(If you’re looking for links to other parts of the story, scroll to the end of this post.)
I loved spending time with Randy. And spend time together we did, rarely missing a day… I was thankful for how Randy adjusted his work schedule as often as possible to suit mine. If I was shooting a wedding on a Saturday, he’d also work a full day to free up time during the week. He’d take a half hour work-break and spend it driving ten minutes to my home – just for ten minutes side by side on our front step, holding hands.
He made it work.
I had an engagement session one evening in July on Granville Island and Randy volunteered to leave his job site early to drive into the city together. We arrived a few hours before the session, picked up dinner from Whole Foods and settled in the park. We sat cross-legged, side by side and watched the rowing teams go by, pointed out buildings we admired across the water and in my case, laughed while attempting to get close enough to possibly touch one of the Canadian geese surrounding us.
A common piece of dating advice Randy and I often heard in the first few weeks of our relationship was, “Have fun! Dating is for fun! Have fun!”
We talked about the thought (just have fun right now!) that early evening by the water. What did that mean, after all? We knew dating wasn’t meant to be about bills and checklists and serious conversations about five year plans. It had to be fun… but we were having fun. Why did everyone think we were so ‘serious?’
Randy said, “I am having fun doing this! Getting to know you. Every time we go out, I get to know you better and that is fun to me.” I nodded, “I agree! What do they want us to do? Go play bumper cars or something? I don’t want to do that. I want to sit here and talk to you.”
He laughed and put his arm around me. “I like us.”
When my sunset engagement session ended, Randy was there to meet me with a hot Starbucks tea. We sat down in the sand, leaning up against a piece of driftwood. The last little bits of sunlight were fading, the sky that held a brilliant pink a few minutes ago darkening to a grey.
This was fun, I thought, as Randy held my hand in his. Going to work with Randy by my side. This is all SO new… but so good.
We laughed a lot that night – I remember it being the first truly carefree, easy, silly date we had. The kind of date where there were no “topics of discussion” or “getting to know you” questions. There was no need. The silence was filled quickly with chatter and laughter and teasing and fun. It was perfect.
We were on the phone together, having a normal conversation. Talking about our days when I opened my mouth and the words came out: “Randy, I love you.”
I was in that surreal state between asleep and awake and when I said those three words, I woke up with a start.
What was that?
I told him I loved him?
I unplugged my iPhone from the wall and furiously started typing a text to my friend Kristen. “I just woke up from a dream where I told Randy I loved him. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?” As I waited for her response (because, obviously, best friends have all the answers) I got ready for my work day with those little words imprinted on my brain.
I love you. I love you.
Do I love him?!
How will I know when I love someone? What will that feel like? I loved everything about who Randy was, I respected him, I wanted to follow him, I could see us doing life together easily, I was attracted to him.
I liked him.
He loved me.
Randy was leaving the following day to attend a friend’s wedding in Courtenay. I wasn’t able to come (I had to photograph a wedding for work) and we were looking for any excuse to sneak in more time together before he left. In an effort to be anywhere close to him, I mentioned I’d come work on my laptop at the closest Starbucks to Randy’s current construction site in the afternoon. He said he’d drop by on a break, no question.
As I settled into my corner table at Starbucks, I remembered those dream-like words again.
I love you…
When Randy walked through the doors of Starbucks, he looked… different. There was nothing new about his appearance, same old work attire: black Carhatt work pants, blue polo shirt, brown work boots, neatly cut hair.
But something felt different about his appearance. What was it?
We said hello with a hug, he kissed the top of my head and went to stand in line to order a coffee. As I settled back at my table in front of my laptop, my dream and “How do I know if I love him?” was at the forefront of my mind. Randy now waited a few feet in front of me for his drink at the bar and I watched him carefully.
I compared the words of my dream (“I love you, Randy”) with the boyfriend in front of me, right now. He looked really, really good. I mean, since we had started dating, I thought Randy was a cute guy… but… he looked incredible today.
