My husband and I met in driver’s training class when we were 15. We’ve been best friends ever since. How corny is that?
Friendship doesn’t always lead to romance, however, and for us that leap didn’t come until years after we’d declared our best-friendship.
During the time after we met but before we started dating, we helped each other out in the romance department. I set him up with my friends. He provided comfort when an unbelievably stupid boyfriend broke up with me. I often criticized his choice in women; he hardly ever liked the guys I went out with.
Each year on our birthdays, we’d go out on a “date.” And on New Year’s Eve, if neither of us was in a relationship, it was agreed that we’d celebrate the night together — you know, sort of like best friends would do.
All the while I was in search of Mr. Right — my soul mate. The mere thought of him made me sigh with anticipation. I knew he was out there — somewhere — the guy who was born just for me, and I him.
Trouble was, this soul mate of mine wasn’t making himself easy to find. He had no distinguishing characteristics that I knew of. I couldn’t tell him from a hole in the wall — or a best friend.
A funny thing happened on my search for a soul mate. One summer, my husband and I — best friends that we were — began to see each other in a new light. The air around us changed and was charged with an energy we couldn’t ignore.
By this time, we’d been friends for so long that we already knew almost everything about one another. A romance like that is brief. We were engaged after just weeks and married within the year.
I’d been searching for my soul mate and he’d been right there beside me the whole time! Or so I thought.
It wasn’t long after our honeymoon, when I looked at him lovingly and posed the hypothetical question: “Do you think we’re soul mates?”
His answer was not what I expected. “What’s a soul mate?” he asked with the innocence of a newlywed.
I was stunned. How could he be my soul mate if he didn’t even know what it was?
Thing is though, I was in love with the guy. Soul mate or not, I was committed to him for better or worse. So for us, life went on — together. I tried to quit worrying about silly ideals like soul mates.
Through the years we’ve learned that in many ways we are more different than alike. I am a bargain hunter; my husband is an impulse shopper. I read poetry; he scans the front page. He holds onto the toothpaste tube while he brushes; I don’t. I like the heat on; he prefers it off. He hunts; I knit. He prefers spicy hot barbecue; I’m a cool ranch fan. I believe in soul mates; he doesn’t know what they are.
But as different as we seem to be, we’ve managed to keep each other interested (and at times entertained) for over 30 years. Despite the fact that I tend to hog the covers and he (occasionally) snores, we’ve found a weird sort of rhythm that works for us. There is a happy cadence to our days.
Each night, I get the coffee maker ready for the next day. And each morning, he brings my first cup to me, poured just how I like it with the right amount of cream. One evening, I was tired, and said, “It’s late. I don’t think I’ll make the coffee tonight.”
His answer wasn’t what I expected. He said, “But then I won’t be able to bring you your cup in the morning. And that’s what I do.” His words had a certain tenderness that can only be earned after years (decades) together.
Needless to say I prepped the coffee that night.
I haven’t forgotten about finding my soul mate, except my definition has changed. I no longer think a soul mate is someone born for me. I realize that would be way too easy. A soul mate is someone you grow with and into over time until the day comes that something as simple as cup of coffee illustrates feelings so deep that it brings tears to your eyes.
That is what my soul mate — and best friend — does for me.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.