Just Another Gushy Love Story

I have wanted to write this story down for awhile, (just because I am forgetting it) and have never really felt motivated until now. So here it goes...

How I met Matt:

I guess there are really two versions of this story, the long one and the short one. The short one goes something like, "Boy and girl meet. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy and girl get married." But because I want to be able to look at this years from now and remember what exactly happened, I think I will write the long one. Which means you will be reading several pages of plot. Good luck to you, dear reader. Please remember there is no commitment here. (Although there is going to be a good bit of detail sharing that I'm not even sure my parents know about.) You might need to read this in installments...

I was nineteen years old when I first met Matt. I had just moved home from my first college year "away" from home, although for me that meant an apartment within walking distance of my parents. In Rexburg, everything is in walking distance. I had opted to attend the college ward for local students, instead of going to my parents' ward each week. I made this choice because 1- My parents' ward was full of old people, and 2- My older brother was the executive secretary of the college ward so he knew a lot of people and I wasn't alone.

It was the month of August, the first week of the Fall 2006 semester, and I was in the Sarah Barnes Girls Dorm, wearing a pair of jeans and a pink hooded shirt (which I still own). I was meeting with my new FHE group, composed of two girls apartments and two boys apartments with a couple of locals--me, my brother, and a girl I knew from high school--thrown in. We were sitting in a circle in the little cinder-blocked living room of my "sister's" apartment, meeting each other for the first time, and all I remember thinking was, "Wow. This has got to be the strangest group, made out of the weirdest people in the entire World." Not to sound stuck up or anything, but this "family" of mine was taking the cake in awkwardness. We went around the room introducing ourselves and saying what our major was, and at the end of the circle one of my FHE brothers mentioned that his roommate was named Matt, but he probably wouldn't ever come to FHE so don't worry about him.

So anyway, our FHE "dad" started the lesson, and like 45 minutes later he paused to take a breath when the door opened and in walked this guy I had never seen before. He had a black and red skull doo-rag on his head, a leather half jacket thing, and black streaks all over his face and arms. There were little holes in his shirt, huge tares in his jeans, and enough dirt under his fingernails to plant a small garden in.

He was probably the most normal guy in the room at the moment.

This, obviously, was Matt. The first thing he did when he came in was apologize for being late because he was welding a trailer together. OK. Whatever. But instead of quietly sitting down, he asked in a very loud, very Southern voice, how in the heck we were still having a lesson because he was purposely late in order to miss that part of this little shin-dig (yes, he used that word). Then he told our FHE dad to stop talking (something we were all thinking, but were still a little appalled to actually hear), crossed himself in a Catholic style, and asked where the refreshments were.

And that was the first time I met my future husband.

Of course at the moment this happened I was thinking, "Good thing I already have a boyfriend because there is absolutely no hope here." And I did have a boyfriend...in Canada. We had been neighbors since Jr. High, tennis partners in High School, and had started dating shortly after graduation. I sent him off on his mission seven months prior to this night, and I knew he was the one for me. Seriously. I think I went a little crazy when he left, and let's just say it wasn't pretty...but that's not the point of this story. Anyway, at this time in my life I was back to normal and ready to be social again. But definitely not with anybody I had met so far in this FHE group.

There were a few other guys in my college ward, however, who treated me pretty well, and a few more I would hang out with sometimes at night. Long story short, I think I was more or less dating at least two guys with another one on a mission and having a great/stressful time doing it. They all knew about each other, because I refused to lie to any of them. But for some reason none of them cared. So I just took my free dinners and movies and didn't ask too many questions.

Anyway, back to Matt.

The next time I saw him was the following week's FHE when we were going to dinner at a bishopric members' home in Idaho Falls. And I, being one of the only people with a car (if you could even call my tiny little purple Suzuki Swift junker a "car") volunteered to drive the girls up while the boys went in another car. Matt said he may or may not come because of some building stuff he was doing, but he would drive himself in his super nice truck if he decided to.

