“So, can I ask you the completely inappropriate marriage question that is nagging at me? You totally don’t have to answer (you can also tell me not to ask).”
I didn’t know what she was about to ask me, but I hoped it would be good!
“So, have your views on monogamy changed? Or does he share your open viewpoint? (TOO PERSONAL! I KNOW!!!!!)”
It wasn’t too personal at all.
Sitting cross-legged at the table in the back of a 30’ limo-like RV (more on that later) I got to thinking about the reactions from my digital world on the moment when I shared a wedding photo from this past Monday.
“I was casually browsing Facebook when I came across your wedding photo. I actually said “Holy fuxk!” out loud. My husband thought something was wrong!”
“I won’t lie – when I saw that you got married I nearly fell off my seat!”
“The girl who was never gonna get married went and fell for a guy and got hitched?!”
I mean… it’s not like I feel I owe anyone an explanation… but, I think that maybe this random revelation deserves a blog post at least.
Everyone… meet Mark. He’s my favourite human on the planet and as of Monday afternoon he’s my shiny new husby.
If you’ve had the distinct honour of meeting this guy, you’ll already know what I mean when I say he’s literally one of the raddest dudes on the planet – the kind of brilliant, creative, generous, thoughtful, passionate and adventurous that you wouldn’t ever believe exists in the same person. I never did. And it was for that reason that when Mark and I first met two and a half years ago, I didn’t pursue any kind of “relationship” with him. I mean, sure, we got together regularly and we talked daily and we adventured together here, there, and everywhere…. He was a lot of things to me: roadtrip buddy, dinner partner, co-creative and confidante – but one thing I never called him was my “boyfriend”. I mean, I didn’t even want a boyfriend…. My life was really good how it was…. So we just carried on carrying on.
“This is Mark’s friend, Mary.”
Jane and Mike, Mark’s parents, really had no idea how to introduce us to anyone. We would go and visit them at the farm week after week…. The intimacy of our conversations grew, as did the number of empty wine bottles piled by the door from our tireless chats about life, love, and the Universe. Maybe a year or so into “Mark + Mary” an unexpected stint of “So, it’s been a year now – what’s next?” teetered me slightly off balance…. And both Mark and I assured Mike and Jane that nothing was next – we were happy as we were with no need for anything else.
The truth was, we’d kept our “non-relationship” so private for the past year that it was really lovely to be completely free from the questions and inputs and opinions of anyone. And truth be told, nobody seemed to care. We ate and drank and laughed and adventured our way through the months – one upon another as our intimacy grew – without the socially prescribed pressures and expectations of a “typical” life.
How beautiful it felt to love and be free at the same time.
Having really liked who I’d become while being single, and knowing that Mark was relatively recently single as well, we knew that labels would not serve to enhance our bond.
We both continued meeting other people.
“What?! Weren’t you jealous that Mark would speak to other women?”
…. Why would I be jealous when, every night, regardless of how the day had unfolded, I would end up hearing from him?
And for the past few years I would come to see Mark not as a possession but as this incredible gift I’ve been given in life – and if another woman came along who inspired him to share his awesomeness with her then – wow – was she ever lucky!
Not once did Mark ever attempt to hold on to me.
He knew of when I’d chat with other men – I would tell him about the gentlemen I’d met and the conversations I’d had. Even when particular meetings would lead to stronger connections – we would continue to share with as much or as little detail as we chose for ourselves in each moment.
The conversations didn’t start out being easy. On the contrary, it felt shameful, counterintuitive, wrong – to feel the feels for more than one person. But isn’t that natural? Is there a single human on this planet who hasn’t been caught in the crossroads of emotions for more than one person? And don’t we typically respond with what we’ve been taught – to bury it, shame ourselves, or worse – blame our partners for not getting us high anymore?
Another year passed and Mark and I continued to work on ourselves as individuals. We read books and watched docs and traveled together and apart. We listened to people speak and devoured articles and found role models for this label-less existence we’d created. Mark would meet women on Tinder and tell me about them – I’d learn about their coolest traits and become curious for myself. I would connect with men who brought new shades of grey to my life and I’d turn to Mark for his thoughts and take. We approached each new person in each others’ lives with full awareness that jealousy was natural, that it was transient, and that regardless of any connection made outside of the two of us we somehow maintained an unconditional positive regard for one another.
“I slept with an Aussie… and it’s on my blog.”
