People love to hear a good love story. The pursuit, the dating, the obstacles, the proposal - we can't get enough! It's why we'll spend tons of money at the theater and the bookstore just to keep Nicolas Sparks employed...
Cheryl and I have been together for 5 years now. I'm not quite sure our story is film-worthy, but its still filled with incredible moments of love, adversity, adventure, heartache, and laughter.
But it almost never happened.
It was April of 2011, she and I had been dating for about a month. We had just finished working a concert at Lifechurch Canton. I ran sound for the bands, and she helped with the greenroom and whatever else needed to be done. It had been an incredibly long day, and we got in the car totally exhausted. Before I could put the car in gear and take her home, she dropped a bomb on me (no, she didn't start singing the 80's song, but how awesome would that have been!) She told me that she felt like I was embarrassed of her. In public, I wasn't nearly as affectionate as I was when it was just us. I didn't speak of our relationship with others. I hadn't even mentioned her on my Facebook page, let alone change my relationship status. As a result, she questioned my commitment to her and was seriously doubting the future of our relationship.
The truth is, I was afraid. I've never been good in relationships. I have made so many mistakes, and after taking some extended time away from dating to grow as a person, I was afraid to make our relationship public. I had this crazy feeling like people would be looking at me, just waiting for my next failure. And if I was to fail, I certainly wanted a very limited audience. There was enough pressure to get this right, I didn't want to add to it by opening myself up to the opinions of others. Keeping our relationship a secret meant avoiding the risk of public scrutiny. As a result, she felt like I wasn't attracted to her or was ashamed to be with her. My fear of messing it up was messing it up.
In that moment, she risked a lot to share her true feelings with me. And now it was my turn to respond. I reassured her that what she described was certainly not the case. I shared with her my own fears and insecurities which helped put her mind at ease. But my words were only the first step. I needed to take action and conquer my fear.
The next day, I sat at Charley's Deli on Six Mile and Haggerty Rd. That was my go-to place to do homework and enjoy a tasty lunch (free plug!) All I could think about was the previous night's conversation. So I typed up a few words along with a picture and prepared to share it on Facebook.
I remember the mixture of feelings before hitting the "post" button. Initially, the fear set in. "What am I doing? Once I post this, there's no going back." But like Tito Ortiz in his prime, I began to ground and pound those feelings into submission. "Why do I care? This woman is incredible, who cares if other people begin to evaluate my performance as a boyfriend. I'm willing to risk failure to pursue her." So I posted it...
The lucky guy checklist:
She loves the simple stuff - check.
Likes listening about crazy stuff I learn in school - check.
Has a big heart - check.
Love Jesus - check.
Embraces nerdiness and girly girlness - check.
Beautiful blue eyes and a great big smile - check.
Yeah, I'd say I'm a lucky guy!
-April 4, 2011
With one click, I was now completely vulnerable. Yes, that exposure could create pain in my life. But it also opened me to experience the possibility of love and trust. I don't remember her exact response when she saw that post, but I remember hearing the surprise and happiness in her voice when we next talked. After that, I felt confident holding her hand in public, putting my arm around her at church, and even kissing her (gasp!) in front of others. Don't worry though, I stayed true to the side-hug rule they taught me in Christian middle school...
Almost 5 years later, I'd say that Facebook post was a pretty good choice. But the real choice started with Cheryl. It was her courage that initiated this process. Had she not been willing to open her heart to me and express her feelings, we might never have built enough honesty and trust in our relationship to make it last. This set an early precident in our relationship, and is a key factor in enduring through some of the challenging circumstances we'd face over the next few years.
Thank you Facebook. And thank you Nicolas Sparks...
Join The Coversation
Every love story requires risk and vulnerability. What's yours? Can you recall a moment when you had to fight through fear in order to save a relationship? Or maybe to start one? Maybe your in a spot right now that requires courage. Share your stories in the comment section, or contact me on Twitter @RickGuttersohn.
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