As soon as we left the Rexburg city limits my car started wobbling back and forth and making us all very nervous, so we pulled over at a gas station and called the boys ahead of us to tell them what was going on. We got out of the car and looked closely at everything (like we knew what we were doing) and determined that my tires were a bit low. Just then Matt pulled into the gas station, since he had decided to come after all and had been behind us. Matt (looking a little more clean this time) came over to help me figure out that, while you are supposed to have about 30psi in your tires, I had under 10psi. Whoops. Matt got a huge kick out of that and laughed for a long time, but he was really nice about it. The rest of the boys pulled in shortly after we fixed the problem, but instead of Matt getting back in his truck to leave, he had someone else drive it for him (which I now understand was a BIG deal) so he could ride with me and keep an eye on my car. Who says chivalry is dead?

When we got to the bishopric members' home I remember Matt sitting by me (on accident?) and they were serving something I didn't like, so I kept putting stuff on his plate when nobody was watching. Matt was very polite about it and just kept eating whatever I gave him. Either that, or he was just really hungry. When it came time to go home, Matt again had somebody else drive his truck so he could ride with me. It was on this trip home that I really started to get to know this dirty, cocky, completely inappropriate Texan. By the time I dropped him off at his apartment we were on such good terms I felt the need to inform him that, "As long as you are in the Army, good luck getting anybody to marry you." It was also on this night that I started calling Matt "Mattie," because he said he hated that nickname, so of course I had to use it. For some reason Matt never seemed to mind too much when I did...but if anybody else tried the same thing it was serious business.

So now he had me hooked. There was just something about this guy that I really liked, despite his roughness around the edges, and I found myself really wanting to get to know him better. Especially after he gave a fantastic talk in church a few weeks later that had all the girls swooning and all the guys commenting on Matt's knowledge of the gospel and strong testimony. He was definitely up on my list.

My chance to get to know Matt better came when he texted me around the middle of September to say that my car was a death machine and he didn't feel comfortable knowing I was driving around in it. And since he knew a thing or two about cars, he would do me a favor and take a look at it, if I wanted him to. Oh yes, I wanted him to. Because now we had entered the "I-like-you-but-not-like-that-but-if-you-like-me-like-that-then-I-guess-I-like-that" stage, and I just wanted to get to know him better. That, and the fact that my car really was a death machine and anybody who wanted to work on it for free was more than welcome to.

Anyway, that's sort of where it really started. We began seeing more and more of each other over the next month or so, and I found that despite my FHE family's incredible abnormalities, they were actually a really cool group of people who I would eventually end up calling some of my good friends. And while it was fun to hang out with my entire "family", it was even better (for some strange reason) if Matt was there. And if we sat next to each other. And if we talked. And if our arms brushed when we passed. And if he walked me to my car. Matt made everything better.

And that scared me to death.

Because I was nineteen with a boyfriend in another country, and Matt was twenty-five with a dramatic past history. So I did what any smart girl would do, and I ran.

Sometime around the beginning of November I decided that, while Matt was a nice enough guy, I was only doing him an injustice by leading him on when I knew perfectly well that this relationship would only end when my missionary got home and we were inevitably married. So I did the decent thing and cut him off, cold turkey. No more phone calls, no more working on my car together, no more finding excuses to hang out. I would see him at FHE and church and that would be it. I stuck to my guns for about a week and felt pretty good about how I handled the situation.

But then one day I was sitting at my parents' kitchen table working on some homework, when I looked up to see a flower delivery guy standing on my porch with the cutest little arrangement you've ever seen. At first I thought it was for my mom, but when I opened the door the man asked me if I was Haley Hazard, and I said yes, and he said these were for me. I was very confused who they could be from, but when I read the personally written letter (not card--personally written letter) attached to the flowers, I realized they were from none other than that dirty Texas boy, telling me to have a good day and smile (the flowers were in a little pot with a smiley face on it).

Most girls would have been melted by the cuteness of this act, but not me. I hated those flowers with a white-hot passion. What was wrong with this boy?! I had obviously made it clear to him that I was definitely NOT interested in him that way, and what does he do? He buys me flowers! The nerve of him! I'm pretty sure that I lost it at this point and started crying over how complicated my life was and I seriously considered burning the disgusting display. But in the end I just never watered them and let them die slowly. (Matt never knew this about the flowers until after we were married. I still feel really bad about that...) I did, however, keep the cute smiley face pot as a pen holder, if that counts for anything.

