister’s ex legally kidnapped one of their sons for three months and took him from CA to Illinois while she fought the court system (a lot more complicated when there is more than one state involved).
    Marriage can be extremely hazardous to women and children! Living together only involves changes of address forms.

    1. I hear where you are coming from, but living together isn’t a secure commitment and in a lot of states, not being legally wed won’t necessarily save a person from creditors if there is anything held jointly. I was not comfortable with the idea. It meant, to me, that there were serious doubts and fears and how can a relationship build on a foundation like that? I think a lot more than addresses are changed. Expectations and values are placed on a slippery slope.

      I am sorry that you had to go through such a difficult time during your divorce. Your sister’s situation highlights what is still so wrong about our legal system and how it can be manipulated to the detriment of children.

  4. Very similar to my wife and I in terms of our approach to things. It’s interesting to see someone else with the same mindset.

    Congratulations on the upcoming milestone. 🙂

  5. A wonderful post, reminding us of how great love after loss can be. I am not saying this out of experience, rather out of what I imagine it can be. It seems to make sense that when you know, you know. There is so much you learn after loss, so much wisdom gained, that it can only enrich any relationship, making it deeper. I am so happy that you and Rob found each other.

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