My sweet wife was and continues to be, the greatest surprise of my life. She was the one I never saw coming, and she’s the one who keeps me on my toes and excited for the next day. We both began our relationship not really anticipating much from it, but by the time I proposed it surprised us both just how deep our love had taken root. This wonderful woman, my beautiful bride, has wholly absorbed my heart and my attention. And with the brief background I’m about to share, I hope you’ll get a grasp as to how vital and all-encompassing that is for me.

To adequately explain the relationship I have now, I need to, albeit briefly, disclose the previous marriage I had before. Someday I’ll take more time to delve into the mechanics of that part of life for me, but it’s not important right now.

I was married to a woman, whom I did love when I was twenty-two years old. I met her while serving an LDS mission, and I was a few months from coming home. When I did get back, we stayed in contact, and our feelings for each other continued to grow. That went on for over a year until she was able to get a visa and come over here, where our courtship continued another six months.

There were signs of the unfortunate end that would eventually come, and at the moment I can honestly say I saw some of them. However, the problems weren’t as significant to me as the feelings that we had, and the hope I had that we could overcome the rough spots together.

Only, there never really was a sense of “togetherness” after we got married.

Our fights bruised my soul. Never again have I ever argued or fought as I did with her. We were both at fault for the contexts and reasons, but for whatever pivotal reason we chose to quarrel instead of work together.

We were only married eight months when she walked into our bedroom and calmly told me, “I’ve realized that I don’t like the majority of what makes you you. In my mind I created the perfect man and put your face on him when you didn’t turn out to be that person, I tried to change you into him, and you wouldn’t change.”

I also responded calmly, “Well yeah, I like myself as I am.”

She paused only for a moment before she said, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”

And I said, “Ok. I can’t do it like this, either.”

That was the most civil conversation we’d had in months, and it was the one that ended our marriage.

So fast-forward a bit to when I’m twenty-three, and now a freshly divorced man bearing the hurt and pain of a marriage gone horribly wrong. Again, I know details are lacking here, but they’ll be for another post.

I was divorced seven and a half years until I met Lauren. Seven and a half healing focused, and non-idle years that are also for another entry. Until I went to a restaurant where my friend was the General Manager, and I stopped by for a few hours to catch up and say hi.

Oh, and at the time I met her, my mother was dying from cancer, and I had recently quit my career in film for some crucial and personal reasons, to be one of her caretakers. She had maybe five months left.

Under these circumstances, I saw Lauren while she was working as a waitress and I thought she was pretty cute. So after I was done talking with my friend, I walked up to her and told her so.

I grabbed her attention and asked, “Do you mind if I ask your name?”

She gave me a confused look, pointing to her name tag pinned on her left shoulder, but said, “Um…my name is Lauren.” She, thus far, wasn’t impressed.

I smiled and responded, “Hi Lauren, my name is Bryce. I’m going to be really frank with you. I think you’re cute and I’d like to ask you out.”

The split second it took for my straightforward manner to click sent her into a burst of laughter that left me standing there smiling like an idiot. I thought I’d lost whatever chance I had and it was time to count my losses. But, then she surprised me.

“I guess you’ll need my number, then.”

She wrote it down on a cardboard coaster, and I pocketed it with another smile and left. Again, to remind you, not overthinking it into anything prematurely.

But I did call her, and our first date was at Jamba Juice in Provo, and then she took me to a trail up Provo Canyon that she loved to run. And we sat and talked by the river, surprised at how easy it was to talk to each other. I put my foot in my mouth a few times, as usual, but we laughed and smiled, and honestly didn’t have to try hard at all.

Our second date we went to a pick-and-paint-your-ceramic place, and she surprised me again by sharing that she was also divorced, and only by a year or so. This was the date where we learned we could be vulnerable to each other. She told me parts of her previous marriage, and I shared parts of mine. We both came from abusive, manipulative, and in her case dangerous and threatening first marriages. The fact that we were both already so willing to talk and trust either other I think threw us both a curveball.

But it was our third date that really showed us that if we wanted, there was something there for both of us to pursue.

So, she took me to a favorite spot of hers which resided in an old outdoor, giant rock block foundation amphitheater. Oh, and this amphitheater resides behind a psychiatric hospital that she used to work at. Because, ladies and gentlemen, my wife got her undergraduate degree from BYU in Psychiatry and is currently halfway to having her MD from the University of Utah.

It was late, and there weren’t any lights over us. We sat in the semi-dark, looking out over the city of Provo, and had one of the most endearing heart to heart talks ever. There was still no effort at putting on a show for the other person. There was no posturing or convincing of something beyond what was honest or necessary. And I think it was this date that cemented the rest of our courtship.

Because one of the many things we talked about later was if my emotions were really all there because of what was going on with my mother. Lauren told me after we were married that there were a few times she would drive home and ask herself what she was doing and if she could emotionally trust where I was at.

I understood that completely, and I did my best, to be honest about where I was with my mom, and her, and letting her know that I was still invested.

Then my mother died, and the day of the funeral with my family was almost an absolute mess. She was there with me, but when we got back to my house, I ended up in an unfortunate fight with my sister, where Lauren was being used as emotional ammunition against me. Through hard words and strong emotions, my sister accused me of having Lauren so close through it all when she wouldn’t end up lasting. I looked at my sister and honestly answered, “You don’t know that.”

The argument continued for another few minutes, and I thought Lauren was still in the house, or at least outside on the porch. When I left the room with my sister, I’d discovered that Lauren had gone. When I called, I apologized for the roughness and coarseness of what happened, and Lauren told me she hadn’t stayed long enough to hear it.

But Lauren came back to spend some more time with me because I asked her. That meant the world to me.

We continued dating after the funeral, until one day when we were cuddling on the couch Lauren suddenly got quiet and looked at me seriously. Then, she said in a soft voice, “I’m falling in love with you, Bryce.”

Once again, this beautiful woman surprised me. And the thing was, I had been feeling my own heart opening up to her for about a month prior, but I didn’t want to say anything for fear that it would be confused with my mother’s illness, or that I had confused it with my mother’s illness. Instead, what I discovered at that moment, was that my love for her was very much real and genuine, and she had once again taken the first step in cradling my heart so gently.

“I love you, too,” I responded. That memory and that moment go down for me as one of the most tender and intimate memories I possess.

I’d love to tell you all about the proposal, but I fear I’m going too long for a blog post already. Please allow me to put this into one other part, to be revealed shortly, while I thank you for taking the time for this one.

My wife continues to shower me with love and surprises, and our marriage so far has been an absolute dream. And I can say that because I know what a nightmare looks like in this regard. But through so many possibilities and chances to exit my life, she instead answered my calls to stay. Through every rocky and emotional piece of baggage we both have carried over the years, she trusts me enough to share them with me and then has shown me her strength in letting them go. My sweet bride truly loves me, and with her, I have known and do know how a wonderful marriage is possible.

We don’t fight. We don’t yell. We disagree with each other plenty, but communication has been crucial to everything we have. Lauren doesn’t bind me down when I have other places to be or go out with friends. Neither do I do that to her. We check in with each other, and often she’s the one to initiate it.

I know with everything I have that she wants to be with me, and it’s more than how she shows it. It’s in her touches. It’s in her kisses. It’s how she gives me grief, or we’ll laugh over just about anything. Life is pleasant, and light, and beautiful, and wondrous, and desirable with her.

And you know what? Without the unfortunate moments for both of us, I know without a doubt we wouldn’t be able to have what we have.

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