It might’ve been one of the most difficult texts I had to send to him. It was a little over a year into our “union” and I met a man who unraveled most of how I thought about things. I wasn’t sorry for any stitch of the two days we would know each other (his Australian passport and limited Canadian visa would play their part in ensuring no further connection was made). With **MUCH** courage and transparency I published a blog about a page that changed my story…. And I knew that I man I cared for may or may not take it well.
Who would’ve thought that “The Aussie” would become a cornerstone in so much mutual growth, enhanced compassion and personal development for both Mark and I separately as well as together.
Other members of the opposite sex would weave into and out of our story and yet somehow we constantly came back to each other. Some connections were stronger than others… and the stronger they became the more we would speak to one another about how we felt. We basically took the one thing that’s been socially shamed – romantic interest in another person – and chose to make it our own.
So if you’ve followed my blog or Instagram or random Facebook musings you would’ve heard about random dates and random trysts and “Married Cops” and Aussies. If you only knew my life from the internets you’d likely have assumed I was wild and single and free…. And, I was…. There was just this incredible gentleman in the sidelines with whom I’d learned to be wild and free together… and as days turned to weeks turned to months I realized that in the midst of our un-relationship we had accidentally created something unlike anything else. We trekked together from city to city, from country to country – on accidental Turkish layovers to India, Thailand, and across SE Asia. We adventured and learned and experienced and grew – but I didn’t demand fanfare.. I just let the bond we had quietly grow as it felt right – without the LIKES and the COMMENTS and the SHARES. Just on its own. And without fail, time continued to pass.
Only a few people would question the “who” in my life… a friend on Facebook commented on a birthday celebration asking who I was having beachy champagne and charcuterie with. One girlfriend exclaimed, “I KNEW that the person taking photos of you in Asia had to be someone who loved you madly!” — well, I mean, a LOT Of those photos were taken by random passersby – but yes, quite a few of the specialest gems were taken by this super cool man. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I really was writing the early pages of what would one day become “The Man, the Myth, the Legend” – as stated by a photographer friend we randomly bumped into at a Marshall’s one day. “I knew he existed!” – he would exclaim. And yes, he definitely did.
Fast forward to Winter, 2015… I was traveling through SE Asia and filming a Tinder doc along the way. I met person after person as I trekked from country to country…. Some intellects, some lust monsters, some crazy bitches and some unforgettable souls… each of whom contributed pages to my story that changed me. And 15,000 km away, Mark would read those pages as I wrote them. I’m positive he didn’t like all of them… but they weren’t for him, they were for me… and he loved me enough to allow me the privilege of continuing to smith them for myself. – and then…. he met me in Asia.
We connected in Bangkok – I waited for him at the entrance to the Sky Train at Eastin Grand in Sathorn. It was his birthday a few days before and I had a hotel room full of balloons and cake awaiting his arrival. Most “couples” would have to fib and hide and apologize and feel shame for a month of SE Asian antics…. But I didn’t. Instead, I led a dude I loved into an incredible suite and we ate birthday cake in a king-sized bed and drank cocktails on the rooftop. None of the random characters in my previously written pages mattered anymore… the most important character at that time, in that moment, was right in front of me.
Little did I know that everything was about to change forever.
The next day my 70-year-old firecracker of a mum flew to Bangkok from Poland to meet us. Mark and Mama B and I would go on to travel Thailand together – trains, planes and tuk tuks from Bangkok to Surat Thani to Koh Samui to Koh Phangan to Koh Tao and back. For one week I watched Mark totally fawn over Mama B’s well-being – from balancing multiple bags of fresh coconuts on the handlebars of his motorbike to planning meals and outings and arranging travel fares.
“You have such a good man here.” – she would tell me over and over… on the planes and on the trains and in the tuktuks, without fail.
I fell in love with the man he was on that trip… not for who he was to me, but by watching him be who he was to my mum. I realized that he wasn’t just someone who cared about his partner, but expressed such a deep care for my family that it rivaled any others I’d previously seen. Despite how exhausted, sun burnt, sore or defeated we were, he continued to put me above everything – and we continued growing and unraveling each other together.
(It wouldn’t be for months later that I’d learn he’d gone to visit my dad every weekend in Niagara while I was traveling Asia and my mum was living in Poland. – that’s love.)
