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How I Met My Husband

I think  Joan Wickersham is my muse. Wickersham is an American writer – most famous for her memoir, The Suicide Index – who also writes...

I think  Joan Wickersham is my muse.

Wickersham is an American writer – most famous for her memoir, The Suicide Index – who also writes regularly for The Boston Globe. An essay of hers about how married couples communicate sparked a post of my own entitled The Private Language of Marriage some months back. And now she’s published another essay about marriage – How We Met – in which she describes the universal fascination we all hold with the story about how couples meet.

In Wickersham’s own case, her initial meeting with her husband was a total dud. They met at a party; she was friendly, he was aloof. They didn’t speak again for 18 months. She also recounts the tales of other couples she knows, some of whom experienced the proverbial “love at first sight,” others who met via a personals ad (“I like to walk in the rain” apparently turned out to be a big draw.)

As Wickersham points out, the reason we’re all so fascinated with the “how we met” narrative is that it’s always about something deeper. These stories are, as she puts it, “fated yet random… Behind every “how we met’’ story is the unspoken question: What if we hadn’t?”

What if, indeed?

Like Wickersham, my husband and I also got off on the wrong foot. We first spoke during a graduate student reception at Stanford University in the autumn of 1993 where we were both pursuing our Ph.Ds in political science. It was one of those horrible affairs where the faculty mill about and speak with one another jovially, while the grad. students hover over in the corner by the food, stuffing as many cheese cubes into their mouths as can decently fit while downing the cheap red wine that’s on offer.

Despite having been at Stanford for over a year at that point, I didn’t actually know my husband, who was a couple of years ahead of me in the program. I was pretty much a hermit at that point in my life, rarely emerging out of the dungeon (yes, that’s what it was called) in the basement of the political science department where they stuck the first and second year students in one giant, communal “office.” (I use this term generously.)

But at this party – where I, too, undoubtedly came out of seclusion in order to gobble down some cheese cubes – I was first introduced to my husband via a mutual friend. He made a joke about something – I no longer remember what – which I took (mistakenly) to be misogynistic. I left that meeting with two thoughts about him: a. he’s cute and b. too bad he’s a jerk.

Fast forward a few weeks, to our second meeting. This time, it came at my initiative. I was putting together a dissertation committee and someone suggested that I consult with the “jerk” who was to become my husband, as he’d assembled a very diverse group of scholars for his own committee. I remember thinking “Ugh. That guy?” when his name came up. But work was work, and I decided to put my first impressions behind me. So I asked him if we could meet for coffee to talk dissertation committees.

Somehow, because of scheduling conflicts, coffee morphed into dinner. We met at an Italian restaurant in Palo Alto. We were in the middle of talking about god-knows-what scintillating aspect of political theory when he turned to me and said something about my eyes. Suddenly, I became aware that what I’d been thinking of as a business meeting was actually…a date.  “Oh my God! I’m on a date!” ran through my mind as I tucked into the lasagna. And the rest, as they say, is history.

What I learned from that date many moons ago is that you should always give people a second chance. The first time I met my husband, I thought he was a loser. That was just so wrong. (He was cute, however, so I got that part right.) I also learned that you always need to be open to suggestion in life. Because sometimes even when your head’s stuck in a book (or a dimly lit basement office, or an Italian restaurant menu), your future is sitting right before your eyes. You just need to open them long enough to see it.

And finally, I learned – over time – that the “What if we hadn’t met?” question is an unfathomable one for me. My husband – who is now also my best friend - technical advisor – father-to-my-kids - fellow consumer of DVD commentaries all rolled into one – might, for want a cheese cube, be just another stranger I once met at a party. As a die-hard control freak, it’s nice to know that once in a while, fate really does matter.

OK, your turn. How did you meet your husband/wife/partner (past or present) and what did you learn from that experience?

Image: paneer, cubed by chotda via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

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  1. Lynn C October 11, 2010 at 1:17 pm #

    My Much-later-to-be husband and I got off on really bad terms. Not just “classified as jerk” but “had to literally be dragged apart by friends because we were going to KILL each other.” For months after our first meeting, if he came into a room, I would leave. And the bad thing was, we had a ton of interests in common, so we were always bumping into each other at social events.

