Mere days after our relationship began, we went on holiday. And in the car, I had an epileptic fit. I messaged him to tell him and he typed out a crude word which, to this day, I remember where I was standing in my gran’s house when I read it. I suddenly wondered, being very black-and-white and a “good girl” what I had got myself into. Was this guy a Christian? I told him never to say it again. But I did nothing more, hoping he would change…

 

He had become a Christian in the middle of high school but had carried on living in the throes of a porn addiction and messing around with girls. But months before I started dating him, his life changed when he read a book about being an authentic man. As a result, I slowly began to see his life change from that of a player and someone broken by failed relationships, addiction and hurt to someone slowly transformed by Christ.

 

After our first “date” to a cricket game (something I vowed I wouldn’t do with anyone other than, maybe, my husband) we went to concert. It was a small affair and the singer was someone older than my parents. But, to heck with that, it was an outing with my boyfriend! Before each song, the singer told us a bit about the story behind the lyrics. One was written after he had to go and bury his father – a man he didn’t know and had lost touch with. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my boyfriend wipe his eyes. I turned to him and saw he was crying. Shocked that this seemingly macho guy was in tears, I sourced a tissue and asked him what was wrong. Choked up, he managed to say,

“I don’t want to do that for my father one day.”

I have always loved it when men can show emotion. I never imagined that he would cry in front of me. But I came to realise that this would the first of many tears he would cry as he learnt to open up for the first time in a long time.

 

We were a few weeks into our relationship and I waited a good four months waiting for him to kiss me! Honestly, I had expected it much sooner. But even a week into our relationship, nothing had happened. At that age, that was the ultimate! Each time he came, my hopes heightened and I walked back into the house after a brief goodbye, crest-fallen. One night, he came over to watch a movie with a friend. My sister was watching with us, I think. Anyway, the friend fell asleep. It was nearing the end of the movie. I was probably trying to catch his eye, wooing him into kissing me. At LAST, he leaned over and kissed me. Then he tried to really kiss me. I wasn’t comfortable with that yet. It was a boundary I’d made before dating. So I later explained that to him. He respected me. I soon learnt that I didn’t want to wait until marriage for that. So I put a 16 year age limit on it.

 

Three weeks into our relationship, I lay in my bed after my light was out, smsing him (good old sms! And Mxit!) At some point in the conversation, he said that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. I wasn’t prepared to  leave that there. I asked him what that meant. I waited on tenterhooks for the phone to chime. Then, I saw the only words I wanted to see. I want to marry you! I remember being filled with complete shock and joy. No one would take us seriously. I wasn’t that sure just yet. (I remember looking at him across the room once before dating and thinking, Imagine if I marry a guy like Brendan!) Nonetheless, it turned out he was absolutely sure from that day that I was the one.

 

We were young when we started dating. He was yet to get his driver’s license and I was just the other side of my 15th birthday. As a result, our times to visit were limited to 7de Laan (a half hour soapie) each day (during which I mostly told him to “just hang on…” so I didn’t miss the plot line.) On weekends, things were a bit more flexible. I remember my parents being non-commital to their nagging teen and often I would wait most of Saturday for an answer but, almost always, I phoned him last minute to come. He decided to improvise – 7de Laan was not enough. So he started to leave home around 6:30am and I would hurriedly get ready for school and dash out to meet him breathless on his bike so we could have a quick kiss and a chat before school.  Many mornings were spent out there in the crisp air.

 

He soon got his drivers but I wasn’t allowed in the car with him for 6 months until he was confident driving. Apart from which, we didn’t go anywhere alone often because I was just a teen. However, one night, we went on a car rally at youth group and I had special permission to go in his car. It was drizzling slightly. After cruising around town looking for clues, we came up to a stop street a little fast. Needless to say, the blue paint from the bakkie next to us was etched on his car. It was the closest I’d come to being in an accident. Luckily I can’t remember how long it was before I was allowed back in his car! It probably wasn’t long as it was “helpful” to have another set of wheels to ferry me around and go on errands! It was so exciting when he had a car and had independence. Little did I know that car would cause endless issues and be one of the sore points in our lives. Let’s just say things got complicated. We were very glad to see cash in a bank account and be sans a car! (Later on in our married life, we scrutinised a similar car on the highway, saw the broken handle, burst into laughter and my husband yelled, “It lives!”) It was very much dead by the end of its time with him!

