It was the beginning of my Senior Year and my goal was to finish my college career strong. I was going to study harder, work harder, and party harder than I ever had before. And that’s when “she” came back from Spain where she had studied abroad her Junior year.
Before she had left at the end of our Sophomore year, we had been spending a little bit of time together. There was potential for a spark, but nothing ever happened at that time. We had completely different circles of friends, so our interactions had to be very intentional. So, when she left for Spain, that was that. She would be gone for a year and there were plenty more fish in the sea.
During her year abroad, we actually kept in contact via email and got to know each other a little bit better. Then, when we ran into each other at the Student Union on the first day of our Senior Year, it almost felt like is was destined.
From that very first re-encounter, it felt like things just clicked. There were so many things I liked about her: She was smart, she was tough, she was confident, she was gorgeous, and she was always down for cold beer. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stand her friends and that should have been a huge red flag from the beginning. But I was infatuated. Not just with her, but more so with the “idea” of her.
On paper, she was exactly what I was looking for. On paper, she met all of the bullshit qualities that I had predefined. As I was an engineer, I thought it would be nice compliment to have a lawyer as a wife and she was a Political Science major. Check. Caring so much about my culture I was looking for a Latina and she was actually from Mexico. Check. Being an arrogant, cocky, conceited young man, I was in need of a woman with a strong personality and she was just as full of herself as I was of myself. Check. And last, but not least, I wanted to be with someone who was ready for adventure and loved to travel and she had just finished living in Spain for a year. Check.
From the very beginning, our relationship was serious. As I had spent the first three years of college playing the proverbial dating field, I felt like it was time for me to settle down a bit and give an adult relationship a try. So, for entirety of our Senior Year, we were a couple. We had our share of fights, but we always seemed to work it out.
Half way through our Senior Year, I turned down an offer from IBM to stay in Silicon Valley after graduation and instead accepted a position in Dallas with Texas Instruments. Knowing six months in advance that I was going to be moving to Texas after graduation seemed to put an expiration date on our relationship, which I was ok with at first. But as our graduation date grew closer, I found that I wasn’t ok with just letting go. So I asked her to move with me to Texas.
Her exact words were: “There is no way in hell that I am moving to Dallas, Texas.”
This was actually the response I expected, especially since I wasn’t all that excited to be moving to Dallas either. The plan was that I would only be moving to Dallas for 18 months while I completed my Sales Management Training Program and then I would most likely be returning to Silicon Valley. But knowing that long-term relationships hardly ever work out, especially among young adults, we weren’t even willing to try the long-distance thing. It was either she moved with me to Dallas or we were going to break up. Not that there was ever any kind of ultimatum given, but more so a simple understanding. Since long-distance wasn’t an option, things were over between us if I left and me passing on my dream job wasn’t an option either. Which meant that the only way we were going to stay together was if she moved with me to Dallas.
In hindsight, this was a crap situation from the beginning. I know I didn’t make any explicit ultimatums, but because I had already made up my mind to take the job and move, I basically made an implicit ultimatum.
When she first told me that she had spoken with her Dad and that he was in full support of her moving to Dallas with me, I was rather shocked. Seriously? A Mexican father thinks it’s a good idea for his college educated daughter to postpone her career to follower her boyfriend half way across the country? I should have been suspicious then. But, being the immature, self-centered, jerk that I was, I quickly agreed.
“That’s great that you want to postpone your dreams in order to tag along and watch me chase mine! So what if you worked hard to earn your degree too? Let’s chase my career! Oh, and by the way, I’m not anywhere remotely close to ready for marriage, so let’s just do this as boyfriend and girlfriend.”
Perhaps those weren’t my exact words, but that is pretty much how it played out. I’m not sure why her Dad didn’t see it this way, because my parent’s definitely did. When I first told them that we were going to move in together, they were adamantly opposed to it. They said that if we were going to do it, we should go ahead and get married. At the time, I thought they were just being old fashioned, plus why would I want to get married when I could just “play married”?
As opposed to it as my parent’s were, I quickly put an end to the conversation by saying “Look, if I thought I could have kept this a secret from you, I would have. But I know you would have found out sooner or later, so I figured it would just be better to tell you upfront.” With that, they dropped the subject, though I wish they hadn’t now.
