Everyone knows you are supposed to marry your best friend. I think it’s not only normal, but necessary that during the dating period, before marriage, you become best friends. Almost everyone I know describes their wedding day as the day they married their best friend. I know I did. But I always expected that I would marry my best friend for exactly the reasons I stated above. My favorite part of our story is not that I married my best friend. It’s that I started dating my best friend.
I flew into Kansas less than a week after he flew out of Tampa. I walked off of that plane and straight into his arms. (Another thing that has never happened when I am reunited with Beth.) Trying to seem like “just friends” was starting to feel unnatural. Stealing moments to snuggle had started feeling right.
I’ve never been much of a hand holder. I used to tell him that holding hands felt more intimate to me than kissing someone. “There’s something kind of leash-like about the whole thing, don’t you think?” I asked him. No. He liked holding hands and chalked that up as another weird Mindy-ism. However, knowing how I felt about it, he never tried to hold my hand. And I was shocked to find that I was the one who initiated it. I wanted to hold his hand. I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt that way.
The whole week was a whirlwind of dates and experiences. At the end of that week I had three weeks left before I was supposed to sell my car, pack my life, and move to New York.
“Do you need help packing?” He asked me when he dropped me off at the airport. It was a no-brainer. Of course I needed help! And if we never got around to packing but spent the whole week at the beach- well, that would be okay too. Surely I could pack in a week!
I went home, and a few days later, he landed in Tampa for the second time that month. It’s funny to me to look back at how we were still clinging to the term “friendship” for whatever this was. I’m sure all of our friends (and certainly our families) were just shaking their heads when we denied that we were “dating.” But even we had noticed that the kisses had gotten longer and the time spent talking about other people had decreased to almost nothing
We spent another week going on bachelor-style dates. We flew planes, we shot guns, we boated out to the islands in my back yard. He met my friends. He started really getting to know my family. We survived a vicious dog attack, where our sweet Sydney’s life hung in the balance.
After five broken bones, two titanium plates, and a dozen screws smaller than eyeglass screws, we finally decided that in order to give this thing the chance it deserved, we should probably agree to stop seeing other people.
It was a fairytale. Almost. But let me make this part clear to anyone who thinks that dating your best friend would be the easiest thing in the world: It. Is. Not. We knew everything about each other. I thought that would make everything easier. And on one hand- it did give us a unique advantage, but on another, knowing everything sure has potential to complicate a relationship.
For example, he knew that historically when a guy started talking about the future, it kind of freaked me out. He also knew that the words, “I think I love you,” had been the beginning of the end to many of my relationships. Knowing all of this, he was hesitant to ever tell me exactly how he felt.
I knew that he had been known to fall fast and fight hard for things just so that he didn’t have to admit that he’d misjudged it. So when he wasn’t saying those three little words I was longing to hear it made me wonder… Was he feeling everything I was? This little combination didn’t make it easy at the beginning. We had to push everything out of our heads that we knew about what the person had been like in past relationships to give ourselves a chance to discover what we would be like in this relationship. The idea of the future- in fact, the idea of forever- didn’t scare me at all anymore. And he didn’t want to say anything he’d ever said before.
Falling in love with someone you’ve already loved for years is a complicated business, and not for the faint of heart… but it is also the most fantastically romantic adventure either of us has ever gone on.
He deployed (for the fourth time since we had started talking daily) and I was falling head over non-designer heels for New York. For about six months we made long distance look easy, much to the disgust of my roommate. “Are you kidding me?” she would say, as she’d bring in a handful of letters. We wrote to one another every day.
I took two weeks off and flew to Kansas for his homecoming. We spent a mini summer vacation traveling around Kansas, Oklahoma and South Carolina.
A few weeks later, he visited New York. We flew back and forth all fall, missing each other more every time we had to say goodbye. We’d planned for him to spend Christmas and New Years with me in the city, but just before Thanksgiving we found out that he was about to deploy (again).
Long distance is one thing, but long distance for half the year and desert distance for the other half, is another. As much as I loved seeing that face (and who can blame me? Mustache and all…), I was so tired of facetime!
Less than a year after I moved to New York, a city that enchanted every ounce of my being, I told him that as much as I never wanted to leave it, every time we flew away from one another, I realized that I never wanted to leave him even more. We started to discuss making a change that would let us be together. His Air Force commitment allowed him very little flexibility, so NYC was out of the question. He was stationed in Wichita, Kansas. That was not something that was going to change. If we wanted to live in the same city, that meant I’d have to move… to Kansas.
“Where is Kansas, exactly?” That was the question I got asked more often than anything else when I told people I was going to be relocating from Manhattan to Wichita. I grew up on the west coast beaches of Florida where babies learn to swim before they learn to walk. Leaving the beach for the city was an adjustment, but it was intoxicating. Leaving the city for the country… well let’s just say if it had been any other guy, it would have been a story that never got told. And yet, because that move was for this particular guy, it was the most exciting move of my life.
It was the first time in my life that I had given my future with someone higher priority than my future alone. I put in my notice and flew to Kansas (with my little dog too) in February of 2014, a few weeks before he got back from the desert. I signed a lease for an apartment (call me old fashioned, but I wasn’t moving in before he put a ring on it) and started making arrangements to move all of my things to Kansas.
Wichita is charming. I’d never lived in a small town before and I was excited about starting a new chapter there. I was excited to get to “date” my boyfriend without buying a plane ticket first. I was excited to start sharing a life together. For those of you who know the story, you know we never really got to do any of that. But I think that’s enough love talk for February!
One of these days I’ll tell “the one where I never got to live in Kansas”. And “the one where he proposed in a U-haul”. And “the one where we planned a wedding while we planned a move to Japan”. Maybe next “Valentine’s Week” I will get around to all of those!