    Eventually, I decided to stop letting him chase me away from things I wanted to do, just because I didn’t want to talk to him… and when my mother attempted suicide, he was the only one of my social group I could find. And he really helped me; which was odd. I hadn’t been expecting it. All I knew about him was that he aggravated me, so when he offered a shoulder and an ear… I wouldn’t have taken it if I hadn’t been so desperate.

    After that, we were friends for a few months, then he left college because of some complications with his family, and I didn’t see him again for almost 2 years. When we did finally bump into each other again, the chemistry was completely different. We were dating exclusively within two weeks, and married just over a year afterwards. We’ve been together now for over 14 years.

    • delialloyd October 11, 2010 at 8:41 pm #

      Ah, Lynn, so your courtship was more Sound of Music like, then. (Pathetic sign of my current state of mind that all things devolve to Sound of Music references. Hazards of having a 6 year old daughter, I suppose…) But what a great story. All’s well that ends well!

  2. Lisa October 11, 2010 at 3:50 pm #

    Delia! I did not know you were at Stanford. I’m a dope! My father taught there all his career, in the English Department, and was at one point the Dean of Graduate Studies. And I’m dying to know, which Italian restaurant?:).

    • delialloyd October 11, 2010 at 8:39 pm #

      no reason you would know, LPC. I wonder when your father left? I was there in the first 1/2 of the 90s…Italian restaurant was Il Fornaio, fyi…

  3. Hilary October 11, 2010 at 6:13 pm #

    Hi Delia .. loved the story .. but pass – as don’t have .. happy memories though .. and as you say you never know what or who is going to come along .. Cheers to some happy thoughts .. looks like more memory joggers from Lisa above .. enjoy the week .. Hilary

    • delialloyd October 11, 2010 at 8:37 pm #

      thanks hilary. Cheers indeed to happy thoughts..

  4. Elizabeth October 11, 2010 at 6:44 pm #

    Loved this. I enjoyed both of those pieces by Joan Wickersham, too, since I’m a Bostonian and old-fashioned newspaper reader. But… I will also take a pass on the how you met, not because its not a happy story (love at first sight in a college taproom), but because I don’t find it as interesting (maybe told too many times) as I do all those other ones out there!

    • delialloyd October 11, 2010 at 8:38 pm #

      @elizabeth–i actually don’t know any “love at first sight” stories first hand…lucky you. Nice to know it really happens that way sometimes…

  5. amy October 11, 2010 at 7:00 pm #

    What a great story! Gives me hope. I have not met my husband; am slogging through dates. It gets pretty depressing so posts like these are encouraging! Thanks Delia.

  6. Sabrina October 11, 2010 at 7:29 pm #

    Ah. My husband started at the same law firm I did, only two weeks later. When he was introduced, I had the very clear thought “Too bad he’s so good-looking because no one who looks that good could be a nice guy.” As the only two unattached new associates, though, we ended up hanging out (hard to have a social life when you are working nights and weekends) and I discovered he actually was a nice guy. And that thought survived getting dumped three times before we decided it was real. We celebrate our 25th tomorrow.

    • delialloyd October 11, 2010 at 9:48 pm #

      right there with you, @sabrina. I always distrusted the handsome ones. Nice when they defy expectations!

  7. Cole Harmonson October 11, 2010 at 8:00 pm #

    Oh, though currently not in love this has made me decide to stay close to the cheese cubes.*smile* Love this!

    • delialloyd October 11, 2010 at 8:36 pm #

      LOL, @Cole. Cheese cubes rule!!

  8. Daryl Boylan October 11, 2010 at 9:08 pm #

    My first meeting with husband-to-be started out on a remarkably sour note so far as I was concerned. This was many, many years ago at the height of one of the worst recurrent American political nightmares, and he, ever happy to play devil’s advocate, got me very angry. I wondered what had happened to the taste of the friend who brought him. I was surprised when some time later I got a call for a date, which I promptly refused, as I did several other times. He was nothing if not persistent & I eventually agreed to meet him for a quick drink, as I said that I had a dinner date. He smiled & replied: “You’re lying.” (He later became a skilled trial lawyer.) One thing led to another.