So it was at this point that I decided I had had enough of this dating thing all together. It was getting way too complicated, and I was going crazy with what to do about not just Matt, but all of those poor guys I was "dating" without dating. For example, one gentleman in our ward had personally baked, wrapped, and carried back on his six-hour-flight, a seventeen layer cake to give to me for my twentieth birthday. Seventeen layers, people. Along with the cake were several very expensive gifts, which I told him I couldn't accept, but ended up with anyway. Another young man tried to hold my hand, and I let him out of shear shock for about thirty seconds until I finally told him it was too weird. And Matt had sent me flowers. Things were definitely getting out of control. And all the while I was still writing to my missionary, telling him that everything was just like it used to be and we were going to be together forever.

Crazy. Stupid.

So I decided to end the inner battle and bring peace to my soul by "dumping" (can you dump somebody you've never dated?) everybody except my missionary, because that was the right thing to do.

And I did.

I told the young gentleman with the cake (for about the millionth time) that while he was very sweet, I thought it was better that we just be friends...no, scratch that...let's just go our completely separate ways and you can spend the rest of the semester glaring at me from the corner of the church. Good plan. I told the hand-holder that he was a great guy, but he knew I had a missionary and I really wasn't interested in him like that. After I shot down his hand-hold things were never really the same anyway, so one more down.

That just left Matt.

I am sitting here today thinking and thinking about what happened at this point, and I can't for the life of me remember. I know I let Matt know somehow (a letter? A talk in the car?) that I was less than thrilled at receiving his flowers, and he looked at me like I was crazy. He went on to inform me that he had never sent those flowers in token of affection, only as an apology because since I had so suddenly stopped talking to him he must have done something wrong. He said there was nothing behind the, "I hope you have a good day" except just that, and he was sorry if I had taken them the wrong way.

Talk about flattering yourself. I felt pretty stupid at that point, although I was also relieved. Because while there was obvious chemistry between the two of us, Matt was willing to let me call the shots in the relationship without pushing the point, and I liked that. So I decided I didn't have to "dump" Matt after all. Our friendship continued in a comfortable way, with me knowing that Matt wasn't going to try anything, and him knowing that I didn't want him to (which was good for Matt, because at this point in his life he pretty much wanted nothing to do with girls in the "let's get married" department anyway).

By the time Christmas break rolled around Matt and I were almost always together. But not like we were dating. Just like best friends hanging out. I'm sure people thought we were dating at this point, but as far as I am concerned that didn't happen until much later.

A few days before everybody started leaving to go home for Christmas break, I was in Matt's apartment when somebody mentioned that Matt would have the place to himself while they were all gone. Matt had never mentioned this before, so I asked him what they were talking about and he told me it was true. Matt was the only college student I had ever met who was not going home for Christmas. I thought that was just pathetic and I told him so. He said he was fine and that he had done this before. Besides, the other local girl in our FHE group had already asked him to spend Christmas day with her family, so he was set. But I couldn't stand the thought of him all alone on Christmas Eve, so I asked my mom and dad if it would be OK if Matt spent that day with us.

I should probably mention at this point that my mom and dad were not too thrilled about Matt. Not because of his personality or anything (OK, a little bit because of his personality), but because I was barely twenty years old and hanging out with an almost twenty-six year old who had lived a lot of life and was in the Army. And even though we weren't dating, It was pretty obvious to everybody that my mom and dad strongly preferred my sweet, wholesome, missionary in Canada over this burly, outspoken man. And to be honest, I can't say that I blame them. At the time I thought they were way overreacting (and in a lot of ways they were), but looking back on this now with a mother's perspective, I think they had every right to be a little wary of this intruder in their little girl's perfect life. Nonetheless, it was Christmas Eve and my parents would never turn anybody away on a holiday or not. So Matt came to spend the day.

I don't really remember what we did on Christmas Eve, but I do remember I gave Matt a present. It was a Regent Sport volleyball, which I painted a face on to keep Matt company in his "Castaway" apartment. We named him Regis. I also remember the rest of the break between semesters, where I found myself spending almost all of my free time with Matt, either in his apartment or in his truck just driving around. Being with Matt was like digging for dinosaur bones. Every time we were together, I learned just a little more about him. And that made me want to get to know him even better. I was addicted to Matt. There was suddenly nowhere else I would rather be than with him, sitting by him and just talking, talking, talking. I learned everything about Matt during that break, and I'm pretty sure he learned a lot about me.

