Most of you know the trajectory of Aaron’s and my relationship. If you don’t, let me break it down:

April 25, 2015— Met through a mutual friend in Virginia Beach while I was still living in Arlington.

31 days later…

May 26, 2015— I moved back to Virginia Beach, and we went on our first official date (had only talked on the phone once by this point)

19 days later…

June 14, 2015— He said “a spade is a spade…you’re my girlfriend.” So that’s when things became official.

11 days later…

June 25, 2015— Aaron said “I love you” for the first time (and I reciprocated)

8 days later…

July 3, 2015— We discussed marriage for the first time

33 days later…

August 5, 2015— Aaron proposed

129 days later…

December 12, 2015— We got married

157 days later…

May 17, 2015 (today)— Still happily married

Clearly I’m a “date” person. This will be very fun for Aaron to try and keep up with over the years…

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Essentially, Aaron and I spent time with each other for about 2 months before he proposed. That’s nuts. The whole thing was nuts. And that’s why I’ve been wanting to write this blog post for a while, but I wasn’t sure how to do so without sounding defensive, or that I “know better” than most people. Because I don’t. Nonetheless, I am happily married, even though our timeline was the kind that people scoff at, or expect to end in a failed relationship.

I’d like to share my experience to help everyone learn a little more about a journey that is considered unconventional or risky, with hopes of highlighting the well-known fact that each love story is different. Aaron and I have been lucky to face very little judgement (at least not to our faces…), but I think it’s important to remember that you can never fully understand a relationship unless you’re in it.

It’s funny, because I still have the same reaction most people do when someone says, “So and so proposed to this girl after only knowing her for like, 4 months. I can’t believe they’re getting married!” I gasp and say, “Wow, that’s crazy.” And then my friends and I laugh, because I have no room to talk. Even for someone like me, though, I obviously still know that committing yourself to someone after a few weeks or months has the potential to be disastrous.

By the time Aaron and I got engaged, I had spent tons of time with his best friend and had met his family. We’d gone on little trips together that tested our compatibility. We saw each other almost every day, and not only had tons of fun, but talked for hours about our pasts, weaknesses, goals, beliefs, and desires. Pretty much no moment between us went to waste.

View More: http://abbygracephotography.pass.us/aaron-shannon-engagement

I will never forget being on a tubing trip together, and walking off to the river by ourselves while everyone else was playing volleyball. We sat in the shallow current for almost an hour, just soaking in the beauty around us and talking about everything from God to our love to career goals. I’ll never forget grabbing sushi in Norfolk on our lunch break, and me telling him that we can’t plan a future unless we are both stable in our own spirituality. I’ll never forget the countless conversations about what marriage means, and discussing experiences from both of our pasts that made us completely ready for that kind of commitment…but also acknowledging the very real shortcomings in our characters that made us both afraid that we would fail as a good spouse.

Our honesty and openness, which were confirmed through observation of the other’s actions, led to a very strong bond, very quickly. We understood that there would be much to learn as time went on, but there were no pretenses, because neither of us wanted to waste time, or to wake up and realize we’d committed ourselves to someone who we didn’t know. I’m still learning things about Aaron, which I’m sure will continue to be the case for decades to come, but I’ve never been surprised by anything. I don’t think he’s been surprised either. For us, two months was enough time to know what we were getting ourselves into.

I’m not trying to be naive here. I know that this would all look a lot more rosy if I was writing this after five or ten years of successful marriage…not 5 measly months. Still, I’m continuously amazed at how much stronger and more in love we become with each passing day. I’m not on my “best behavior,” like most people tend to be in the first year of a relationship. Nope, we certainly don’t try to be something we’re not. But who we are as individually just naturally works as a pair. It’s amazing. We both have things that we strive to improve upon in our characters, but I love him deeply for who he is, including every flaw. And I know he feels the same about me.

Oh, and that good ole relationship rule book has been helpful, too.

When you’re intentional about nurturing a relationship, you’d be amazed at how much progress can be made in a very short window of time. When Aaron and I share our story, we’ve noticed how opposite the reactions are from people our age vs. people from our grandparents’ generation. Anyone our age is shocked. Our elders, on the other hand, usually nod their heads and say “same.” It’s absolutely mind-blowing when we find out just how many older couples have the same story of “when you know, you know.” The vast, and I mean vast, majority of couples 65+ that we’ve talked to, met and married their spouse of 40-60 years in under one year. A fast timeline was the norm back then.

Why? Well, our grandparents dated very intentionally. They didn’t play this game of being “chill” or “who cares less, wins.” When they dated, they were courting for marriage. No pretenses. No wasting time with games or simply having a casual companion to keep you warm on lonely nights. When you are deliberate in your conversations and observations, it doesn’t take long to tell if someone is a good match.

