Friday, March 16, 2018

How do we do it?

I originally wrote this post on Valentine's Day, but since I've been experiencing a serious case of DBS (delayed blogging syndrome) I thought it made sense, to just post it on our 7th Meetiversary.

Good morning everyone and Happy Valentine’s Day.  Or Galentine’s Day, or Singles Awareness Day!  However you choose to celebrate, I’m here for it! Honestly, I’ve never been a fan of the V-day.  Although in elementary school, I remember agonizing over which Hello Kitty/Barbie/Little Mermaid valentine would go to who, so nobody would get the wrong message. 

Then I was single and bitter for a good chunk of my life, but never missed an opportunity to go out for pink drinks with my gal pals. And now here we are.  I’ve become that person I never thought I would be.  Planning a wedding, caring about flowers, and centerpieces, and loving every minute of it.  I remember when Owen and I first started “dating,” (Disclaimer, I hate that word, because our “dates” consisted of Skype calls and trips to Vegas… I think we had been together for over a year before we saw a movie like normal people) telling my friends and family about him, and everyone was like “Mallory… I think you really like him. I’ve never seen you like this.”  My face would turn red and I would smile, and just feel true happiness, it was WEIRD. 

This month, our story was published in the newsletter for the Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy (KYEA) and we were asked to share how we met, and our advice for a happy relationship, or for young people with disabilities who are looking for love.  We shared the abridged version here, and if you recall, a few years back, I shared a more detailed version of the story of how we met.   But having this opportunity, got us thinking, that maybe I should just write an actual blog entry.  Many of you know, we have a Facebook “Fan page.”  I believe it was on our first Meetiversary, 1 year after we met, Owen had a status about meeting me, and over 100 people liked it.  I was surprised, honestly.  Yea, I had been single for a while, but man, people were that excited to see me with someone, finally? 

People were following our story because it gave them hope.  It showed them that just because they had a disability, they could have love, that they DESERVED love.  It showed parents of kids with disabilities that their kid would find someone who loved, respected them and gave them an experience that most “typically developing” adolescents have.  So we said “Heck! Why not?”  Our Facebook “fanbase” has followed us through a move to Boston, 110” of snow, a graduation, celebrating jobs, a move to Colorado, an engagement, and now THE BIG DAY! And I’ll be honest, I didn’t know that we would hit some of those milestones, but really, not because of each other, it’s just been a real adventure. 

When we were moving to Boston, it was the biggest, scariest thing, either of us had ever done, and I remember people saying to me, “AND you’re MOVING IN together!” like that was really the scariest, hardest part of what we were doing.  Never mind the fact I was going to be going to grad school while working, or we were learning to navigate a city, and access healthcare. WE WERE GOING TO BE SHARING A BATHROOM.  Granted our first studio was 500 sq. feet, and it was quite a transition, but it was mind blowing to me how people perceived relationships, and that moving in together was so scary.  We are so grateful we lived together.  There were days (most) that it was the other person that kept us going.  I wouldn’t have finished grad school if it weren’t for Owen telling me I was needed there, and I was doing this for a reason.  He gave me pep talks, reminded me to eat, and laughed with me every step of the day.

It wasn’t easy, but we learned, we grew, and we conquered- one chapter after the next.

So how?  Why are we as successful and strong as we are?   When we were brainstorming for KYEA it was tough to articulate what we have created over the last 7 years, but I’m going to attempt to share our Top 5 tips for a happy, healthy, relationship, and what made us know we wanted to go the distance.   Ready?

