The Beginning of Our Story

It’s a strange thing to celebrate the 18th year of our marriage under quarantine. But here we are. So with lots more time on my hands than ever, I thought I would tell you a story I have told a hundred times before. It’s a good one.

Twenty-ish years ago, I was standing in the hallway of my 10,000 plus member church with my friend, when this cute guy walked by. “Who’s that?” I asked, because she really did know everyone. “Oh, that’s Mike Pechonis’s son,” she answered. My husband’s step-dad was/is a local surf legend that everyone knew. A few minutes later the same cute guy walked by again, but this time holding a girls hand, prompting me to say what many single girls have said before me, “Of course, all the cute ones are taken.”

Fast forward a couple months, and my friend and I were having a dinner party for some coworkers. We didn’t know them well, but knew they didn’t have any family locally. When we answered the door that evening, who should be at the front step with them, but the one and only cute guy from the church hallway, none other than Paul Chastain. My friend and I looked at each other in total shock. It’s not every day that God delivers “that guy” to your front door.

As the night progressed I would learn two very important facts. One: Paul was newly single. Two: He was very funny and engaging. It was a night of good food, laughter, and hope.

After that night, we would get together as a group pretty regularly. I seemed to be the contact person, so Paul would call me to set up our weekly get togethers. One day he called to set something up, but everyone else was busy, so we went out, just the two of us. It felt very date-like, though neither of us called it that.

A few months later in March, I was painting my parents bathroom with some help from my new friend Paul. There were clearly feelings between us, but we hadn’t had “the talk.” As we peeled wallpaper, he asked me, “So, what are we doing tonight?” to which I replied hesitantly, “Well…….I am going out with my friend from college. He’s in town visiting his family.” After a brief stunned pause, Paul made some excuse about having something to do and quickly made his escape. Feeling a little guilty, I walked over to the kitchen where my my mom was cooking dinner. “Where’s Paul?” she asked. When I told her what happened, she completely took his side and strongly suggested (in her most convincing Sicilian way) that I go apologize. Conveniently, he was renting a house just around the corner. So I got in my car and drove over there – but not to apologize. Instead I planned to tell him why I didn’t *have* to apologize, of course.

It went something like this.

Me: So, I understand that you are upset, but really, we aren’t officially anything, and you can’t just assume that we are going out if you haven’t asked me.

Paul: You’re right.

Me: (Confused Silence….. that was easy….too easy)

Paul: Here’s the thing. Right before we met, I had just gotten out of a really long relationship and a friend of mine recommended that I take a year and get my relationship right with God before dating anyone else. So I made a commitment to God to do that.

That’s really all I remember from that conversation. Doing the math I realized that there was 8 months left of this commitment. In my heart, however, it didn’t feel like a pause, but rather an end.

Ironically, I was planning to tell my “friend” from college that our friendship was too close and too confusing for me. I thought things were going somewhere with Paul and I didn’t want to constantly be comparing the two of them in my mind.

That night during my conversation with said friend, it was made clear to me that any feelings in this relationship were completely one-sided. So after our dinner and long awkward conversation ended, I sat in my car and cried. The choice between these two great guys was all in my head. And now I had no one.

The next nine months were a rollercoaster of trying to figure out how to “not” date Paul but keep him as my friend. I loved our time together. Our friendship grew, and there was some flirtation, but we really never spoke of our feelings which left me constantly wondering if I was waiting till November for nothing. One minute I felt sure in my heart we would end up together and the next I was just as sure some other girl would swoop in and steal him away.

The last week in October, with the deadline of November 1st only days away, I stopped by the Skate Park he was managing at the time. He told me he was going away for the weekend effectively crushing all my imaginations that at 12am November 1st he would be outside my window, boom box blaring over his head declaring his love for me. I went home confused and dejected. November 1st came and went. I stared at my phone, legitimately surprised at its silence as my sadness grew.

A week into November, I went to church with a friend and saw Paul. It was like nothing had happened. Just another day. But it wasn’t just another day. We were in November- unrestrained by any commitment to God. Clearly any feelings between the two of us were imagined. Obviously any hints of new beginnings in November were just silly flirtations. I went home that night frustrated and alone.

When I got home, I filled in my sister and mom on the nothingness of the night, and they decided I needed to make a phone call to figure out once and for all what was going on. It went like this:

Paul: Hey what’s up?

Me: Yeah, what’s up? That’s what I would like to know….. (I know, I know… but if you think I’m intense now….)

Paul then went on to explain that as November 1st approached, he didn’t know what to do. So his friends told him to just pray about it, and not talk to me at all.

And…..He realized that I was the one that he wanted to pursue a relationship with.

And the rest, as they say, is history….

But here comes the crazy part:

We signed up for premarital classes the *next* week…

We were engaged *one* MONTH later…

And we were married three months after our engagement….March 22, 2002.

We had no idea what we were getting into, as most people don’t. We have had our fair share of hard times and obstacles. But we have also had more than our fair share of blessings and love.

We both put up with a lot, forgive a lot, and love a lot.

Our marriage is 18 years old today. An adult. And it really feels like that. So much has happened that has forced us to grow up in ways we would have never chosen. We have learned and are still learning how to love each other and support each other in the most important ways. On the other hand, we are unlearning harmful teachings that would put us at odds with each other instead of on each others side.

I don’t have 10 steps to a great marriage for you. But I do have a story to share. And this is only the beginning.