I looked him up and down, his strong calves, his powerful arms… my eyes stopped. How have I literally never noticed how good his butt looks? (Side note – Randy is gonna kill me for writing that. But it’s a big part of the story okay. Attraction, hello.) Randy turned around just that moment and I darted my eyes up to meet his, moving my tea from one side of the table to the other, keeping my hands busy. Somehow his ‘quick break’ that afternoon turned into two hours side by side, talking, laughing, looking at beautiful homes online, his favourite West Coast architects and designers… when it was time to go, we said ‘See you in three days!’ and that was that.
The next morning, still processing my dream, I opened up my laptop and began to spill.
“I’m 90% sure I will marry Randy. He is the best thing I could ever imagine or dream up or think of. He is above and beyond any man I could have “designed.” So faithful, loving, caring, kind, patient, motivated, driven, adventurous, affirming, business-minded, servant-hearted, gentle, affectionate, thoughtful… the list truly doesn’t have an end. All day yesterday, when he told me “I love you” in person, or on the phone, or text, I found myself wanting to say it back. I don’t think that’s a lie my heart is telling me. I have a strong brain. I didn’t want to date him in April. I didn’t want him to tell me “I love you” when he did in May and June. All these things I can’t make myself do or feel. I wouldn’t be thinking of saying this unless I “felt” it in my own INTJ way.”
As mentioned, I had spent a lot of time reading about my personality in romantic relationships. It’s quirky, I know. But it’s classic INTJ and I came across this post from another INTJ female:
“The first time my husband said “I love you” I went blank. Thinking and trying to tie the word lot to the tangibles that were going on between us. Since I was seriously contemplating long term relationship, I’d been focused on the person he was and if he was trustworthy, among other ideas. I had pushed my emotions aside in the process and did not add those aspects back into the equation yet. When he asked, I was lost. Back up, I’m still thinking and I am not ready! Everything was there as I perceived it to be, via my intuition and observations. But somehow, making that final jump was just too scary. Weeks later, I figured it out and found the courage to tell him I was in love with him.
I continued to journal:
“I really think that’s me. I can see myself with Randy. I love who he is. I think this means I love him. I know we have months in front of us – potentially years – to get to know each other. But I do love who he is, how he thinks, what he’s about. I want to share that with him. I want him to know. I never thought I’d say something like this a couple of months in… I don’t know what the right timing is, I’m afraid of jumping in. A small fear is our relationship ending but I think a bigger fear is hurting him. I feel like I need to know that I know that I love him before I share it…”
When Randy came home Sunday afternoon from a weekend away, I was happy to be wrapped in his arms for a hug. But inside, I was still analyzing every interaction to death.
“Did I miss him? No… don’t think so. We talked everyday it was fine… Do I feel butterflies? No… Am I glad we are hanging out? Well, yes, of course…”
I could figure myself out.
I couldn’t match what “the world” or what other friends told me of their boyfriend experiences with mine. “I don’t want to live a day without him! I get giddy every time I see him! He still gives me butterflies five years later! I’m sooo in loooove!” with fluttering eyelashes. I couldn’t say that I FELT that, but goodness, I truly did care for Randy.
I didn’t want him to ever leave.
We went down to the river, plaid blanket in tow and picked a secluded spot on the far end of the narrow beach. Randy shared stories from his weekend away back home, friends he enjoyed seeing at the wedding, good conversations he shared with his mom. There was so much to share and we both talked a mile a minute. I loved listening to him.
After two hours side by side, the river was rising towards the shore. We moved our blanket back a couple of feet and settled beside one another once more. There was a lull in conversation as we stared at the river but inside my heart was anything but quiet.
In that moment, I knew I needed to tell him.
I needed to tell him I loved him.
I didn’t know where to start.
Randy was intuitive and knew something was bothering me. He asked if I was okay. “Yes.”
“What’s going on with you?” he gently asked.
I fidgeted. ”I have something to say but don’t know how to say it.”
I took a deep breath. “What does love mean to you?”
Randy adjusted and sat straight up. “Wow, didn’t see that question coming, change of topic.”
“No, it’s not, you’ll see, just answer the question, please.”
I bit my lip.
“Well, love means knowing enough about your character to know I can trust you with everything I am. There is so much good in you that nothing negative could outweigh the good. Issues will come up, I’m not naive, but I can say confidently the good will still hold more weight. I love you and am committed to you. The only variable in our relationship is you. I will be a constant.”