    • delialloyd October 11, 2010 at 9:51 pm #

      great story @patricia-love the “persistence wins out” theme. @daryl-as I know the man in question (ahem!) tihs is far too plausible. Lucky me you stuck it out!!

  9. Patricia October 11, 2010 at 9:37 pm #

    Great post – and I love to ask this question at parties because people just love to share the story…

    The minister I worked for after Graduate school told me about this guy who had been in his first youth group and had just moved to town. The teasing went on about fixing up a date for me for months. The education director saw him at church one morning and raced him into my little office for an introduction…I was helping a child with a problem…I invented a singles Halloween Pizza party for a couple weeks away, on the spot and sent him away.
    I tried to get 12 more singles to participate, but I was too late and on Halloween day HE called and asked if he could bring his parents – I said sure and we switched to a nicer restaurant instead.
    He said nothing all evening. I talked to his rather quiet parents.
    He invited me on several bike rides, and deserted me on the route. I finally said if you can not talk to me, don’t keep coming around…About a month later he called and came to my house and started out the conversation with he believed in zero population growth. After 3 hours of talking he invited me to his house for pancakes…I went; there by the phone was his list of topics and his outline of his discussion.

    We went to Mt. St. Helen’s and the muffler went out on his car….saved – too noisy to talk

    The reason I married him was because he was trying hard,he was a very good designing Green Architect, and I promised my Father 5 things as he was dying and one was to marry this guy…

    Tom claims he fell in love at first sight when I was serving communion one Sunday.

    It has been a good 34 years and we share life with 3 precious daughters.
    There you have it!

  10. Jenny October 12, 2010 at 6:46 am #

    Nice! I love these stories, and people are mostly willing to share them.
    Sigh. I haven’t met my “how did you meet” partner yet. It would be nice to have one of these stories of my own – it could be the queue for the ATM, the guy sitting next to me on the tram, the fellow looking in the same section at my favourite bookshop. But could it be soon, please?

  11. delialloyd October 12, 2010 at 12:14 pm #

    that’s right, Jenny. You never know. Happy hunting!!

  12. Jennie October 12, 2010 at 6:51 pm #

    Several years ago PBS did a piece on American Love Stories and invited people in inter-ethnic relationships to contribute their stories. Mine is at http://www.pbs.org/weblab/lovestories/stories/Greater_Horizons/story32869.shtml. Or just google PBS love stories alaska village romance. It was written pretty early in our marriage – we have two kids now and have moved to an urban town to have better educational opportunities for them – but still reflects how we have worked together to make our relationship work.

  13. delialloyd October 12, 2010 at 8:42 pm #

    great story, jennie. thx for sharing. esp liked the part about the ‘pausing’ – while more pronounced in this case, I have often observed that sort of conversational difference within couples and wonder how they manage it.

  14. Mara October 13, 2010 at 10:43 am #

    Delia:

    you already know how I met mine, don’t you?. You was here by that time. Long time ago, by the way…;)

  15. Mara October 13, 2010 at 10:51 am #

    Did you both meet “in the autumn of 2003″ for the first time?

  16. delialloyd October 13, 2010 at 11:05 am #

    @mara-yes it was and I do remember. And yes, we did!

  17. stofnsara October 13, 2010 at 11:49 am #

    I gate-crashed a party at his house. Against my will.

    A housemate who I was finding exceptionally irritating insisted that our group of girlfriends ‘make a turn’ by her running buddy’s house party (so she could ask him a favour). I was grumpy (and I am bossy) and initially refused, but eventually she wore us down to waiting in the car outside while she ran in to ask the favour. When she didn’t return we begrudgingly marched in to find her and we were amazed to find a party full of interesting, eclectic awesome people. And swing music playing on the record player. Stof was the host. I think I fell in love with the party before I fell in love with him.

    Lesson: not to let grumpiness (combined with bossiness) deprive me of some of life’s most splendid and important experiences.

    • delialloyd October 13, 2010 at 12:07 pm #

      Love this story and the lesson that goes with it. Thanks for dropping by!

