QUESTION: When you met your future spouse, did you immediately know that’s who he or she was?
This is a question that I have loved asking couple friends of mine for years now. I’m always fascinated to hear both sides of the story and what each was thinking when they first met.
Usually, though, it is the man’s interpretation and recollection of past events that is most interesting to me, as it seems that men don’t know as quickly as women do when they’ve met their future spouses. Females seem to clue in to what’s going on (and have settled on a particular man and determined what course their relationship should travel) way ahead of men. And so they wait (sometimes not so patiently) until the objects of their affections are ready to take the next step.
Since I haven’t asked anyone this question in a while—and since it’s always good to hear from the male perspective—I thought I’d chat up my colleague and Crosswalk’s Faith Editor Shawn McEvoy and see what his experience was like when he first met his wife Valerie (and let’s just say up front that he defies the odds).
Did he see skyrockets in the air like Peter Brady did whenever he was with his first crush, Millicent, on an episode of The Brady Bunch? Did Valerie meet every requirement that Shawn had written down on a “This Is What My Wife Should Be Like” list? Or did he just “know”?
Find out in today’s chat about true love and “hey, I think I’ve met my future wife!” revelations …
Laura Mac says: Okay. So I have a question o' love for you today, Coworker Shawn. Here goes: When you met your future wife, did you immediately know that’s who she was?
Shawn McEvoy says: Short answer: Yes, I did. Long answer: There were three girls in my lifetime I thought I would marry. I only married the third of them, who was the only one it would have worked with, and the only one I felt a pretty immediate, pretty certain conviction about. It wasn't infatuation; it was connection. It was a sense that this was real and was going to happen even though reality (she was moving several states away for grad school only two months after our first date) said otherwise.
Laura Mac says: Did you have a list of "This Is What My Wife Should Be Like" requirements or how open were you to someone who could be your future wife?
Shawn McEvoy says: I never kept a list. And in fact, I've found that is a much more female thing to do. And I hope I'm not generalizing saying that; it’s just that I have never known a guy with "a list," and just about every woman I've had this conversation with has or had one. That said, I just always knew that the only way I would "just know" involved her being a sold-out Christian, and having the undefinable "it factor" about her.
Shawn McEvoy says: I did have preferences: I like smart women, I like opinionated women, I liked poised women who also show vulnerability when appropriate. But these just happened to all be there in the person who I "just knew" I would marry.
Laura Mac says: So, perhaps women over-think things too much in terms of what Mr. Right should be like. And then men just take it one step at a time and go with what feels right when they meet someone.
Shawn McEvoy says: That could be correct. I mean, I'm married. Committedly. But I still meet women who intrigue me and make me wish some guy would learn how wonderful this person is. I often think I could have "made" marriage work with, not anyone, but with not just Valerie. In other words, I never was looking for "the one." Oddly though, I just trusted God would show/bring one who would be a perfect fit (though "perfect" is a COMPLETELY relative term). If there is one thing 10 years of marriage has shown me, it's that marriage is full-time work even with the right person. I can't imagine going through it with the wrong person. Which is why I am so glad I never settled, or forced myself to be confined to a list, or decided an age at which I had to be married.
Laura Mac says: That's good info for us singletons to hear (and to read). Okay, so back to singling out Valerie. How was she different than the other two female candidates who you thought you could have married? What made her stand apart?
Laura Mac says: Or can that even be put into words? Was it just a feeling or a "knowing"?
Shawn McEvoy says: I dated my first love for 4 1/2 years, but that began when I was 17. And we kind of destroyed our own chances there, what few chances we had since we were both so young anyway (though we didn't think of ourselves as young at the time). I used to think if I didn't get married by 22, or find my mate at our Christian college, then something went horribly wrong.
Shawn McEvoy says: The second time I was in love that way, again, I didn't know it at the time, but we were really from two different worlds.
Shawn McEvoy says: I give those examples not to speak ill of those women, but to say that I think only with the help of those experiences as contrast was I able to "just know" when I met Valerie. We were mature. We captured each other's attention. We conversed EXTREMELY well, were very interested in what each other had to say, found uncanny things we had in common, realized we shared similar beliefs born out of similar backgrounds.
Shawn McEvoy says: I think she knew just as quickly as I did, but she either denied it, failed to recognize it, or just saw the idea of "us" as too impossible to worry about when she was preparing for graduate school. But I always knew she knew. And she will admit I am right. Because I made her laugh, she didn't steamroll me in conversation, and she was just drawn magnetically toward a depth she saw in me.
Shawn McEvoy says: The biggest difference is that I knew a lot more that I would like to AT LEAST date her just by meeting her and seeing her, whereas she never really thought of me that way until AFTER we'd had a date.