1.     No B.S.  Seriously.  Before O and I made it official, I had hung out with guys before, but it never went beyond being a “thing.”  They didn’t want anything serious, and nobody wanted to commit, bla bla bla.  I straight up told Owen, “If we’re long distance, I’m not leaving this as a “thing.” I don’t have time for petty bullshit and I don’t play games.” He had me at “Me either.”  And there was none.  We didn’t (and still don’t) post passive aggressive digs on Facebook, we trust each other. I know that’s easy to say, but really. TRUST. 100%

2.     Communication. This goes hand in hand with #1, and together, they make a healthy relationship.  Ta DA!  But really.  Even when I was younger, I remember all of my friends would come to me with their relationship drama, and I hear things now, and my response is always “Well, did you tell them/talk to them, etc.”  And my mind is blown at how often the answer is, “No…” or “They should know!” I don’t know about most people, but I know that I am not a mind reader.  Owen and I talk about EVERYTHING, and we did before we moved in together.  I think part of the reason we may be so good at this is because we were long distance for a year and all we could do was talk!  We asked each other get to know you questions long into the night and covered so much before we even were together in person. Owen is well aware I’m definitely an over communicator, and not only do we talk about the “big stuff,” when we have to, but we just check in pretty frequently.  How’s it going? Are we happy? Are we on the same page? When the answer is no, what do we do about it?  I don’t know, we’ve just always been able to open up with each other in a way we never good before, and that was one of the reasons we knew we wanted to do this for real. 

3.      Support each other.  No matter what.  When we moved to Boston, Owen left everything he knew so that I could go to grad school.  I know it was hard for him, probably in ways I’ll never truly understand, but he never ONCE made me feel bad that we had moved there or that I was in school. When I doubted myself, and I wanted to quit, he would make me dinner or run me a bath and say “The world needs you, you can do this.”  We still have conversations about what we wanted to do with our lives, and how the other one would be there no matter what. I have no doubt in my mind that we never would have made it through the “Boston era” if we did not have each other.  Period. 

4.     TAKE A RISK. I will never forget when Owen flew to Vegas for my birthday because he was in love with me and he didn’t know if he would ever see me again.  Like that is some rom com stuff, you know?  At the time I didn’t really even know what to do about it, because nobody had ever made me a priority like that or been so honest.  But it CAN happen and I continue to tell people “If someone loves you, they will find a way.”  Don’t waste your time on people who can’t make you a priority, because there is someone out there who will! It was scary for me to say “Yes, let’s do this,” that night in Vegas.  Truth be told, I had never had a serious relationship before Owen.  Sure, there were guys I talked to, and it was fine, but I always knew going into it, it would never be more than a “thing,” and it wasn’t what I wanted for the rest of my life.  This was different.  Owen was everything I didn’t know I wanted. 
I’m not going to lie, we both talked a lot about the disability piece as well.  I had always said I didn’t want to be with someone who had a disability, because I had enough of my own "stuff" to deal with.  What ended up happening was we found someone whose “stuff” aligned with our own, and understood each other on a level, that nobody else would.  Don’t be afraid to take a chance, and take a step outside of your comfort zone. You deserve someone who gets you and loves you on ALL levels.

5.     At the end of the day, all you can do is laugh. 
When I first met Owen, before we even began dating officially, I remember he made me laugh.  Like really, genuinely, laugh, not like “I’m laughing because you want me to think you’re funny.”  I actually remember thinking “Huh… usually I’m the funny one… this is kind of nice.” When we would meet up in Vegas, we would walk the strip and talk and laugh.  I always tell people; Owen makes me laugh in the kind of way where you remember something he said, days later and start laughing again.  It’s true.  We have FUN, and everything is an adventure.  Seven years later, we still will get the giggles as we’re falling asleep.  I didn’t know if I would ever find someone who not only appreciated my unique (kind of dark) sense of humor, but we compliment each other perfectly and it is the laughter and looking on the bright side that has gotten us to where we are.  The world can happen around you, but if you get home, and can smile about the life you created, with the person who is by your side, it’s going to be ok.

Writing these five things makes a relationship look pretty simple.  We all know that is far from the truth, but with these five things at the foundation of a relationship, the rest will come together.  It takes time, patience, and a whole lot of vulnerability, but it’s worth it. 

My life has become something I never thought it would be. So what’s the point of all this?  Be patient, be yourself, and don’t settle.  For all those young people (or not so young people) who are thinking they’ll be alone forever with their cat (and hey, that’s ok too), live the best life you can,  and someone will notice, and want to live their best life with you.

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