I sat silent, avoiding eye contact to keep tears from filling my eyes, which was a failed attempt, because tears were already spilling out of my eyes. “I don’t know, Randy. I’m scared.”
We sat close, his arms around my waist. I sniffed back my runny nose as hard as I could and he wiped the tears away from my cheeks with his thumb.
“Scared of what?” He prodded.
“Well, I guess myself. My own emotions. Not trusting my own emotions. How do you know they won’t change?”
“Because you commit to your emotions. You commit to them not changing.”
(Why was I afraid of that? Why was I afraid of loving him?) I was frustrated with how difficult it was to get out the words. “I don’t know what I’m saying.”
He said softly, “I’m trying to figure out where you’re going.”
“I guess I… I’ve been thinking… I don’t know what’s right or what I feel I know I feel good about things I know I like you… but how are you supposed to know you know? I don’t want to say something I don’t mean, I hate ingenuity…”
At this point, I was sobbing. I don’t use that word lightly.
Sniffling and wiping my cheeks with the back of both of my hands to keep my face clear from liquids.
Randy softly rubbled my back and whispered, “I can wait. Talk when you are ready to talk. Or we can go. Maybe we should go back to the truck.”
“No! I need to talk. Please let me do this. I guess it’s just….” I sniffed, wiping my nose with my fingers, “that… I…. feel…. like…. I love you.”
When I said the words the tears came even faster and more furiously.
Randy’s eyes locked into mine and he pulled me towards him, our foreheads resting against one another. “I love you, too, Jamie.” His fingers softly brushed my hair away and rested on my jawline… I cried even more.
We stayed there, forehead to forehead, tears streaming down my face, his hands wrapped around my waist, And then, in one fell swoop, I thought, To hell with waiting any longer.
“I want to kiss you,” I whispered, leaning in to softly brush my lips again his.
His lips were perfect, kissing me back and pulling my hips on top of his. We kissed again and again and again and again. Something I had never done suddenly felt like the most natural and ‘right’ thing in the world. When we stopped a few minutes later, Randy held me and whispered, “I love you so much, Jamie. Don’t be scared. No being scared… I’m not going anywhere. I promise.”
I cried in his arms and he softly laughed, “I did not see any of that coming.”
“That” was two-fold. One, saying those three little words (two months after him) and two, almost crazier- I kissed him. I was one week shy of my twenty-third birthday and it was my first kiss. When I started dating, I decided to only kiss men I respected, who respected me, who I could tell wanted my heart before my body.
It wasn’t a church culture or a family thing, it was personal preference. I disagree with a lot of uber-conservative dating “rules” so this wasn’t a strict legalistic rule… I simply wanted my first kiss to be in committed relationship. A relationship I knew wasn’t built on physicality – a relationship that had stood some test of time.
Waiting six months was my idea of a safe zone. When my lack of kissing experience was made known a few weeks into dating, it surprised Randy. Waiting months to kiss his girlfriend wasn’t Randy’s ideal (or history, haha) but he never spoke negatively about my standards.
It was incredible to me. So many opportunities Randy would have had when honestly, I probably would have let him kiss me earlier. But he waited. Because I said I wanted to wait and he took my words seriously. I cannot even express how much this meant to me and how rare I know it is. Randy’s willingness to wait 3 months of dating to do something as simple as kiss, spoke more about his integrity and character than 20 lengthy conversations ever could.
Man. That was huge for me. My respect for him continued to grow all throughout May, June, July. So on that afternoon, as he held me, our foreheads close to one another, my eyes streaming tears, my thoughts racing: “I love this man, I trust this man,” I whispered what my brain was thinking… I want to kiss you.
My lips met his. And it was perfect.
The introduction of Forge can be found here and Part One can be found here. Part Two can be found here. Part Three can be found here. Part Four can be found here. Part Five can be found here. Part Six can be found here. Part Seven can be found here. Part Eight can be found here. Part Nine can be found here. Part Ten can be found here. Part Eleven can be found here. Part Twelve can be found here. Part Thirteen can be found here. Part Fourteen can be found here. Part Fifteen can be found here. Part Sixteen can be found here. This is Part Seventeen.