Once we graduated, we headed to South Korea for the summer to teach English at a small private school in Seoul. This was a pretty tough time for us. We were living together in a tiny little motel room, neither of us spoke the language, and spending 24-hours / day together was more than either of us bargained for. Even so, we survived and I considered that a success. Unfortunately, I don’t think she saw it that way. Where I came from the mentality of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, I think she thought more along the lines of “it didn’t kill me, but it almost did and I’m weaker for it.”
Either way, when we returned from Korea, we immediately packed up our cars and made the drive from Santa Clara, CA to Dallas, TX, making pit stops at her parents house in Los Angeles and my NAK bro’s house in Albuquerque. After about three days of driving, we finally arrived at our new apartment in Dallas.
The apartment we moved into was one of fifteen complexes that were all situated together in an area just north of downtown called The Village. The demographic was primarily recent college graduates / young professionals, so it was a lot like still living on a college campus. What made it even more like college was that I program I was working in was made up of thirty recent college grads and all of us lived in The Village and hung out together. Having this instant work community was a great thing for me, but living in a new place and knowing anyone was a difficult transition for her. But the fact remained that this was only temporary. After 18 months, we would be heading back to the bay area.
Throughout our time in Dallas, we were “playing married”.
Though we were sharing a home and sharing a bed, we weren’t sharing a checking account or a savings account. I paid most of the bills and she did her best to pay her share. I basically did whatever I wanted and she put up with it.
And there lies the dilemma: For the entire time we lived together, I was carrying on as if I were single, essentially testing how much she would put up with. I figured if she didn’t complain too much, then I would feel comfortable marrying her, expecting that nothing would change. On the other side of the relationship, she was only putting up with me, trying not complain too much, expecting that once we actually got married that everything would change.
Unfortunately, neither of us understood the other persons expectations.
When I got the job offer to move to Florida and continue on with the next step of my career, I thought it was a no brainer: We were moving to Florida! She wasn’t exactly as excited as I was though. I believe her exact words were: “I am not moving with you again as your girlfriend.” So, I did what I thought was the right thing and asked her to marry me. She had already sacrificed a lot and I understood that I needed to step up my commitment to her. At that time, we had already been together for two and a half years. Even so, I really wasn’t ready to get married quite yet (which should have been a huge red flag). But, knowing full well that there was an 18-month long waiting list at the church where she wanted to get married, I figured that an engagement ring would buy me the enough time to get my self ready for marriage.
Talk about a terrible understanding of a relationship. Granted, I was twenty-four years old, but that isn’t a legitimate excuse for thinking that just because we hadn’t officially gotten married in a church or a court that I was basically still a single guy. Now, I knew that wasn’t really a single guy, but I also wasn’t a married guy either. Somehow, this gave me the freedom to continue acting independently as opposed being in a partnership. And as messed up as this may have been she allowed it.
So we moved to Florida and continued playing married, but now we were calling ourselves “engaged”. Still sharing a home, still sharing a bed, still not sharing a bank account.
This second move was a lot different from the first. I was no longer in the training program so my community had really shrunk down to the few guys in my office. She had gotten a job a pretty large company and was able to make a decent amount of contacts and friends at work, of which there was only one that I actually liked. This is a theme that seemed to carry on throughout our relationship: We never got along with each other’s friends. I’ll say it again: This should have been a big red flag.
Either way, we seemed to make it work. I would exactly say that either of us was super happy in the relationship, but we had already put a lot of commitment into it and it seemed like we way to deep to turn back now. Both of us were living on the opposite side of the country from our families and neither of us had anywhere easily run away. Had we stayed in Santa Clara and not moved in together, I’m positive that we would have broken up after just a few months. But, because we had moved in together and because we were far away from our family and friends, we were forced to work through the difficult times. So, that’s what we did. We stuck it out. We dealt with any unhappiness that arose and we moved forward.
All the way to the alter.
It was just a few days before we were to fly back to Santa Clara for our big wedding with all of our friends and family that we got into one last fight. It was a stupid disagreement over something silly like the seating arrangement, but I was figured that my bachelor days were about to be over so I went out with a friend and ended up staying out all night. For most people, that would have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. But not for us! We had put to much into this relationship, we had dealt with too much of each other’s bullshit, and we had already spent too much money on this wedding to back out now. So we dealt with the situation the same way we dealt with all of our fights and simply brushed it under the rug, put on a happy face, and moved forward.
It was a beautiful ceremony at a beautiful church, all of friends and family were in attendance, and at the end, we were no longer “playing” married.