  18. Cecilia October 13, 2010 at 2:05 pm #

    Great post and great story, Delia. I love this and can see myself quoting this to my son in about 20 years: “Because sometimes even when your head’s stuck in a book (or a dimly lit basement office, or an Italian restaurant menu), your future is sitting right before your eyes. You just need to open them long enough to see it.” I like that behind all these stories is something that can be learned about love and choosing love.

    I met my husband after having resigned myself to the fact that maybe I would never get married (a bit melodramatic, looking back, since I was only 29 at the time). I met him at work 2 weeks after I arrived overseas for a year-long fellowship. It was a case of “love at first sight” though for several months I thought he couldn’t speak English and just assumed he would never be interested in dating an American. I also knew that he had a son…lots of roadblocks that I thought would make a relationship impossible but sure enough, here we are today, almost 10 years later. I guess my lesson to others is go with your instinct and to go after what you love.

  19. delialloyd October 13, 2010 at 3:14 pm #

    Love this story, Cecilia. And the moral which is that we should all go after what we love. Congrats on 10 fine years!

  20. Erin October 14, 2010 at 11:30 am #

    That’s a great meet-cute! I wasn’t bowled over by my husband either. We met in a Spanish language class in New York City. I didn’t think anything of him at all, but the other women swooned over him and his accent (he’s from New Zealand). I thought it was all ridiculous. Well, I don’t speak Spanish and I married him – so I guess it wasn’t so ridiculous afterall!

  21. delialloyd October 14, 2010 at 8:45 pm #

    I love the kiwi accent! Great story, Erin…

  22. Erin October 14, 2010 at 11:19 pm #

    Feel free to come over and swoon over him anytime!

  23. delialloyd October 15, 2010 at 7:07 am #

    well I may just take you up on that, sister!

  24. lola October 26, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

    I’m often hesitant to share the full story of how my husband and I met. We often summarize as “we met in the Miami International Airport”. To many, that sounds romantic enough, especially, if you know of my wanderlust ambition to travel the world.

    I like to use the word serendipity; but in reality, our relationship is one that never would have blossomed without technology. (thank you, Google, AOL, Facebook and RIM).

    We met over 7 years ago “digitally”. I used to maintain a blog about anything and nothing regarding my life. When I watched the movie “Iron Jawed Angels”, I was so moved by it, I blogged about my reaction to the movie. Several months later I randomly receive an email from a guy in Indiana who was writing a paper on “Iron Jawed Angels” for one of his classes and he happened to stumble upon my blog. He emailed me to let me know he enjoyed my blog and the themes in his paper were similar to the ones I wrote about in my blog. (He’d found my blog in a Google search of the movie.) We traded AIM (AOL instant messenger) names and would randomly chat whenever the other was online. After he graduated, he got a job as an international salesman. It soon became a game for me…to live vicariously through him. Whenever I’d see him online, I’d always ask “Where in the world is Mik?”. I can remember chatting with him in Germany, Japan, China…

    Somewhere along the way, Facebook surged in popularity. In one of my random “connect with friends”, I synced my AIM list and for the first time, saw a photo of Mik. As life got busy, our interactions eventually dwindled to a “happy birthday” here and there. Then one day, he posted a status update that he was in my town on business. I sent him a message via Facebook saying that I lived here and if he had time we should grab coffee. (I’ve never been shy about meeting random online friends, so this wasn’t out of character for me). I gave him my number, but his schedule did allow us to connect. With promises of “next time”… we went on our separate ways.

    About a year later, he posted another status update that he was trying to figure out how to work his new Blackberry. Being a Blackberry addict, I commented on his status that I could help him. We ended up becoming Blackberry Messenger friends and for the first time in our 4 year friendship, he called me…I heard his voice.

    The fantastic thing about Blackberry Messenger (BBM) is that it will work anywhere you get a cell signal..perfect for staying in touch internationally, without incurring any additional fees with an international data plan. This was great for Mik, since he was still traveling for work. We would BBM each other about 3 times a week, with random thoughts and musings. Our friendship grew over the months.

