These days, my husband Tony-Bear has quite the fan club. Ever since I wrote in my February e-newsletter about him rescuing me, albeit from my mother, people keep saying how awesome he is.
The thing is, Tony being my hero is nothing new. He’s been my hero ever since my last semester of college when I spotted him across the dance floor of a bar, through a Kool and Camel haze, through the Purple Rain.
In the event you’re looking for a forever-honey, here’s some things you might want to keep in mind:
Find someone willing to go low and slow.
Always the gentleman, Tony was careful with our relationship, intentional. We were like a Crock-Pot—taking our time, not boiling or burning, flavors feelings were mingling, developing. Because Tony didn’t rush me emotionally or physically, I felt safe, treasured.
You want someone who puts your wishes first.
During college I was certain I was a big-city girl, and more than that, I was sure I wanted to get the heck out of West Virginia and never rarely return. Tony followed me to Washington, D.C. even though he had no desire to leave his family or the family business. In time, I agreed to move back on a trial basis (because I was trying to put him first), and what do you know? We’re still here.
And that’s not all. He and I were at odds with how many children we wanted. Tony thought six was a nice number. Zero got my vote. He asked if I’d be willing to have one, as a compromise. That didn’t sound terrible so I agreed. And then in time, I “agreed” twice more.
Make sure he can handle your “rest of the story.”
When my childhood caught up with me and Tony at last learned the details, he didn’t say buh-bye. He cupped the shards of my broken littleness in his hands and said, “We need to find someone who knows how to fix this.” Each week when I came home from counseling, he’d rest his hand gently on my shoulder and ask: “You okay? Is there anything I should know?”
Now with that said, if you have a complicated backstory or a myriad of secret squirrel mysteries, consider allowing your prospective date-mate access to some or all of your information, especially once things get serious. Childhod trauma. Former marriages which may or may not be legally (or emotionally) terminated. Psychiatric diagnoses. Children with previous partners. No desire to have children. No desire to have sex. Aversion to employment. Staggering debt, student-loan or otherwise.
If things are headed toward marriage, I absolutely recommend premarital counseling. With your pastor/priest or a licensed professional. At the very least, each of you should fill out a premarital counseling questionnaire then compare answers.
Look for someone who’s happy to help.
For as far back as I can remember, Tony-Bear has insisted on cleaning the kitchen after supper. I love to cook and I’m really good at it, but the fact of the matter is, after I’m done, the kitchen usually looks like Hurricane Diane swept through. When Tony points to the door and says, “I love doing this. Really. It relaxes me. Now go read,” I feel like the Renee Zelwegger character in “Jerry McGuire” when Tom Cruise’s character says, “You complete me.”
A week out from my due date with Sandwich-Child, Tony painted my toenails because I couldn’t reach them. Our labor-and-delivery nurse got all misty-eyed when I told her my fuchsia pedicure was thanks to him. She grabbed at her heart through her scrub shirt. “That is the most romantic thing ever!”
Back in 2003, after I tore the ACL and meniscus ligaments in my right knee because I actually believed you never forget how to ride a horse, Tony took excellent care of me. Three times a day he brought my meals up to the second floor. Twice a day he’d come home from work to take me to the bathroom. The first couple of times I took a shower, he spotted me because I was terrified of falling. He even offered to get in there with me. Yep, he’s a keeper.
Find a defender.
One day Tony-Bear called me from work. “You know I’d fight for you, right?” When I didn’t answer (because I wasn’t sure what he was talking about), he went on. “Because I need you to know that I would, that I will.” Him saying that made my heart beat fast. My man’s a man!
He didn’t have the occasion to prove it for several years though. And when he did, guess who he fought? My mom. Multiple times a day, she was being horrific to me on the phone, though in her defense, her medication needed adjusting, but still… One night he grabbed the phone from me and told her, “I will not allow you to treat my wife this poorly. From now until further notice, if you need something, you call me. ”
That’s the kind of guy, the sort of forever-honey, I want for you: a real-life hero. Don’t settle for less. Promise?