There was just this very deep level of trust between the two of us that was so refreshing. There were no secrets. As a result of this openness, Matt knew about my missionary from a very early period. In fact, it was probably only the second or third time I had met him that I mentioned my missionary to him, but that was as far as it ever went. It was over Christmas break, however, that we really started discussing him more, and the relationship we had together. I told Matt all about my missionary and our future plans together. I think I even let Matt read one of the letters I had written to Canada. That's when Matt told me that he thought I was being a huge distraction to my missionary, and that we needed to lessen our long-distance intensity if we were ever going to make it, and especially if he was ever going to be an effective missionary. I thought Matt might have an ulterior motive in telling me these things...

...again with the flattering yourself. Matt never pretended to be anything he wasn't, (which is something that I both admire and dislike about him). So when Matt told me he was speaking strictly as a friend about my missionary, I knew he was speaking strictly as a friend. I never felt I had to defend myself to him about my missionary, or anything for that matter. Matt just made his comments and I made mine and that's where we left it. Totally open and honest and free to be ourselves when with each other. I loved it.

After a few weeks of this, roommates started trickling back into the apartment. But I still found excuses to visit Matt often and we still talked about everything. In one of our endless conversations I was expressing my dislike of slow dancing because, I said, it was so boring draping your arms over some guys' shoulders and then spinning in endless circles until the song was over. This conversation motivated Matt to teach me how to slow dance properly. Matt is an excellent dancer and knows all the moves--not just the spinning in circle ones. So the next thing I knew, Matt was taking me by the hand and teaching me the steps to a slow song...except I don't remember a single thing he showed me after he took my hand because I was a little distracted by what was going on in my head.

I don't know if I could ever really explain this, not even to myself, but when Matt took my hand it was like pure energy coursing through my body. Cliche, I know. But really, it was something I had never experienced before, and it was so sudden it literally took my breath away. And right then and there, I knew that I was meant to be with Matt forever.

Talk about terrifying. We weren't even dating, for crying out loud! I had no business having thoughts like this running willy-nilly through my brain, and I told myself that repeatedly. What had gotten into me?!

After the night of the slow dancing lessons I decided I needed a break from all of this scary stuff Matt was (unknowingly) throwing at me. This was only a day or two before the start of the new semester in January, so a lot of my friends were coming back from their breaks and I had other people to hang out with. It was good to see them all again after such a long break...and it was good to have an excuse to not have to see Matt so much, since I wasn't really sure what was going on there or how I felt about it.

One night, after the start of the Winter 2007 Semester, I was over at my newly-married friends' apartment watching a movie, when Matt called my cell phone. I seriously considered not answering, but decided against it and went into the bedroom to talk to him so I wouldn't disrupt the movie. I remember laying on my friend's queen-sized bed and looking up at the ceiling during this conversation. Matt was calling because he needed advice.

Advice about a girl.

Now, Matt had dated other girls since I had known him, and I had dated other guys (well, sort of. We already covered that topic though). We always told each other about our latest flings, and then asked what we should do in a certain situation to get a certain result. Matt was my go-to guy for dating, and I was his go-to girl.

But for some reason this time was different. For some reason, I hated that he had called me to talk about another girl. And as I laid there on that bed I remember thinking for the thousandth time that there were a million reasons not to like Matt. That I already had a fantastic boyfriend, who I sincerely loved. That I was way too young for him. That he was not even close to anything that resembled the type of boys I had dated in the past. That he was way too rough around the edges. That my parents didn't really like him..at all...That he was in the Army. That I didn't want that kind of lifestyle he offered. That there was no reason whatsoever for me to even be considering Matt in this kind of a way.

But suddenly none of those reasons mattered.

I told Matt to come get me from my friend's house. He came (Matt always came) and we went for a drive, during which we discussed all the reasons I shouldn't like him and all the reasons we were totally wrong for each other and all the reasons we should just stop being friends altogether.

And then we decided to officially date.

