Believe it or not, I drew his name out of a fishbowl at a company event; it's one of the luckiest things that has ever happened to me.
On our first date, after two months of phone calls and email exchanges, he referred to the rest of our lives together, and it scared me.
When I met him, I was in the middle of a divorce after a 10-year relationship. I was two-dimensional; deflated and flattened from years of biting and hurtful words and hands. I was skittish and afraid, and I didn't know who I was or how I was going to figure it out. I was 10 pounds under my average weight, and that wasn't necessarily a good thing.
When we were dating, I told him that I had learned that I wanted a man who thinks I'm smart, and fun, and the most beautiful woman in the world. Not to mention one that doesn't kick me, punch me or tell me I'm stupid, but I didn't say that out loud.
He stopped me in the middle of a sentence and said, "You're gorgeous. You're smart. You're funny. This is all part of your past; it's who you are. I'm OK with that."
Over and over, he told me, "I can't wait until you can see what I see" and he waited for me to catch up. Of all of the men I dated that summer after my ex-husband walked out the door, he is the only one who saw all of me -- my spirit and my soul and my body. Not just my body or my face or my personality. He saw the potential. He saw what was at the core of me.
And yet, he knew I was bent, if not broken. He forged ahead, knowing this could end badly. He gave me his heart, risking it all for a woman who would still cry when she heard certain songs on the radio that reminded her of the past. Even through all of the bravado, he knew that I was fragile.
After a while, in the heat of an argument when he would catch the "I'm about to run away" or the "please don't hurt me" look in my eye, he would say, sometimes gently, and sometimes in frustration, "I'm not him. I am not the man who hurt you."
I know this, but at times, I have still shied away, scuttling out of reach. If hurtful words are like nails in a fence, and the holes the scars that remain even when the nails are pulled out, then I was a fence riddled with holes from the years before him.
Still, I cringe when a voice is raised. I shut down, unable to process the words when the volume is high. When the words are even a little too loud, I am still the woman who has been told that she is stupid and nagging and unattractive. It is as ingrained as a bad habit.
It is not easy to be my second husband. He has to deal with my insecurities, my fear, my baggage.
With his unending kind words, and his steady confidence, he has helped me find my way back to myself. Through him, I have realized that no one can put me back together; that's up to me.
He tells me I'm beautiful often, and it makes a major difference in my life to have someone who loves me and tells me clearly and plainly how much I mean to him.
What if I hadn't met you? What if we had taken different paths and not landed at the same company? I asked him once.
I would have found you, he said.
He believes. He believes strongly enough for both of us in us. Even when my hope is waning, because I am bent and scarred, he is as unmovable as a mountain. He is here. When I am frustrated with him or angry or upset, all I have to do is take a look at our son. Our beautiful boy, who is half of each of us in every way. He is an affectionate and engaged and committed father to our son, and in that, I see him through new eyes.
I could have picked another man like the first one I married too easily. Women who have been in unhealthy relationships have a tendency to choose others who will hurt them, because their self-esteem is in the gutter. Will came along, and although I don't believe in knights in shining armor, I once again believe in good men.
And this could be you. If you are healing from a tough relationship or have been through hell and you're not sure if you could ever do it again, listen to me: you can. You deserve love. You deserve a good partner. You deserve the best.
While I was processing my divorce and healing from the shock of it all, I told myself several times a day: "I am strong. I am beautiful. I will not be bitter. I will love again." I'm not sure that I always believed it, but I said it anyway. Until I did believe it.
Don't give up. There is so much more out there waiting for you.