The paperwork, I guess? If we have kids, I think it’s easier if we’re married, right?”
These were the words my fiancé said when asked by our officiant why we were getting married.
As an extrovert who has spent the last few years dating and living with an introvert (and who plans on spending several more married to him), I’ve gotten used to conversations where I take the lead, elaborating and fleshing out ideas from the barest scraps of responses. When my friend from college agreed to perform our ceremony and suggested a Skype date to hammer out some ideas, I thought it was a great idea. My ulterior motive, though, was to give someone else a chance to pull some romantic words out of his mouth.
The aforementioned answer definitely was not what I would call conventionally romantic. I halfway expected myself to make a scene, much like a rom-com heroine would do. To my surprise, though, I realized that I wasn’t upset at all. How did I get to that place?
FROM MEET-CUTE TO STAY-BLAH
We met on a recreational ultimate Frisbee league, and I finally got his number (well, email) the last game of the season. In the early stages of dating, we were both quite flirtatious (and I have the chat records to prove it) while we talked for hours about our childhoods, philosophies, hopes, and cult TV show preferences (we agreed on Firefly). Soon, though, our contrasting Myers-Briggs began to show, and by the time we moved in together ten months later, my need for intense and frequent communication and his need for solitude became apparent.
As we settled into our daily life together, our relationship became a bit, well, routine. Our conversations became fewer and more practical. The flirtatious chats during work dried up. I was enjoying the comfortably homebody state of brand-new domestic bliss, but as time went on, I wished we could get some of that early spark back.
So, I tried to model the romantic gestures I thought I wanted from him. I wrote him sweet cards for no reason, which were read and then dutifully kept in a stack on his messy desk. The one time I brought him flowers was a disaster—he was annoyed at the waste. I tried buying him a gift from a used bookstore just to show I was thinking of him, only to have him glance at the title, note he already read it, and tell me I should check with him next time because he’s already got such an extensive collection.
BEHIND THE SCENES
My attempts to model the behavior I desired began to feel like an amusing movie montage where the heroine foolishly tries to get through the clueless hero’s skull. Eventually, it began to dawn on me that we could make our strengths work together. On my end, I was excellent at words and communication, and on his end, he was an excellent caretaker who just didn’t quite know what care to take. So I tried something new.
For my birthday, I explicitly requested a love letter, even though the mere fact of asking for it seemed to run counter to the raison d’etre of love letters. However, not only did he come through with shining heartfelt colors, but I later discovered that he had written a rough draft of it first (the English teacher in me was very proud). Had I stumbled on the solution? Just ask for romantic gestures when I needed them?
Of course it’s never quite that simple. Sometimes what I have in mind doesn’t translate into his mind, or sometimes he can’t give me exactly what I want. And I’ve tried to adjust my own romantic-meter a bit and recognize the ways he shows he cares for me. He washes and folds my laundry every week when I would normally just wait until I needed to buy new underwear. He helps me set up my classroom every year, patiently rearranging desks multiple times until I’m satisfied. He puts gas in my car when it’s cold out. He urges me to try new experiences without him and listens to me patiently for hours on end. And when my mom died and the seventeen-year-old cat we’d had since I was a child needed a home, he said she should move in with us, despite the fact that he’s allergic to cats. That’s all pretty romantic to me now.
A HAPPY ENDING?
If this were a rom-com, you know this story would have to end with either a proposal or a wedding, and since we’re not married yet, proposal it shall be. We discussed our future possible engagement ahead of time, very practically. But after a lot of self-reflection, I realized that despite my modern and feminist sensibilities, I really wanted him to make a romantic gesture that I didn’t plan out for him. So I sent him some examples of rings I liked, and he put together such a perfect private personalized engagement surprise (involving that very old cat) that I didn’t even hear the words he’d painstakingly planned out.
Do I still wish my fiancé were more verbally romantic of his own volition? Well, yeah, a little. And though I wish he’d been able to come up with a more poetic way to explain why he wanted to marry me, I knew what he meant. He’s showing he loves me by marrying me, and by engaging in dozens of long conversations where I process what it means out loud, and making sure all our paperwork is in order, and giving in on our guest list (I gave in on the time), and dozens of other ways that he’s shown throughout our time together and through the wedding planning process. As long as we both keep trying to be transparent and to recognize each other’s love as best as we can, our show will continue long past our wedding and when the credits would normally roll.