 

We began to get creative with dates. There were limited things we could afford and when you’re a romantic like me, you want to live the Disney dream. And so began star gazing on a picnic blanket outside. And made trails of paper hearts to a anniversary dinner. And dinner in a tent made out of sheets in the lounge for Valentine’s Day. And my favourite – sunrise picnics. We would wake up with the larks and head across to the church parking lot with flasks and a small picnic. In those quiet hours, we had no phones to scroll on and no distractions. We’d sip a hot drink and watch the glow appear in the sky. And we’d dream about life when we got married. (I still remember the day he kissed me goodnight and said, Only 6 more years!)

I always wanted him to get me red roses just like the movies. But, for some reason, he said he’d only get those for his fiancée or wife. So my heart started pounding when, for one anniversary dinner, there was a jug with a bunch of red roses! I suddenly didn’t feel ready. I was probably 18 or so. That said, I longed for it at the same time. Turns out it was just a small bunch.

Another favourite date of all time was one out of a teenage romance I’d read and loved. The guy stops at an intersection, pulls his girlfriend out of the car, gives her the first kiss and presents her with a ID bracelet with the words, Forever engraved on it. So imagine my surprise when he drives us to the bottom of my parents’ road and lays out a picnic blanket in the middle of a T-junction. I knew exactly what he was trying to recreate and was so touched! (He had even read the book and commented, Do girls really think like this?!?) I was not expecting the bracelet, but he pulled out a small box and inside was a silver ID bracelet with the word Forever etched across the silver plate. I was smitten!

He could be pretty romantic when he tried. I used to sit on the pillar of the gate as a child and look out over a farming college to some trees in the middle of a field. It looked idyllic. Whenever I looked out there, I would close my eyes and imagine I was there, feeling the wind tousling my hair and watching the grass swish in the breeze. One day, I couldn’t figure out what he was up to as we drove into the college years after my childhood dreams. But after winding our way through farm roads, we found the trees. It was far from the paradise I had imagined but it was just lovely!

 

In the beginning, we counted every month. and celebrated it. Especially when we got to three months because that was the longest relationship he’d had. But then, the years began to clock over and we lost track of the months and started counting the years. I remember sitting my dad down when I was 19 and asking if we could get engaged. It had been four years. We had lost the starry-eyed infatuation (although when that happened, I wondered if I still loved him!) and our love was deeper. I knew him well. We had grown up in front of each other. We had even fought several times about money (#oldmarriedcouple!) We were tired of waiting and wanted to take the next step. I’ll never forget the words my dad said to me that night,

“You think it’s hard now? Put a ring on that finger and then see how hard it is.”

 

Our relationship was hard! It suffered much criticism for being serious too young. We were told to go and travel. To separate. Once, someone even told my dad that my boyfriend, took things too far, which he didn’t believe because it wasn’t true. We nearly broke up because of the pressure. But there was another reason it was hard — the one my dad cautioned against. We had always stopped at kissing. It never went further. But as the years went on, it became harder to stick to our guns. We wrote out a list of boundaries. They’re hilarious now, like No hand on leg a hand breadth above the knee but at the time, we had to get serious. As we hit 5 years together, we went to his grandparents. I remember lying in my bed, hearing him run the bath next door and thinking, No one would ever know…

One night, we were kissing and we realised in that moment, things needed to change. We had to put in a serious boundary. So we agreed, that from that night on, we would no longer kiss properly until the day we said I do. That was two years later.

I cried often in the next two years, longing to be more than his girlfriend; longing to be his completely. It was darn hard. We had a couple who had dated for 7 years on and off before tying the knot. They walked each step of the way as we celebrated achievements, fought and cried together. They were an invaluable support and without them, who knows where we would be! As my final year of university came to an end, my hopes lifted.

 

Click here to read Part 3: Will You Marry Me?

Click here to read Part 1: Will You Be my Girlfriend?

Photo Credit: My dad again…

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