We ended our drive sitting in the parking lot of one of the stake centers downhill from where the Rexburg Temple was being constructed. We talked about how good it felt to finally admit that we liked each other, and I am pretty sure that it was on this night we first held hands (although neither of us can really remember. Isn't that sad?) I was so happy...except for one thing.

Well, except for one person. Because like I said, I do not believe in lying to people, and in my opinion excluding facts equates to lying. And I could no longer exclude the fact from my missionary that I was dating somebody else. Something had to be done. An email needed to be written. I felt like there was a rock in my stomach.

(I thought you could use one by now...plus, it helps build the suspense)

At this time I was working in the After-School Program at Madison Middle School. I was in charge of the Nintendo Room, which basically meant I had the best job ever sitting in the back of a classroom doing homework and getting paid ten dollars an hour for it. One day as I was sitting there, watching the kids play Mario Kart and thinking about all the choices I had made to arrive at this point in my life, I decided that it was time to do what I had dreaded doing. I told the other leaders in the Nintendo Room (because apparently it takes several adults to monitor something as rambunctious as Mario Kart) that I would be right back, and I made my way to the Middle School's library.

And I wrote my email. I kept it short and simple. I told my missionary that as far as my feelings for him were concerned, nothing had changed. I still loved him, and I hoped he knew that I still wanted to be there with him when he got home. However, I felt he had the right to know that I had met somebody. His name was Matt, and we were dating. I reminded him that before he had left, we talked about our different roles in life at this time. His role was to focus solely on the mission and on teaching the gospel, and not to worry about anything but that. My role was to live a normal college life, get good grades and yes, even going on dates. We had discussed how just because he was leaving didn't mean I was to put my life on hold for two years, and that my dating experiences were an important part of our relationship together. I reminded him of all of this, then said that I would understand if he decided he would rather me not continue writing him. And I pushed the send button.

I remember feeling really good for a few days after that. I had followed my heart and my instincts, and I was happy. I also knew that my missionary would appreciate my honesty and understand my choices, because he was a great guy. I was sure that I had done the right thing.

A few days later I received his answering email...and suddenly I wasn't so sure about anything anymore. He basically told me, in more or less words, that he was happy for me, but if that was the case he was not going to wait around for me to make up my mind on who I liked more. He was out. My missionary had written me a Dear John.

I was distraught. Honestly though, I can't say that I blamed him. What red blooded all American boy would sit around in a different country, knowing his girlfriend was with another guy back home and be fine with it? None of them would, and my missionary was no different. It still hurt like crazy though. I cried and cried and thought a million times that I had been stupid to trade such a "sure thing" for such a "throwing caution to the wind" thing. I wondered yet again what was wrong with me. Why was I acting so crazy? What was the "right" thing to do here? What had I done?

But then I just got mad. Not really mad, I guess--more like indignant. As I was reading his email I had all these emotions running through my brain, but the one that ended up sticking was this one. I remember sitting down and composing a very calm email to my missionary. I told him I was sorry he felt the way he did. I told him I understood why he felt the way he did, and I that I didn't blame him. I told him I was sorry for hurting him, because I never wanted to do that. But then I sort of let him have it. Because if he was this affected by me telling him I was dating another guy (something we had discussed and something he knew I would do) then he was obviously not focusing on his mission the way he should be. He was far too worried about me and what I was doing to be an effective missionary, and that was not fair to me, to him, to the people he was serving, or to Heavenly Father.

Looking back on this now I really don't know what I expected him to do. Having a missionary is a very tricky thing on both ends, and I would only recommend it to the very brave or very stupid (or to those who are willing to hermitize themselves for two years). But I decided at this time that this is what I felt like needed to be said, and by George I was saying it. Technically we were already over anyway, so what was there to lose?

Apparently my little pep talk worked though. A few weeks later I received an email from my missionary saying that I was right. He agreed with everything I had said, and apologized for getting so crazy about the whole situation. He said he hoped I would continue writing him, and that whatever happened with this Matt guy, he was happy for me.

Say what you will about this boy, but it takes a big person to do that.
(Matthew Hargrave, this comment was directed towards you.)

So we continued writing, however much more infrequently. We agreed that we had been a little over the top with our letters and emails, and that was probably contributing to his lack of concentration. Eventually we settled into a healthy dosage of communication, and in the next month six new people were baptized in Canada.

