On June 26th, my 30th birthday, at the end of a wonderful and whirlwind beach vacation Drew proposed to me. It was sunset with ocean waves crashing beneath us in our hotel room. We laughed. I cried. It was wonderful.
With minimal cell phone service we had to wait until morning to tell most of our loved ones, leaving the night open for just the two of us...to plan our future and reminisce about our past.
Here is a little Drew and Ashley timeline since I frequently get confused by it myself : )
July 9, 2003 - the night I started my new job at Blueberry Hill and saw drew for the first time
October 2003 - we started dating
January 1, 2004 - we became a COUPLE
March 2004 - we moved into our first apartment together. It was very soon and I was very nervous.
Flash forward to today. We have known each other days shy of 8 years and we have been "officially" a couple for seven and a half years.
It's a funny thing, when I met Drew I had just turned 22 and I was confident that I did not want to get married for a very very long time, if ever. Drew, on the other hand, thought that it was a good idea to get married right away. (He says he doesn't remember this conversation. But it is burned into my memory because I was thinking..."ummm, just wait until you know me for 6 more months. You may not have all those romantic notions".
A funny thing happened 5 years later at 27, I was ready to take the idea of marriage seriously. But now Drew was the one that was more uncertain about the whole concept of marriage (I kind of blamed myself and thought I bet if you were with a different girl you wouldn't be thinking that).
At 28 I was really ready for the idea of marriage. But as in all relationships we had to have a serious life pow wow and figure out where we both were and where we both wanted to go. I can say with certainty this was neither the first nor will be the last of those big and oh-so-important life discussions.
The rest of that year was filled with house searching and house waiting. And two days after my 29th birthday and 16 long weeks after putting in our offer we bought our first house!!!
Every day since then has been filled with a nearly inexplicable bliss that I sometimes think is reserved only for those who have never lived in a house that belonged, really belonged, to them or their parents.
I love my grandparents so very much, but I did grow up in their house, not my own. I never had my own furniture or permission to decorate or change the decor...and for a great deal of my childhood (until she passed) I shared a room with my grandma that was my aunt's childhood bedroom. And was still decorated with her childhood furniture and her college memorabilia. I am sure that wasn't my grandma's dream either. But we made it work and we were happy.
So for me house=happy. Luckily and thankfully house=happy for Drew as well. This is just one of the hundreds of things I love about Drew.
Also, I love that from day to day I change my mind from thinking we are one of those couples that are just alike to we are one of those couples that are complete opposites. I told Drew I'm in love with him about 4 days a week ; )
Back to the proposal. Drew and I have been together a long time...so it is hard for any big life things to be a COMPLETE surprise, but this was a big one. I knew it was coming...or at least I was pretty sure it was, but I wasn't sure when.
The reactions from our family and friends have been everything from tender to hilarious.
Drew's mom said "I already refer to you as my daughter-in-law, but now it will be official."
my best friend in the world said "Oh, I just gave up on the idea that that was going to happen."
Her boyfriend of 6 years said "I thought they were engaged!"
My mom sent the following email to family members "It is like one of those eclipse one thinks they will NEVER see!"
I was truly very amused and everyone was so happy and so supportive. It was heartwarming. But it did get me thinking about that funny sweet spot of engagement. If a couple has known each other under a year it's shocking and too soon or must be true love. When a couple has been together two to three years THEY are in the sweet spot and seem to get universal approval. After four years people start saying things like "maybe you shouldn't have moved in together" and all different versions of " why buy the cow when you get the milk for free."
And then somewhere after year 6 it seems people just sort of give up. They think that this is a life decision and often times it is and it is a valid and good one. But, when one of these long term couples DO get engaged it is often met with an underwhelming "annnnnd?" As if it isn't of as much consequence as those engagements in the aforementioned sweet spot.
And I don't quite know why. Is it as simple as it is still surprising if it is within a certain time frame? Does time make it less romantic? Are we the couple equivalent of an over ripe piece of fruit? Am I just projecting (no I am not)?
In fact, I feel very special for being "one of those couples". We have made it this long and still are thrilled to see each other every day and it is just as easy to walk away as to stay. Some days easier to walk away. But we CHOOSE to stay.
And that is when the mental flip happened for me at 27. All this time I was CHOOSING to stay and it was empowering to know that. Love was the tie that binds. But then it began to feel that we were passively staying. This is not to stay either of us wanted out and were just too comfortable to leave. It just meant in someways it felt like coasting. And I wanted to actively be CHOSEN. I wanted something that took effort. I wanted something that took time and planning and consideration.
And I want to celebrate our relationship with those nearest and dearest to us. And this is coming from a person who cringes when people sing happy birthday to me. But Drew and I have earned this relationship. We have earned it with laughter, tears, illness, adventures, compromise, and TIME.
And lastly, every couple deserves the same. Congratulations New York.
Lots of love,
p.s. I just wanted to add that our family and friends have been super supportive and are all around awesome people in my biased opinion : ) The examples I gave above from my bff and mom really cracked me up, but were one comment of about a million they each made about how excited they were. We all have big teasing-honest-without-boundaries-for-better-or-worse-relationships.
For me it is certainly more a general feeling than one specifically for us. As it turns out we know a disproportionate amount of long term but unmarried couples. And seeing reactions to them is a bit more where I am coming from and just what seems to be the overall tone of relationship time..in books, media, talk shows...that type of thing : )
Melissa in the comments also sums up perfectly the other point that I left out. Saying perhaps "people already regard you as married". Absoultely that is a part of it.
I wanted to write this because I know there are lots of Drews and Ashleys out there and I read LOTS of blogs and engagement stories are usually SO beautiful but aren't quite the same road we have taken. And I thought I would add one more : )