He called me Darlin’. And when he called me Darlin’ in that southern drawl, my stomach flip-flopped.
Chris had sandy blond hair, tan skin, a cute crooked smile and straight teeth. He was confident, devilishly flirty and charming. He, however, had absolutely no fashion sense. Good thing we met each other in our work uniforms.
After weeks flirting at work, we decided to hang out. I was invited to his apartment after my shift. When opening his apartment door, he thought out loud “Oh, you have bangs. Cool,” which is an odd thing for a boy to say. But Chris was always observant and complimentary. I realized that he had only seen me in a restaurant uniform and hat, which made my extra primping efforts worth it. We sat on his couch and talked for a long time and instantly clicked. The next night I was back at his apartment watching TV in the dark, although there was little TV-watching going on. All of a sudden, the door flew open and bright light bathed us. We both jolt up. At first I couldn’t see because my eyes were adjusting. Once focused, my eyes fixed on an attractive, frizzy-haired girl, with swollen, red eyes, screaming at us. Wow, the BYU Honor Code Office is trying new scare tactics these days. But, no, it turned out to be Chris’ ex-girlfriend: his freshly dumped ex-girlfriend. I’m not sure how she knew another girl was moving in on her territory, but girls have ESP about this kind of thing. Chris excused himself to run after her. I sat there confused and saddened. I felt horrible that this girl had witnessed her man holding another girl in his arms. Although sitting alone, I suddenly felt crowded. I wondered if I should leave.
Once he returned, I was rewarded for staying by reassuring words and a hug. We resumed cuddling and when I turned around to look at him, he bent down for the first kiss. Some guys just have a natural gift for kissing and I could tell Chris’ style and comfort in kissing had been perfected over many years. Kissing Chris was comfortable and exciting. After kissing me, he’d look deep into my eyes trying to read my reaction.
Chris had a way of making me feel like the only woman on earth. He was constantly building me up with praise and admiration. He smothered me with loving attention, which might have been overwhelming if it were being given by the average suitor. But Chris was different. He had no shame about telling me (and the world) that he had fallen for me. With all of the boys I had previously dated, none was so open, honest and direct with me. Well, except for the guy who tried to sell me pest control ten minutes into our first date, but that doesn’t count. Chris was upfront about his intentions and went for it. I was previously accustomed to head games and aloofness. It was refreshing to date a guy who didn’t protect his pride by playing games. I was smitten and allowed myself to fall captive to his charm. And I did fall. Deep. We dated seriously for two years. I can admit to being in love with just three men in my life and Chris claimed one of those spots.
I didn’t realize that I loved him until the night I broke up with him. Chris and I had an ongoing religious struggle. I was a devout Mormon and he was not interested in becoming one. (Yes, I fell in love with the one and only non-Mormon attending BYU; Chris was lured to BYU by its #4 accounting program and its proximetry to the slopes.) Although we were blissfully happy and committed to each other, my conviction to get married in a Mormon temple always drove a wedge in our future together. One night I felt defeated and decided to break up with Chris since our relationship was doomed. It was a tearful, tender discussion ending in break-up.
Hours later, cognitively I told myself that I had made the right decision. But deep into the night, my heart ached so badly that I hopped in my car to tell him that I was wrong. My intellect was screaming, “No! Turn around; the break-up is too fresh. Give yourself a couple of days and then re-evaluate”, but my head wasn’t driving, my heart was. Since it was well after midnight, I quietly turned the handle of his apartment and walked in. There he was, on the living room floor sobbing; my strong, happy, flirty, fun, confident Chris, just sobbing. On our knees, we held each other for a long, long time and shared tender kisses mingled with both of our tears. After that night, I knew that I loved him.
We were looking for wedding rings the following month and planning a wedding outside of a Mormon temple. My testimony of temple marriage still tugged at me. Actually, it was constantly screaming at me in the back of my mind. Young Women leaders’ lessons, my parents’ expectations, my friends’ examples and spiritual temple experiences were constantly appearing and battling in my mind. But I repressed it. I was in love.
During the second year of our relationship, Chris moved to Phoenix to pursue his Master’s Degree. Once he was away from BYU, he felt as though something was missing. After pondering and prayer, he realized it was the constant influence of the LDS gospel. He took the missionary discussions on his own and decided to get baptized.
I was present when he was baptized. I was thrilled for him. Further, I was elated for me and for us. Now I could marry him in a Mormon temple and have no reservations! I was on cloud nine. Knowing that he would be popping the question soon, I began focusing my efforts on receiving personal inspiration, a clear answer from Heavenly Father that Chris was “the one”. I was deeply in love with Chris. We were best friends and totally committed. And now that he was baptized in the LDS church, we could be married in the temple. I should be the happiest girl in the world. Right?
For a month, I purified my life. I cut out any and all bad influences. I wanted inspiration to flow through me without interception. I increased my scripture study and spent quiet time pondering and praying. I was doing everything imaginable to receive a clear sign, an answer to my inquiry: Should I marry Chris? Nothing came. Although my heart yearned for him to be my husband, my mind felt dull. Blank. And as the month progressed with no answers to my prayers, I began to doubt. I did not doubt that God lived and would answer me: in fact, I felt more confident in His love and interest in me. I doubted my future with Chris. I had been preparing to marry Chris for years. This was a change in paradigm and a serious blow to my heart.
God had spoken to me by not speaking. Once I had somberly accepted that my Chris was not “the one,” I knew I needed to end our relationship, for good. I was nervous to break the news to Chris. He would be crushed. We loved each other! There was nothing wrong currently, only a dead-end future. That’s a hard situation to explain, especially to someone in the infancy of their own religious conversion. I worried that he would confuse our relationship with his own relationship with God and be angry with God. When the Dear John call ensued, Chris was deeply wounded, but honored my request to have a clean break.
For weeks, I slunk around my apartment and campus like a zombie. There was little will left to marry at all. I felt defeated. I knew Chris wasn’t the one, but I didn’t want anyone else. No other guys caught my eye. And even if they did catch my eye for a moment, I would compare every ounce of the guy to Chris. When I went to class, I recognized spots on campus that we had been. When I went out with my friends, I felt empty and somber. When I went to the movies, I longed for him to be next to me. There were times when one of us would break down and call the other. But hearing his voice would plunge me deeper into anguish. What worsened my frustration was that Chris was there with open arms patiently waiting for me to realize “my mistake” so that we could go ahead with our wedding plans. Why did he have to be so darn forgiving?! It took all the strength I had to resist his beckoning, familiar embrace.
There was someone else out there for me, someone I already knew; I just hadn’t realized it yet.