OK, that was sort of off topic, but it is important to understand that my dating Matt wasn't just something that came from nowhere. Throughout this entire year there was much fasting, praying, scripture study, tears, sleepless nights, and reading of Ensign articles about marriage (which my mom routinely placed on my pillow as a not-so-subtle hint. My parents were still very much members of the popular Team Missionary.) Simply deciding to date Matt was one of the hardest choices of my life...as was evident by the next several months.

Being with Matt was easy. I loved every minute we spent together. Our relationship was never very emotional, with a lot of butterflies and giggling and such. It was just natural. Like we had known each other for a long, long time and were just catching up on the last couple of years we'd been forced to spend apart. Not that we never got in arguments or that we could totally read each others' minds or anything. But it was just a very real, very personal relationship that was perfect in the way that I had always pictured a relationship could be. I was just happy. Maybe this is why neither of us can remember the first time we held hands. Because everything just felt so right and calm, and not all jumpy. Being with Matt just felt good.

But then, in the back of my mind all the time, there was this list of reasons why I was making a huge mistake in being with this Texan. Topping that list was the fact that I was really, really tired of having to constantly defend Matt to the people who had known me when I was dating my missionary. And the looks and questions I would get from them. And the insecurities I would feel after our conversations. Almost everybody who had met my missionary preferred him over this new guy, and that bothered me. Especially because the leaders of this "Anti New Guy" pack were mostly my immediate family members.

I had never been the rebellious type, and I have always cared a lot about what other people think about me and my choices (something I strongly dislike about myself). So to suddenly find myself getting in constant arguments with the very people I wanted approval from the most was extremely discouraging. I cannot tell you the amount of "discussions" I had with my mom about Matt, and how much time I was spending with him, and what kind of a person he was compared to my missionary, and how I needed to keep an eternal perspective. I really felt like I was doing the right thing in dating him, but the fact that everybody else was so unsure of my choices made me unsure of my choices, and I ended up getting very confused and frustrated. Add that to the already long list of reasons I mentioned earlier, and it was a recipe for disaster.

Not disaster maybe, but a lot of back and fourth for sure. Poor Matt. A typical week of us dating went something like this...

Friday: I am so happy I am with Matt. We hang out together with our friends and his roommates.
Saturday: Matt and I go on a date, during which I have the time of my life.
Sunday: I go to church and hear all about making good choices and the importance of marriage. (LOTS of talk about marriage at BYU-Idaho)
Monday: I have heated debates with myself over the dating of Matt and the waiting for my missionary, followed immediately by feelings of overwhelming guilt.
Tuesday: I tell Matt through dramatic tears that I can't do this anymore, and we are over.
Wednesday: I spend the day crying because I miss Matt so much.
Thursday: I tell Matt though dramatic tears and I can't do this anymore, and we are back together again.
Friday: I am so happy I am with Matt. We hang out together with our friends and his roommates...

You get the picture. For weeks and weeks this was the cycle we went through, over and over again without missing a beat. If that is the definition of insanity, then slap a straight jacket on me because I needed one. Matt was not much better, because he would let me do this to him, over and over again. I asked him once (after we were on more solid ground) why he had let me treat him the way I did, and he shook his head in an "I have no idea" type of a way. He said that each time I would break up with him, he would think, "This is stupid. Why do I stay with this crazy girl?" and he would have every intention of moving on from me. But each time he thought that, it was like there was a giant rubber band wrapped around the two of us. And the farther we tried to run from each other, the harder we were slammed back together in the end. And it hurt. A lot.

In fact, it was during the most painful of these breakups that Matt and I had our first kiss. I was in the middle of lecturing him on why we were so incompatible and why we would never work out and how I had a plan and he wasn't a part of my plan, when Matt just gently took my face in his hands and kissed me. It was totally unexpected and caught me completely off guard, but I found myself kissing him back. When he finally let go of me he smiled and told me to continue what I was saying.

And I did.

I am a little ashamed to say that I was so heartless, but I was just tired of my heart and my brain having screaming matches with each other and not knowing which one to listen to. Matt's kiss was only further proof that I was definitely not ready for this kind of commitment, and I was utterly lost as to how I felt, why I felt that way, and what I should do about it. I just wanted to be done. To be normal. And as far as I could tell, my life was at its most normal before Matt ever entered the picture, so I told him we were officially over. Of course, we had had this same discussion a million times before, but this time was different.

