Friendship adds strength to marriage.
I know that it was at McMillan Junior High. That he was 11 and I was 12.
He was probably wearing turquoise high tops and Leggoons — do you remember Leggoons? I was in my thrift-shop menswear phase, and my bangs were too short because I’d decided to try to cut the curl out of them myself.
Kai and I didn’t start dating until our 20s, but our relationship, and our memories, go way, way back.
And I hate to say this — because if you didn’t already meet your true love in middle school, it’s probably too late — but it’s one of the best things about our marriage.
It’s part of what makes us feel like magic, even after 15 years together.
“You understand,” I remember warning him, “that this is going to get real immediately.”
I was a senior in college, and Kai had just graduated — and he’d decided that it was time for us to start dating.
But it wasn’t really “dating.” You can’t date someone who’s been one of your best friends for a decade.
There’s no “What’s your favorite movie?” There’s no discovery phase where you take stock of each other’s quirks and habits.
For us, it was an epiphany phase. Realizing that all those quirks were things we couldn’t live without. Realizing that neither of us were willing to put enough distance between us to date anyone else.
And once we were together, all the years we’d been friends became a part of our new relationship. Grandfathered in. Like our story had begun before we even realized we were the main characters.
Kai and I met at McMillan and then went to North High and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln together. We were friends the whole time. We were in drama together, we were editors on the high school newspaper…
It’s kind of weird — when you live with someone who’s been your friend since seventh grade, you get all of each other’s references. I don’t know how often other couples reminisce about their teen years, but we have inside jokes that go back to 1985.
Which keeps those years alive for us, I think.
You know how your oldest friends make you feel young? Kai makes me feel young.
Not 12 years old. Just … unpretentious. Hopeful.
Sometime it’s embarrassing to think that he remembers me at my most awkward and obnoxious. (I was so full of my opinions in high school and so ready to argue.)
But it’s a comfort, too.
The first time he told me that he loved me, I knew that he meant it. That he couldn’t be confused or deluded about what he was getting into.
And when he said it — I felt like his feelings for me lived outside of time.
Like, if he could love me knowing where I’d been, he must love the trajectory I was on. He must love what I was going to become.
That’s how I love Kai.
I’m not saying that growing up together has made our marriage easy. (Even our friendship was never easy.) And nothing that came before could have prepared us for the hurricane that is parenthood so far.
But it’s given us something to hold onto during the storms. Something set in concrete.
And it’s always made me feel like we have something special to protect. It’s a powerful thing to believe in your own epic romance…
I believe our paths crossed early because we’re meant to be on the same one. We’re meant to have as many years here together as we can.
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