A marvelous love story

14 February 2014

A sweet gal emailed me a few weeks ago wanting to know more about my and John’s love story. While I was initially suspicious it was my Mom writing in to make me feel good (ha!), she’s not that devious. Even if not everyone is interested in this long-form version of our story, it’s a good way to record it for posterity! And it’s a good fit for Valentine’s Day :)

John and I grew up in the same small town in Connecticut, but we didn’t meet until middle school, when all of the elementary schools pooled into one school. John was without a doubt one of THE coolest kids in seventh and eighth grade — athletic, handsome, and just shy enough to be mysterious :) I had a crush on him, but sadly, I was just one in the crowd. I can even remember a friend asking me to take her picture while they slow danced at a middle school dance — ahh, the agony! Thankfully, God’s timing is good!

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Our respective groups of friends gradually merged senior year of high school. This wasn’t entirely by chance – John had developed a crush on me, and was angling for a way in. He even resorted to loudly talking about how much he liked me while sitting a few seats away from my younger sister in the cafeteria, hoping she would overhear and report back to me. (It didn’t work.)

Finally, in January, he mustered his courage, called me up out of the blue, and blurted out, “So… I think I like you.” To which I responded with nervous giggles, obviously. Nervous giggles to cover the panic. This would be my first date ever (yep), and I was extremely flustered, to say the least. Thankfully, one of my best friends talked me down from the ledge for over an hour, and I agreed to go. (All I can remember saying to her is, “What if I don’t like him??” To which she said, “Then… you don’t go on another date?” Duh.)

It turned out pretty well :) We started with ice skating, then, at John’s suggestion, spent a half an hour slogging through knee-high snow at a local historical site, then finished with an early dinner at a downtown coffee shop. One thing I remember clearly – the whole time we were in his car, we listened to the funniest mixed tape (it included both Barenaked Ladies and the 1812 Overture!). John has gone on to mix me many more memorable CDs over the years.

5:05 senior prom

We finished senior year with prom, then headed into the best summer of our lives. I know you’re not supposed to say things like that — the best years are always ahead! — but that particular summer was just golden. We had part time jobs, but we mostly had so much freedom to do all of our favorite things with some of our favorite people. We went to the beach and swam at the lake, watched movies in the hammock, played board games and badminton, met for breakfast and lunch and picnic dinners, and hung out with each other’s families. We took trips to Cape Cod, Maine, and Block Island.

The day of our departure for college finally arrived, the worst possible ending to the best possible summer. We had started dating long after college application deadlines, and were headed to different schools in different states — he in Washington, DC, me in Massachusetts.

Every way I try to describe our last night sounds ridiculously dramatic, and yet, nothing encompasses the wrenching pain we felt. When he finally shut my house’s front door around 2:30am (far later than we should have been up, but our parents were kind enough not to intervene), I sunk to the floor and wailed. Tears leaked out of my eyes in a near-constant stream throughout the next few days as I packed and moved into my dorm.

I suspect transitioning to college life would have been difficult for me under optimal circumstances (remember this post? I don’t do well with change), but these were certainly not optimal circumstances. Thankfully, we were able to see each other about once a month that first semester – once when John came home for an emergency wisdom tooth extraction (a blessing in disguise!), twice when I visited DC, and once each for Thanksgiving and Christmas. In between, we talked on the phone multiple times a day, and instant messaged almost constantly (yes, people were still IM-ing back then!).

We immediately began brainstorming ways to change our situation. For a variety of reasons, it became clear that the best option was for John to transfer to my school, and in the spring, we found out he had been accepted for our sophomore year! Though we were both elated, it was a bit of a stressful decision – being so miserable, I wasn’t even sure I liked the school I was at, and yet John was making an enormous effort to join me there. Transferring also meant he would lose an impressive merit scholarship. I’m sure some people thought we were crazy — we had been dating for less than a year — but we knew this was it for us. We became each other’s future quickly and seamlessly.

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Life began looking up once we were together, and the rest of our college career was filled with some amazing memories. We both interned in New York City the summer before our senior year, and my experience there prompted me to start this blog!