When Mama B left Thailand, Mark and I chose to continue traveling together. We spent Christmas together in Chiang Mai and New Year’s Eve in Bali. I proceeded to get so violently ill in the Philippines that he spent five days boiling kettle after kettle of hot water and filling a bathtub in our shitty hotel so that I could spend my days curled up in the fetal position crying in pain. He was also the one who found the Korean Massage Master in Manila who figured out what was wrong with me and fixed it. I wouldn’t say that they saved my life… but it felt pretty fuxking close.
And after Asia we would come back to Toronto and accidentally end up living together. I had a one-way ticket booked to Europe for January but with the launch of our new app it made no sense for me to move. By that point Mark had rented out his downtown condo and moved into mine. Surprise! – a chapter I totally hadn’t been prepared to write.
The first week was fun – like the random sleepovers we’d had for a few years until that point… and by week three I was beginning to stress a bit. Would I actually never be able to have my house to myself again? Would I never again be able to invite over a gentleman caller? Were my random dates and trysts and adventurous nights over for good?
So how did I deal with my fear?
I talked to him.
I told him that I didn’t want the random dates and trysts and nights to end. And how did he respond?
“They don’t have to. We’ll figure it out.”
And we did.
Somehow we continued to be open and honest and just as examining of our lives as we’d ever been. Rather than slinking back to the reality we were comfortable with from relationships-past, we chose to find new role models and new ways of learning to live this designer life. We compromised and communicated and kept writing new and exciting chapters together….
One afternoon, coming back from the farm, I made a knee-jerk decision to renovate my parents’ house. I packed up my bags and the dog and “moved” to Niagara to do the work. Mark would finish work downtown at 4 p.m. and sit in traffic until 7 – help me until the wee hours of the night and wake up at 5 to go back downtown. Forget love – that was what partnership dreams are made of.
And then, we “got engaged”.
“YOU GOT ENGAGED?!”
A girlfriend, upon seeing the somewhat cryptic post on Facebook, messaged me immediately. We connected for coffee and I explained the arrangement. She proceeded to refer to us as “#RelationshipGoals” – and I realized, again, how very special a something our un-something actually was. It was her that inspired a desire in me to speak more openly about what we’d built – so I did.
Nothing about our engagement was typical – it’s not a diamond, it’s not on my ring finger, he didn’t get down on one knee and we discussed the basic tenets of this new chapter together – essentially bringing forth separate sets of proposals to our mutual engagement table.
“I promise to earn this life with you.”
“I promise to never stop adventuring.”
“I promise to never stop growing with you.”
“I promise to renounce an unexamined existence.”
We weren’t blinded by wedding celebrations or plans for the future…. I was just given some pretty jewels and we drank some champagne with a few close friends. That’s it. No wedding date, no plans for one.
And the more open we continued to be about it all the more positive response we earned. Suddenly friends were asking us who and when and if and how… and I realized we had become role models.
How lucky I was that not only had I designed a life for myself that I loved, I also ended up with a boss of a man by my side who only served to enhance the awesome. Seriously, that’s worth a bit of fanfare, no? But we didn’t fanfare at all.. we just continued about our life.
It was about four weeks ago when he’d casually say to me via text, “I’d love to call you my wife.”
And the more I thought about it the more I realized I had exactly zero good reasons to object to celebration. I’d always vowed that if it ever mattered to someone who mattered to me then I would make it happen… and by this point I think I was beginning to feel an inkling that it might end up mattering to me too.
Three and a half weeks later, we got hitched.
No changes. No expectations. No new rules. Just love. (though I did choose to seize back the dream of an 08-08 wedding date). We made a choice to create a life all our own – based on the values we’ve made and judged by nothing more than the conscience we share. It sounded like “Happily Ever After” to my ears.
My blog about the wedding itself will have to wait until the photos come back – it’s all too gorgeous to leave up to my marginally-expressive way with words… but to call it a “dream”, a “fairytale” or “perfect” doesn’t even begin to do it justice (and all those words are super lame anyhow).
Alas, today…. I have a husby… and he has a wife-y…. and as I wind this long post down I’m mid-way through our #HoneymoonWithGrandpa (search it on Twitter, it’s actually amazing) – pulling into yet another Esso station in yet another random rural Canadian town. (also a blog for another time).
And until I can sit back down and gush about this accidental little shindig we decided to throw…. I leave this one incredible moment captured among many…. and breathe a huge sigh of relief that I can now gush and rave to you about this super-rad man and you finally don’t have to answer me with, “Mark? I don’t think I’ve heard of him?”
Life… meet Mark – one of the most beautiful blog stories I’ve never told. – with assuredly many, many more to come.