“I wasn’t planning on falling in love. I believed in love and soulmates and all that jazz, but I was the person that cheered on other’s relationships and gave advice and tips for how to romance their partners. Me, I had never been in love. Just a lot of abusive relationships that always ended badly.
When I first met him, I was cleaning tables at McDonald’s. Honestly, I preferred it over the drama in the back, since I was only working there 3 days a week anyway to have more time for appointments and therapies with my special needs 3-year-old (GDD/sensory processing disorder/OCD). I saw his daughter first. She was five, and utterly beautiful. Making small talk as always, I told him this, and we talked about our kids.I nearly regretted mentioning it at first though. Here I was in my ugly blue shirt at an entry level job (I had several years management exp before this), and wouldn’t you know it… He had to be so damn sexy and have the most beautiful blue eyes I had ever seen. And he just HAD to hold them on mine. Of course, he did. I’m pretty sure my mind and body got sucked right into them as I struggled to hold a conversation without staring. He mentioned that he used to work there and was coming back in a few weeks. I gave the famous, ‘Maybe I’ll see you then.’ line and half ran back to the kitchen as if I literally had anything to be doing anyway. I asked about him of course, and not one person had a single bad thing to say.
Eventually we found each other on Facebook. (he claims he texted me first). He texted me back every 5-10 mins for a week straight … yet never asked me out so I wasn’t 100% sure if he liked me in that way. Maybe he just texted a lot??
Half hour drives took 3 hours because I’d pull over and text every 2 minutes. We had both been in a lot of bad relationships, and neither of us were necessarily looking. So, I took a drive halfway across the state to meet up with another guy I’d casually talked to on a dating site. There wasn’t really any attraction for me, but I hadn’t been on a date in months, so I figured why not? The guy was moving 3,000 miles away to Albuquerque in a year anyway so no pressure.
Lo and behold, the ‘date’ was pretty awful, the guy had no holds on his thoughts and was still sleeping with someone and had hickeys to prove it. I hightailed it out of there and messaged my future love. It was late at this point, but he offered me a chance to come hang out. I responded with, ‘Really? Can I? It’ll be like 3 hours, but I’ll be there at 2:30 a.m.ish’ He seemed surprised that I followed up on it, something he hadn’t expected me to say yes to.
He waited up half the night for me, and as usual, we talked for hours. I cuddled up against him, and nervously cuddled against him. He was like a celebrity crush to me, how was I able to touch him or have his arm around me?? I’m awkward and weird and have a million health issues. Me??!! I had to keep sneaking my face up to his for at least an hour before I finally got my kiss. He was the most respectful guy I had ever met. He wouldn’t do anything without my full consent and permission every single time. I told him it was a yes regardless, that if he wanted any physical contact or anything, just to go for it because I still questioned if he felt the same rush that I did. He didn’t accept that answer and continued to give me the choice of what I wanted and the option to say no to anything for at least the first month. I essentially moved in that first night … or at least never moved out!
We both had full custody of our kids, and we knew we didn’t want getting hurt from it. We didn’t take a relationship lightly knowing this. Still, he never swayed from being there for my special needs son and getting to know him and involve him. We went out on dates with his daughter to see movies and she laid in my lap while I brushed her hair. He was a bit standoffish that night and told me that the kids were getting too attached, and that I had better be serious about this if it were going to go any further. I cried in his arms that I knew in that moment of watching Toy Story 4 that his daughter was meant to be in my life just as much as he was, and that I would never hurt either one of them.
The kids learned to share a bedroom, and with a lot of guidance on not poking/picking each other up all the time (my son quickly went from avoidance of other kids to having to hug and kiss them constantly due to her grabbing his hand and picking him up constantly!), became great friends. They love each other. They still shriek and hug it out every day off of their school buses. They ask about the other when one is seeing their non-custodial parent. My son, Ash, will often demand to sleep in her bed when she isn’t here (and this was the child with no attachment or interest in other kids!).
We had our ups and downs from moving so quick. We had to figure out how to balance work and family time so that no one got burned out. But we knew regardless that our family was worth everything, and so was our love for each other. We talked about marriage and babies two months in. As it turns out, we grew up less than 5 miles away from each other. We would’ve attended the same school. We shared an awful sense of humor, limitless work ethics (workaholics), and a need for utmost respect given to everyone we come across whether we agree with them or not. There’s nothing either of us wouldn’t do for others in need – that’s why we both want to do foster care for at risk kids and teenagers once we have a house.
I still questioned his role for our family with his drive for his career. I didn’t blame him for it (heck it’s something I admire), but I was a bit salty at the thought of giving up my own career to ensure the kids would never be in daycare. My son never was. I wasn’t about to do that to my future stepdaughter. I love adventure and traveling and changing the world. I am a go-getter. How could I work overnights with no chance of career advancement and still find fulfillment in days revolved our kids and my son’s ever evolving needs??
And then it just happened. My son had GI testing. Justin went with us and held his legs while I held Ash’s hands. Ash wanted both Mommy and Daddy there, and Justin stayed. A little over a month after that, I wound up with a severe kidney infection that wouldn’t go away, even with multiple different antibiotics. I was out of work for 2 weeks, and barely able to do anything. As with any UTI, I got into my own head a lot and my mental/emotional health suffered. He held me and listened every time and told me he was never going to leave me.
I opened up and admitted my fears of the days I can’t take of myself or even change my own clothes due to some form of rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. I told him that despite my attempts to always make peace and never hold grudges, that I WAS mad that childhood physical trauma had given me chronic UTIs, and fibromyalgia with stress induced symptoms… anything that sets me off even a tiny bit can automatically render my nerves and muscles useless and I can’t even get out of bed on my own. I get anxiety, IBS, and nearly 100 other sub-conditions from this, and I have a much higher risk of heart attack and cancer than the average person. If I go out in the cold, it feels like every bone in my body is broken. Sometimes it happens without a known trigger. I finally wanted to blame someone for affecting my life in a permanent way (fibromyalgia has no treatment options btw), and taking away from not only me, but my partner and at times, my kids as well. And this amazing man would still hold me, get mad with me, listen to me, and believe in me anyway.
While sick this time, he got the kids ready in the mornings and on the bus. He went to class, and then work. When he got home at 5, he would take the kids for me again. He’s cleaned. Floors, laundry, dishes. He said he brought me something from the grocery store yesterday … I was assuming maybe another heating pad or drink options … And he brought me in a bouquet of colorful flowers even though HE’S the one who deserves them right now.
He never hesitates to do what needs to get done and takes on every role in a fresh light. He’s always smiling, always telling me that we’ll get through anything. And I believe him. I found the partnership I had always been craving. I found a love that I never knew existed. He loves me in ways I never thought I could be and heals my past and my doubts. With him, it’s waking up in Wonderland every day knowing that my life is now too good to be possibly be true… And yet his smile and cute sleeping face tells me that its real. He gives me all of the love, freedom, and self-expression to be everything I always wanted to be. I belong with him, this life and the next. Forever and one day more. I don’t know where our life will take us, but I’m ready for this.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Stephanie Otis, 24, of New York. Follow her journey on Instagram here. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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