When I was an awkward teenager at an all-girls Catholic high school, I attended a school assembly that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I don’t recall exactly how old I was at the time nor what the circumstances were for that particular gathering, but we had a guest speaker who shared the quickest, most simple way to filter out whether any of my potential future partners would be someone with whom I would want to spend the rest of my life.
First, I should say that it’s very optimistic of me to say “partners” (plural) because I never even kissed a boy until after I graduated. Attending a high school devoid of boys, dates were hard to come by. Not to mention, I was the romantic dreamer type who idealized boys and developed strong, ridiculously focused crushes on people but was truly fearful of the reality of what it meant to be in an actual relationship. I wanted everything to be perfect and didn’t feel hopeful that I would ever love someone SOOOO much and have them love me that much in return. Unrequited love was kind of my thing. It was familiar, comfortable even.
Over the years, I’ve learned (and have continued learning) that nothing is perfect—especially not people or relationships. When I met my husband two weeks before I turned 19, I had no idea he was going to be the one for me. And over the course of our 12+ years together, we have bumbled through growing up together and figuring out what it means to be supportive partners and build a loving marriage. We have each made our fair share of mistakes that have made us more nuanced, experienced, and empathetic humans. And it’s actually all of these imperfections that have always turned out to be the most rewarding parts of our partnership in the end.
Throughout all of our ups and downs, however, one thing has always remained true—the answer to the question posed by an amazing woman who shared her story with a gymnasium full of wide-eyed, hopeful teen girls over 15 years ago.
Renée Bondi was her name. She has a beautiful singing voice and is an inspirational speaker who has overcome great challenges ever since she tragically dove out of her bed in her sleep when she was engaged to be married at 29 years old and became a quadriplegic.
When she spoke to us that day all those years before social media and online dating apps, she made a quick joke that was also one of the most poignant things I’ve ever heard. As she shared about her journey and some of the toughest parts of dealing with her injury, she commented something to the effect of, “Now, ladies, when you’re choosing whom you’re going to marry, just remember—anyone can take your bra OFF, but will your partner put your bra ON? Because that’s the kind of person you want to marry.” (Or if you don’t wear bras, you can replace “bra” with “underwear”...or just “clothes.”)
We all laughed along because it was so true, as all the funniest things are, and then it became something I never, ever forgot. I can’t even count how many times I’ve wondered to myself, “If something happened to me, would Kyle help me get showered and dressed and out the door to still do the things I love to do and live my best life possible?” Even on our worst days, the answer has always been a resounding, “Yes.” Because no matter our specific feelings or circumstances at any given point in time, that is his always his character.
I’m not saying this to brag about my husband. And honestly, I spent years and years NOT seeing or sharing about him nearly as positively as I should have and as much as he deserves (though he would truly hate public recognition for anything about himself). I’m sharing this because it’s something that has reminded me of what a good person he is and how much I love him even when it’s felt hard to have loving feelings. So I figured it may help you when thinking of your partner as well.
Or maybe it will help you quickly determine that the guy who ghosted you after three dates isn’t worth another single ounce of your energy. Or maybe it will give you validation that the girl who broke your heart was never going to be your Florence Nightingale in your old age anyway, soooo Girl Bye. Or maybe, just maybe, it will give you hope that the best is yet to come.