This time I meant it.

When Matt dropped me off that night we had reached a final decision. The next day was President's Day, and as a result we had the day off from college. Matt and I had planned weeks ago to go snowshoeing on this day with his roommates, and we had already rented the stuff for the trip. So the plan was that Matt would pick me up the next day. We would endure each others' company for a few hours. Matt would drop me off that night, and that would be the last time I would see him other than at FHE and church. (We were still in the same FHE group, even though almost everybody else who had been in our "family" the semester before had been traded to different groups. I am pretty sure our bishop was an inspired man.) We both agreed that even "being friends" was just too dangerous, and that if either of us was ever going to be truly happy, we needed to just forget about the other and move on completely.

The next day Matt picked me up for our last date. It was a sunny day and the snow was perfect when we got to the nearby mountains, but I could have cared less. All I wanted to do was get this thing over with so I could go home and start my life over again. Matt and I spent the day fulfilling our duties of being civil to each other, mostly for the sake of Matt's roommates (who I am sure still felt the extreme tension between the two of us). It was an exhausting performance for which we should have received Emmy awards. At the end of the day Matt pulled into my driveway to drop me off for the last time, and I was completely ready to jump out of his truck, slam the door, and never look back. But what happened next is something I still have no explanation for.

I was about to get out of Matt's truck when this overwhelming feeling of dread came over me. I literally felt sick to my stomach. I knew that I was not doing the right thing. I immediately burst into angry, frustrated tears and told Matt how I was feeling. But it was too late. Matt had finally had enough of my back and fourth, and he was tired of waiting for me to make up my mind. He reached over and gave me a hug, quietly but forcefully told me it was time to move on, and opened the door to let me out. Even during our final breakup, Matt was a gentleman. He walked me to the door and escorted me inside. I remember sitting on the couch in my parent's empty house and hearing his truck pull out for the last time, and thinking that maybe I was going to be OK after all.

And then I got sick

My body actually had a physical reaction to the amount of stress and regret I was feeling, and I could not believe that I was being so dramatic. I spent the rest of the day in my bed, sobbing into my pillow and cursing the existence of men. I knew that I was meant to be with Matt. I had known it since Christmas break before we had ever even started dating. I had known it during all of our courtship. I had known it throughout all of our breakups. And I knew it now, laying in this bed with my stomach turning and my tears soaking my sheets. But being with Matt was so hard and confusing, and I didn't want to constantly be choosing between him and my missionary, and in an even bigger way, between him and my family. So I had made a final choice. In some aspects it felt good to finally be done with all the drama of dating Matt...but mostly I just felt sad. Empty, lonely, and very, very sad.

Three days went by with no word from Matt. I'm not sure why I thought there would be. Every day I woke up thinking that maybe he would call. Maybe he was missing me as much as I was missing him. But he never did call, and I was not going to call him. I told myself it simply would not be fair of me to call Matt one more time, begging him to take me back. So I wallowed in my own self-pity and tried to move on.

No. I didn't want to move on. I couldn't move on. So on the fourth day of our separation I finally sent a tentative text to Matt, telling him that I was on the third floor of the library and would love to see him if he was close by. Matt didn't respond for a long time, and I felt silly for getting my hopes up that he would. But then there he was, walking through the doors wearing his bright green "Ireland" baseball hat and looking for all the World like the light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.

We sat and talked for a long time in the library. I told Matt that I was sorry for the way I had treated him, and that I hoped he could forgive me. Matt said he understood and that he would never hold that against me. And then he told me about his last four days.

Matt said that as soon as he dropped me off at my house for the last time, he had gone back to his apartment and been sick to his stomach, just like I had been. He too, had had the feeling that what we had lost in breaking up was bigger than either of us understood, and as much as he wanted to forget about me, he just couldn't. He said that he had wanted to call me immediately, but fought the feeling for the last four days because he had known that he needed to give me time. Time to think. Time to decide. Time to commit. So when he had received my text message asking him to meet me, he left the class he was in and came.

