T.B. was tricked into meeting her husband. I loved this unusual love story!
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I never thought I would get married. I said this for the first couple of years after I was married and people would respond, almost immediately, with "Oh, you are a lovely girl, why did you think no one would marry you?"
It is so interesting how people hear things through the filter of their world view. I learned over time to clarify my statement: I never thought I wanted to get married. Apparently, this is an unfathomable concept for most. I didn't think I wasn't smart enough or pretty enough or good enough to be someone's somebody. I just wasn't completely sold (actually I wasn't at all sold) on the idea that I wanted somebody to be my someone.
The initial hump of singlehood after trauma and PTSD, followed by three years in a relationship that was just bad news, was rough, but I found the parameters of how I wanted my life to look and I lived my single life with intention. I would go to movies alone, eat meals in public in solitude, and began to enjoy the space without a “someone”. I felt safe and certain and my cocoon of singlehood warded off injury--emotional or otherwise. I found freedom (even if at times it was lonely) in being the single friend on a Friday night in NYC with all the couples and coming home to my apartment alone.
In some part, at its core my solitary life was a buffer between me and real intimacy--not just romantic intimacy (which is fleeting), but in many ways all manner of human and divine intimacy. But this isn't something I consciously acknowledged at the time. And it wasn’t the whole story. I really did like the silence of a quiet home with just me and a book or me and a movie, without the intrusive compromise of someone else to consider (some days I still like that).
By the time I met my would-be-husband I needed a lot of convincing that it made sense to couple up. I think if the introduction hadn't have been forced on me I never would have met him--on principle. I was morally against dating--it seemed like a painful and awkward endeavor, to be avoided at all cost. I was tricked into my first encounter with my future husband, Chris, by my closest friend from graduate school and her sister. They had him and his best friend show up at this seedy local bar where they had dragged me to--the kind with beer pong tables in the back. I had just come from a lackluster women’s poetry slam in the basement of a building on the Lower East side and I almost didn’t show.
I have no idea what we talked about that first night but I did learn that we were both therapists and both had a room full of books in our respective homes. We talked for hours but didn’t exchange numbers—I don’t think. The next time we collided among friends the conversation didn’t stop until three hours after he pulled up in front of my Hoboken apartment. As he said good night, I leaned in and kissed him, like it was natural. Then after I think we were both surprised and flustered and I ran inside my building, heart racing, cheeks blazing. It was like some sort of accidental compulsion—but felt comforting in the most unnerving way.
The third time we decided to intentionally meet at our only communal place of prayer--Barnes & Noble. He was Brethren and I was lapsed Catholic with a penchant for the eastern traditions, yoga, and meditation. But among books we were the same—ravenous word nerds. We scoured the religion and philosophy section and then passionately discussed Nietzsche, Bonhoeffer, Ghandi, and Rohr in the coffee shop until the store closed. We couldn't have been more the same and we couldn't have been more opposite. We both had a passion and a fire for God and therapy and life, but our philosophies on all points were diametrically opposed. I am pretty sure that was the night I fell in love--although I didn't admit it until months later.
I never intended on meeting Chris and I fought my feelings for him for a very long time. In many ways learning him, and letting go enough to love him was the thing that animated my soul, waking it from a sleep. Loving him was not about principles or self-imposed guidelines. It was messy and passionate and wild and beautiful. Loving him became something I never could have imagined loving someone could be--it was a conduit to helping me love God more sincerely.
I often think if marriage is anything it is a way for God to let us feel his love and our ability to love him in some tangible way. I think there are many kinds of love that can open us to the heart of God--being a spouse, being a parent, being a friend, or being clergy to name just a few. I don't think marriage is the only way to opening to that love, but for me it was the way that broke down my safety of solitude and gave me a greater personal "knowing" of God's love and how big it could be.
We got married in our living room in Kearny, New Jersey with a homemade ceremony of poems and personal psalms, my friend who introduced us as officiant (having been ordained for the service through a virtual certification the day before), surrounded by our closest family and friends and the soft flames of 50 tea light candles.
I never thought I would get married. It has been the hardest thing I have ever done and continue to do. Father James Martin, the Jesuit priest said, in the best explanation I have ever heard of celibacy, said that in not loving one person in particular he was given the space to love many people more deeply. I would say the same of the reverse in my life--in loving one person in particular I have been given the space in my heart and my soul to love many people more deeply. And love God more deeply.
I think there are many avenues to faith and love and God and an unraveling of the soul. This unexpected love which became my marriage has been mine.
T.B. Pasquale is a contemplative prayer advocate, interfaith and ecumenical conversationalist, trauma therapist, young-ish adult ministry leader, and yoga teacher. She writes at www.crookedmystic.org and Seekers Magazine, can be found tweeting @tbpasquale, and is the founder of "The Society for Young Christian Contemplatives". She is working on two writing projects: "The Season of Dying" (nonfiction) and "The Barefoot Saints" (fiction).