As graduation approached, we agreed that we would both search for opportunities, and follow the first person to be hired. I ended up receiving an offer in July, and John again made a huge leap to accompany me to North Carolina (more about that here). Many of our adventures since then have been chronicled on Em for Marvelous, including our engagement, wedding, honeymoon, and, most recently, house purchase.

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I’m not sure if I’m qualified to give marriage advice, seeing as we’ve only just passed our first anniversary, but perhaps I can offer some relationship advice — we have been together for almost ten years, after all. There are a lot of things I could tell you about what works for us, but I think one of the strongest things about our relationship is that we trust in it without reservation. We’ve never given each other a reason to doubt it, and so we’ve never been tempted to do so. We don’t treat our love for each other like it’s conditional, or could be threatened to be taken away, or withheld as a bargaining chip. Even if we are angry or frustrated, at bedrock, we both have always known without a doubt that we are acting from a place of unshakeable love.

And that, my friends, is our marvelous love story. Happy Valentine’s Day!

14 Responses to “A marvelous love story”

  1. A most marvelous love story, indeed! And one that I read with a giant smile on my face the whole way through. I love this, you two. Happy Valentine’s Day to you both!

  2. You two. This story is really dreamy – I hope you realize that! What a wonderful man that John Thomas is to follow you to school, then to NC. I’d say you have a keeper for sure! Also, I really need to write out our love story now, because it is crazy how similar it is. I, too, had a crush on a very hunky and mysterious Will Ray in middle school! I agree it’s a wonderful way to put it all together for posterity. The timeline is so fun, and I’m impressed you have all those pics on hand! Okay, now that I’ve left the longest comment ever, Happy Valentine’s Day to my favorite Mr. and Mrs. Thomas! xo

  3. Emily

    “There are a lot of things I could tell you about what works for us, but I think one of the strongest things about our relationship is that we trust in it without reservation. We’ve never given each other a reason to doubt it, and so we’ve never been tempted to do so. We don’t treat our love for each other like it’s conditional, or could be threatened to be taken away, or withheld as a bargaining chip. Even if we are angry or frustrated, at bedrock, we both have always known without a doubt that we are acting from a place of unshakeable love.”

    Brilliant! I love this sound wisdom. Thank you so much for sharing. Happy Valentine’s Day!

  4. What a wonderful love story Emily! My husband and I have dated since I was 15 and he was 16 so I love hearing about other young love couples who’ve gone on to get married. Congratulations to you and John!

  5. This just warms my heart! Love love!

  6. Anna

    Happy to have been a witness! Happy Valentine’s Day, my dear!

  7. This just made me smile so big! Thanks for sharing! :)

  8. Rob

    Couldn’t be happier the way it turned out. That was one tough autumn, though…

  9. What a great post! Happy Valentine’s Day. Your hubby sounds wonderful.

  10. Marget

    A marvelous love story, indeed! Happy Valentine’s Day!

  11. I love love LOVE hearing all the details together after following your blog for almost five years!!!!:) Such a marvelous story indeed! XO

  12. This is just the sweetest, Emily! I love your love story. And also it is eerily, eerily similar to my and my fiancé’s love story, except we’re about 3 years behind! We both grew up in the same town, started dating (my very first date/boyfriend, too!) in the winter of our senior year in HS, had the best summer ever, went to schools on opposite coasts as it had already been decided before we dated (And that night we said “goodbye”… you’re right about not having words to describe it!), then I transferred to his school sophomore year which ended up being the best decision for us. He agreed to come back to LA with me (where I had initially gone to school) after college and here we are, now engaged! Reading your story and seeing your happy marriage makes me smile! Hope our path continues to follow yours in happiness after we tie the knot this fall! =) Thanks for sharing!!!

  13. Samantha

    I remember emailing you asking to tell more about your love story and I am so happy to finally read it! God is so good and your love story is absolutely beautiful! Though only 19 and in college at the moment, I see pieces of my relationship relating to that of yours and John’s. Thank you so much for sharing, Emily! Happy belated Valentine’s to the both of you! (:

  14. Love this, and you two, so very much! It’s so beautiful seeing the way God has provided through all of the moves and risks y’all took to be together. He is good!