    Several months after our first and only phone conversation, I went to Costa Rica with my sisters for vacation. After a week of being cut off from technology, I turned on my phone during our layover at the Miami International Airport. As work emails and such flooded my phone, I get a BBM from Mik, “Hope you had fun in Costa Rica. I’m on a layover in MIA on my way to Trinidad”. Of course, I texted back “I’M on a layover in Miami right now”. Turns out he was just inside the American Airlines terminal and I was just outside the terminal. (Excitement on my part, eye-rolling on my sisters’ part…”not another internet friend”. LOL). Quick assessment of the security line and Mik texted me that he didn’t think he could come out of the terminal and go through security again before his flight. I said not to worry about it. “Next time”. Ten minutes later, I get another BBM from him saying he decided it was worth the risk and asked where he should meet me. It wasn’t love at first sight. It was a moment of mutual amusement, that after all these years we had stumbled upon each other so randomly, and a quick goodbye. In subsequent layovers in MIA, I still look at the area in front of the currency exchange outside the AA terminal with immense fondness. :)

    In the weeks after our meeting, we would BBM each other almost every day. Finally, he asked if he could come visit me. He came for a quick weekend, which led to many more weekends of us traveling between Indiana and here. Within 10 months, he quit his job and moved here to be closer to me…the rest is sort of history. :)

    I do often wonder, what if the stars had not aligned, and technology did not progress as it did?

    • delialloyd October 27, 2011 at 10:03 am #

      What a fabulous story, Lola. Thanks so much for sharing it! (ps LOVE the airline terminal aspect-has a feature film written all over it!) Thanks for dropping by!)

  25. Barbara October 28, 2011 at 5:09 am #

    I have the most boring story! We met on an internet dating sites. He actually found me; I had set my upper age limit at a year younger than he was, so he never turned up in my searches. I wouldn’t have picked him anyway as he had no picture posted. That was always a red flag, no picture! But in his email he seemed reasonably sane, reasonably intelligent, and he was willing to send me a picture. I don’t know if he knows this, but he almost got canned – he sent me a picture without his shirt on! That was cause for immediate deletion in my online dating game. He saved himself, though, because in his picture he was with his little boy, and his little boy didn’t have a shirt on either. He explained it was about the only digital picture he had, and they were camping, and he did apologize for not having a shirt on! So I agreed to have dinner with him. Dinner was fine, but there wasn’t any big spark for me. It was a good time. I thought, I’d go out with him again. And I did. Several more times. And every time I liked him more and more. I will never forget the first time he told me he loved me. I thought, aw, isn’t that cute, he thinks he’s in love! But he said it again a few days later. And again. And I kept letting him! And, well, it’s been almost eight years. I’m incredibly blessed to have this man and his children in my life and in my son’s life.

    • delialloyd October 28, 2011 at 8:39 am #

      Great story, Barbara. Thanks so much for sharing!

  26. Janice October 29, 2011 at 1:58 am #

    I had moved to the country 3 years previously, living in a small village with my older sister, and was by then commuting to the nearby city of London to attend teacher’s college. I had not even had a date for 4 years, and at the age of 26 wasn’t feeling quite desperate but certainly not averse to finding a nice guy. Usually I got a lift to college from another student who lived nearby, but she had a practice teaching placement that took her in another direction, so I was going to be reduced to taking the bus everyday into London. I was pissed off, because of all modes of transportation, I hate bus travel the most. Can you see where this is going?

    The Friday before my bus runs were to start, I had an all-nighter assignment that had to get handed in, and my dad was going to drive my mother and me up to the city. However, the weather on that day at the end of January was a little nasty, so he didn’t want to make the drive. Never mind, mom and I said, we’ll take the bus. The bus always runs. So we went down to the bus terminal, and waited in the lineup on the sidewalk for the bus.

    Up the bus roared, a couple of minutes late, and out jumped the bus driver, a young, very good-looking man dressed in not a polyester bus driver’s uniform, but a big old black overcoat and old-fashioned high-top shoes. He took our tickets and on the bus we got, and after we sat down, I leaned over and said to my mother the immortal words “Cute bus driver!” She agreed.

    Fast forward to the next week. He was driving the early morning run. Monday morning I sat and listened to him chatting with the regulars. Even after me getting a good night’s sleep, he still looked damn good, and he had a beautiful deep voice. I am very attracted to deep voices. But of course I had a lot on my mind, having just started a challenging practice teaching assignment, and didn’t have too much time to waste on thinking about him.