There are even plenty of short timelines in our parents’ generations. My mentor in Northern VA met and married her husband in only two months, and they’ve been happily married now for 30 years. My husband’s coworker met and married his wife after only a few weeks, and they’ve been together for 20+ years. I had no idea before  my own experience, but these types of love stories are extremely common. Just not so much in my generation.

honeymoon

I wrote about the causes of divorce among young people the other week, which was a pretty bleak topic. But that’s why we all cringe when we hear that someone got married really fast, right? We’re afraid it won’t last. We fear that they don’t know the other person well enough, or that they’ll stay together, but be unhappy their whole lives. And that’s a fair concern. I’m grateful for my friends who asked me hard questions before bestowing their blessings on Aaron and me, because it showed a great interest in my well-being. I wasn’t offended by inquiries and concerns– I was grateful, especially since those friends trusted me enough to shower Aaron and I with congratulations and love once they listened to my answers to their questions. It was never a fight, just real conversations among caring friends. That makes me very lucky.

Still, we can’t ignore the truth that many marriages end when they involve two people who were swept up quickly into a romance that wasn’t ready to stand the tests of life. It’s easy to fall in love/lust with someone in a few weeks without really knowing how you’ll feel about them once the spark becomes a little less exciting. From my experience with Aaron, and from what I’m told, the spark starts as a crazy sparkler, but transforms into a steady flame. The steady flame keeps you warm and content for your whole life if you tend to it, while a sparkler is super exhilarating and attention-grabbing, but doesn’t take much work. It’ll eventually burn out no matter what. So, if you aren’t prepared to tend to a flame, it can be a pretty tough adjustment when the sparkler starts losing its shooting jolts of entrancing energy.

Of course relationships go through stages of becoming more sparkler-like again, but you can’t count on that excitement to be there all the time. You have to be willing and able to dedicate yourself to keeping a flame burning, which can occasionally feel like a lot of work. When you do, though, the satisfaction far outweighs any thrill from a sparkler.

I think the reason that our generation believes you have to date someone for at least a year, or maybe even live with them before you get married, is because we’re a little scared of intentional dating. We like to “see how things go.” We’ve also been warned over and over again about the tendency to get swept away with emotions without thinking about true compatibility, so we stick to a “better safe than sorry” kind of lifestyle. That’s not a terrible mindset by any means, but letting a relationship unfold over time doesn’t have to be the only road to success.

You can yield the same results if you’ve already developed your beliefs, desires, and self-awareness as an individual, then use forward-thinking and practical conversations to figure out if you’d work with someone else. The trick is that both parties must be willing to escape the millennial way of thinking that it’s “weird” to have those conversations shortly after meeting someone. If two people are on board with intentional time, they’ll have a pretty easy time of figuring out what their future could look like.

Call me crazy, but I’d rather figure out our compatibility within a few weeks, not wake up in five years and realize that it’s just not going to work. I never once hid from Aaron that I’m an absolute monster when I’m hungry, so he knew what he was getting into. And I knew that he had no concept of time. Keeping it real in your initial conversations is a glorious thing.

honeymoon1

Yes, it’s usually insane when people these days get engaged or married shortly after meeting, but that’s just because there’s a good chance they didn’t use those first few weeks or months to date with intention. They might just be swept up in high emotions. But remember– that’s not always the case. Intentional, deliberate dating allows for some very speedy results when both parties are coming at things in a rational way. Aaron and I are crazy-in-love, and I hope we never come down from Cloud 9, but we’ve definitely dipped down pretty low to the ground, and are pleased with how well-prepared we were for those moments.

Everyone’s love story is different. I have friends who dated someone for 5+ years before getting engaged, and they are wildly happy. I also have friends who dated someone for 5+ years, only to get married and divorced in under a year because the long dating period was a sign that they both knew deep down that they weren’t right for each other. I have friends who dated someone for less than a year before tying the knot, and couldn’t be more perfect for each other, even after kids and hard jobs and all the things life throws their way. And of course, I have friends who married someone quickly, only to watch the spark fizzle without success in transferring to a lasting flame.

Realistically, when it comes to a romantic timeline, there’s no “right” or “wrong.” There’s no “crazy” or “practical.” There’s just “prepared” and “unprepared.” There’s “compatible” and “incompatible.” But time doesn’t have much to do with those things…it’s just a matter of what you do with the time. Based on the amount of relationships I’ve seen that don’t work after years and years of dating, I’m almost more prone to say it’s “crazy” for people to get married if they’ve been dating too long. But then I know that’s a dumb statement, because I’m going to two weddings this year for friends who have been with their fiances for 6+ years, and that timeline truly worked for them.

The moral of the story is that our love stories all look different. I’m so happy to be married to a person who complements my character (and vice versa) even in our darkest moments, and that’s what matters. I will still ask hard questions of my friends who might get engaged quickly, but that’s out of love and caring that they used their time of dating intentionally– just as my friends did for me. When it all boils down, though, I know that time doesn’t directly correlate with readiness.

I love how life leads us in so many different directions, and how every single one of us experiences something different. There are so many different love stories from which to draw inspiration and joy, and I know first hand how wonderful it is to watch all of them unfold in their own time! So, to all of you getting married in 2016– even if you haven’t met the person you’ll marry yet– I hope you are ready to tend to the flame, but I’m also so overjoyed for the joy a strong marriage will bring to your life. It’s definitely not overrated!