Laura Mac says: That's interesting. But when did she finally admit that there was a connection there and that she felt the same way about you? Was it several months after she moved away or sooner than that?
Shawn McEvoy says: It was the night before she moved away, and it broke my heart when she said good-bye and I looked out my apartment window and saw her stop outside and weep audibly.
Laura Mac says: Yowza. That’s serious.
Shawn McEvoy says: BUT ... then she did move away, and while I was always trying to get her to look at the reasons why we COULD make it rather than the reasons it wouldn't work, we did both agree to let her get into the flow of her program, which involved a pretty prestigious assistantship. But we wrote. We called. We flew to see each other. She invited me to her folks' house that winter for Christmas. A major reason we're together today is that she was a whiz back then at finding discount long-distance rates and air fare.
Laura Mac says: Note to Self: Become a whiz at finding discount long-distance rates and travel deals to aid in securing Mr. Right.
Shawn McEvoy says: Amen. Opens up a world of possibilities. Which, by the way, is another reason not to have a "list." Valerie had one, and it involved not having a long-distance relationship. Well ...
Laura Mac says: Oh, THAT is interesting, too. I am loving hearing about this!
Shawn McEvoy says: The best advice I got? Which I only recognized in hindsight. … That second girlfriend … she told me (just a couple weeks before she broke up with me) that she believed God would only show me the one to marry when I became completely comfortable just being at one with Him. We all KNOW that. But I think I finally internalized it, which is the only reason I was pretty relaxed about the whole situation where Val moved away (I trusted it would work out in the way I truly felt/believed), which was a huge no-pressure help to our growing relationship.
Laura Mac says: So ... maybe I should start pursuing becoming a nun. And then see what happens?
Shawn McEvoy says: I know you are being silly of course, but that would be playing games. Which incidentally is the other reason I just knew—neither of us played games with each other or with God. It just helped things be so clear. And I believe it is a big reason why we communicate so well to this day. Which, if we didn't have THAT? I don't know how we'd make it.
Laura Mac says: Yeah. I was just playing with you. So … you both learned to just let go of trying to make something happen. And when you did, God worked it all out for you two.
Shawn McEvoy says: Sounds corny, but ... yes.
Shawn McEvoy says: OH!
Shawn McEvoy says: Reason 12c on "How I Just Knew" … this didn't come (or at least wasn't realized until later, but) ... one day I woke up and realized that no matter who Valerie talked to, where we went, whatever—I wasn't jealous. There wasn't a drop of jealousy, anywhere. That had NOT been a factor of ANY of my previous relationships in life. It was CRAZY. There was implicit and explicit trust. It was SO freeing and made it so obvious.
Laura Mac says: Wow. That is a light-bulb moment, for sure.
Shawn McEvoy says: That's exactly what it was.
Laura Mac says: Well, you guys had an instant connection. But do you think it's possible for some couples to NOT have the instant connection but to have a "delayed connection"? Meaning, it could take a while for one or both to figure it out?
Shawn McEvoy says: I actually wonder if my wife might not tell you if she experienced it that way to some extent. And I think plenty of couples do. In fact, I often ponder whether that's "the best" way to build a marriage—not have the expectations first, and let it just be borne out of a friendship that one day wakes up to see the other person in new eyes. I think a lot of potentially great marriages never come to be because of individuals being too afraid to lose a great friendship.
Laura Mac says: Right. I sense that with a lot of friends. What would you say to someone whose heart is saying one thing, but the head is saying another? And by that I mean, it's a good thing staring them in the face but they are too afraid to take a risk?
Shawn McEvoy says: I would (and have) pointed out that I would pay more attention—not flippantly—to what the heart is saying. God looks at the heart, he gives us the desires of our heart, and he never gives a spirit of fear. If you feel comfortable about where you are with him, then live and move and have your being … it's easy for me to say, I realize—I'm married. AND I've always handled hurt relatively well in that it doesn't keep me from loving/trusting again, getting back on the horse. I find vulnerability both becoming and necessary in building and finding the relationship that will last. So don't just "jump in" without thought to what the heart is saying. But give it a good long look, pray over it, trust it ... trust it more than head-thoughts that speak fear or worry. Instead, use that head for LEGIT warning signals, because like I said, to have "settled" and either ignored or failed to consider what my head could have told me would have been disastrous.
Laura Mac says: Very good insights, Doc McEvoy. I appreciate your time today and your honesty. And hopefully so will some of our single readers.
Laura Mac says: Please give Valerie our hugs and thumbs up!
Shawn McEvoy says: No problem! Please let them know that Valerie and I were single and independent until we were both almost 29, so it's not like we never knew singlehood.
Laura Mac says: That's a great—and encouraging—point. I will. Thanks again!