    The next day the bus parked on the opposite side of the street, and I ran across, thinking that that was where the passengers were supposed to embark that day (not thinking straight at 7 in the morning!) But no, he said he had just had to go and get some smokes (which almost turned me totally off, since I really hate the smell of cigarettes.) But he was SO very cute that I ignored that red flag, sat down in the best seat for talking to the driver, and we chatted all the way into London. We liked the same music and he had enlightened political views. That was Tuesday. Wednesday we chatted again.

    Thursday morning I was concerned. He had said that the shifts were changing the next week and he would not be on the morning run, and I wasn’t going to be on the bus the next morning, as I was staying over. I really liked this guy. So I did something TOTALLY out of character for me, and as I got off the bus in London I handed him my name and phone number that I had written out ahead of time. That night, staying at a friend’s apartment in town, I told myself that if Stevie Winwood’s “If You See a Chance, Take It” came on the radio at a certain time, it would all work out. The song did. And then the cute bus driver didn’t phone! All weekend long!

    Well, I rationalized that it was ok, because he wouldn’t be driving the bus the next week, so I wouldn’t have to see him and be embarrassed. So you know of course that he WAS driving the bus Monday morning. I said something along the lines of it’s ok if you aren’t interested. He protested that he was, he phoned me that night and a couple more times that week, and then, the weekend came. Saturday was Valentine’s Day. He didn’t call. and didn’t call. Friends called up and asked my sister and me if we wanted to come over for the evening. I said something along the lines of, well, if Harrison Ford doesn’t call up and ask me out, sure.

    Around 5 he called. Apologized that he’d been doing the airport run all day (this is way before cellphones, the mid-80′s). asked me if I’d like to go out for a drink that evening. Valentine’s Day. I said yes, of course. and called the friends and said that since Harrison Ford had called, my sister would be going alone.

    He took me out, we had a great time talking, one of his friends stopped by the table and warned me that he was a bad man, he took me back to my place, and gave me a nice big hug. The rest, as he likes to say when he tells this story, is history. The next week, since he was working on a different shift, he drove up in his car to the bus terminal as I waited for the morning run, picked me up, drove me to London, asked me out the next night to meet his best friends, and then kissed me for the first time before letting me out to start my day of student teaching.

    You know, that student teaching assignment was pretty well a wash-out. I always give student teachers the advice to not fall in love while at school. It really wreaks havoc with concentration on the task at hand! However, it’s almost 25 years later, we are still married (after a couple of rocky bits) have two boys and I still hate buses as a means of transportation.

  27. Mora October 29, 2011 at 4:44 am #

    HI Delia!

    My future husband spotted me onstage in a play at the local theatre. He was there to see his girlfriend but couldn’t help but notice me. A few weeks later, I was hanging out at that theatre and he walked right up to me to invite me to come see his band play at a bar that night. I thought he was hitting on me so I was somewhat standoffish (I did not want to cause any trouble with his pill of a girlfriend). However, as I got to know him I found out he wasn’t hitting on me. He turned out to be an amazingly sweet and genuinely friendly guy who just wanted to make a new friend.
    We became friends and I never thought of him as a suitable mate because he was still attached to someone else. This went on for about 2 or 3 years until they called a it a quits. I didn’t see him for a little while after that but then saw him across campus on a windy day. We couldn’t stop smiling at each other and noticed this weirdness between us. We exchanged numbers and became better friends. Then he asked me to go out for dinner. Neither of us knew it was a date until he walked me to the car that night after talking until the sun came up. I wouldn’t have normally gone for a nice guy who dated a friend but the chemistry was so strong that I couldn’t say no. We are getting married on the 5th anniversary of that date and I have never been so happy.

    • delialloyd October 30, 2011 at 10:16 am #

      OMG, @Mora and @Janice I just love these stories! Keep them coming! @Mora-yours is great b/c as a one-time Thespian myself, I love the idea of being stage-struck. Good for you for waiting until he was free. And @Janice-as a one-time smoker I can also relate. Love your story. To hell with the assignment-you met the man of your dreams! Thanks for dropping by, guys.

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