We talked for a long time, about everything. It was at this point that Matt finally told me he loved me for the first time, and that he knew I loved him back (cocky little son-of-a-gun...but he was right). He said that he really wanted to date me, but what we had done before--all the back and forth--wasn't fair to anybody and he couldn't do it again. So I just needed to let him know what I wanted him to do.

So there we were.
Just like it should be.
And suddenly the decision was so clear.

I walked Matt back to his class after our conversation in the library (because Matt really couldn't afford to be missing classes), and I remember feeling totally at peace with everything that had happened. It was over. I had chosen. I had chosen Matt. We held hands as we walked across campus, and when we got to his building he bent down and kissed my forehead. And I knew again that I had made the right choice...that we had made the right choice.

My missionary was still important to me, but not in the way that he had been. He was no longer at the forefront of my mind regarding every decision I made with Matt. Instead of being my missionary, he was just a missionary who I sincerely hoped the best for in life. And if I were to be completely honest with myself, I would say that it took me a long, long time to fully get over him...even into the years Matt and I were married. Not that I still loved him in a romantic way at all, but before Matt came along my missionary truly was my best friend, and I missed him as such--as a friend misses a friend.

Of course, once I wrote and told him that I had a pretty good idea of where things with Matt and I were going, I never did hear from him again. And it was sad, because I really did feel terrible hurting him like that, and because it is never fun losing a friend. But at the same time it was also one of the easiest letters I have ever written. After mine and Matt's conversation in the library there was never a doubt in my mind about who I was meant to be with. There was only assurance.

For the next two months I dated Matt 100% of the way for the first time. And it felt so good. All of my problems did not go away, however. People who had known my missionary could not for the life of them understand my choice. Subtle comments were made on an almost daily basis as the results of living in a small town reared its ugly head. And my family and I still had a long, hard way to go before they would ever understand what I saw in Matt. Because believe it or not, the Matthew Hargrave we all know and love today is not the same Matthew Hargrave I dated and married years ago. Matt was rough, untactful, and a little too honest for his own good. Combine that with my own family's natural outspokenness and over-protectiveness and there was a bad mix for a long, long time with lots of frustration and tears on both sides.

And of course, Matt and I still had our own ups and downs in the relationship. Matt and I are both very...passionate...people, and as a result we tended to butt heads a lot. Shocking, I know. Most people, when they find "the one" experience a state of euphoria during which everything is right and wonderful in the World and neither partner could ever imagine finding any fault whatsoever in their perfect partner. Matt and I were not like that. Not that we found fault in each other or that we fought constantly, but we definitely didn't agree on every topic discussed and neither one of us was afraid to admit that to the other.

In a weird way though, I now appreciate the amount of disagreements Matt and I have had in our history. I consider it as almost a "refining by fire" experience we both had to go through to mold us into the couple that we are today. It wasn't easy. It wasn't perfect. But all those growing pains we experienced as we began cramming our two lives together, and as we each learned how to go from "me" to "we," has brought us closer to one another than I could ever express. I can honestly say that I know exactly how Matt feels on most topics, and I am sure he knows me just as well.

I know him completely, faults and all,
and I love him more completely because of them.

But as well as I feel I know Matt now, I can't wait to get to know him even better as we continue to live our lives together. It is always an adventure.

My family, too, has come around to Matt. I can honestly say today that Matt is their favorite son-in-law...he is their only son-in-law. But more than that, there has been a lot of growing and accepting on both sides, and I feel we have finally reached a good spot in the relationship. They truly do love Matt, and Matt truly loves them.

I feel so lucky to have this wonderful, amazing, fantastic, incredible, intelligent, successful, and handsome-to-boot man in my life. He really is my best friend, and I love him more than I could ever try to express in mere words.

So that's our story. Our novel, I guess I should say, since this has been ridiculously long and I'm impressed you actually read it. Of course, this is really just the beginning of our story. After this part ended, we got engaged, married, and started a life together. Matt graduated, we moved to Texas, and bought our first home. I graduated, Matt was promoted, and we made new friends and acquaintances. Together we had a handsome baby boy. Matt was deployed to Iraq. So while the story of how we met is over, our story is only beginning. And we we plan to make last for all of time and eternity. That's a really long time :)

I am a little biased, but I think it's a pretty good one as far as love stories go.

I really am the luckiest.