I can't believe it's been five years since the day Ben walked into my life. He just walked up, stuck his hand out, and said, "Hi, I'm Ben." And I was done, I was his. He doesn't believe me when I say this, but my first thought was, 'I'm going to marry this man.' It had so little to do with the way he looked. He was tall (I've always like tall guys), blonde (that was different than what I usually went for), I remember the way his green eyes just sparkled with humor and intelligence, and finally, he looked me in the eye, shook my hand firmly, and smiled with his slightly crooked, completely endearing smile that still gives me butterflies. In other words, I thought he looked great! More importantly though, he made me feel safe for the first time in longer than I could remember, and that was such a change for me, it took me completely by surprise. And this is only knowing him for an hour. To truly understand what this meant to me, you have to know a little about my past relationships. Specifically the relationship I was still trying to extricate myself from on July 12, 2008.
Before I go on, no, I didn't cheat on my ex with Ben, I had ended that relationship several months before, but we were still "talking." Ugh, the things 23 year olds say to mask the fact that they do in fact care about someone else. Sometimes I look back at that girl I used to be and just say, why? Jeph (my ex), although I really should spell his name Jeff, because he changed that himself because he couldn't call himself P.H. with the old spelling, was much older than I was. He was a high school drop out, a felon, and a deadbeat dad. Oh yeah, I had it bad for the bad boys. And yes, I knew all of this before I started my relationship with him. I later came to the conclusion that he was a sociopath, but that's besides the point. I won't get into the details yet (that'll be later), but suffice it to say, he was mentally, emotionally, and physically abusive, and I was with him for a very long two years. I'll talk more about this is a different post, today is a happy day, and is the anniversary of the day my life went from pretty horrible, to amazing.
I had just moved to my first duty station, and I didn't know anyone. My roommate seemed nice (I was right, she is amazing and I was later her maid of honor), my Navy sponsor, kind of like a big sister seemed sweet (again, correct assumption), and the area seemed pretty (totally wrong on that front, but you can't win them all). My sponsor invited my roommate and I to a barbeque at her friend's house. I have to admit, I didn't want to go. I was still a bit gun-shy after the fiasco of my relationship, and I really didn't think any of these people really wanted to get to know me. Luckily, my roommate convinced me I should, and we went together. I remember it was so hot that day, it was the middle of July in Georgia, and I had just moved there from the Bay area in California. I was totally unprepared for the heat. So I immediately started drinking Bud Lite, and the host showed me around her house. She showed me a shadowbox with a flag in it and a certificate that said this had been flown in her honor in Iraq, and she explained that her friend Ben had given that to her after he got back. She showed me her bathroom, which had a shower curtain with the Texas state flag on it (seriously, people from Texas really like being from Texas, what is with that?) and she told me her friend Ben liked to use that bathroom because he liked "messing with Texas." I laughed and assumed that they were actually an item, because why would a girl keep bringing some dude up if she wasn't at least interested, and she seemed to know too much about his bathroom habits. After the tour, he came in. Walked through the door, and walked right up to me, "Hi, I'm Ben." I found out they were not in any kind of relationship, nor was there any chance of one developing, and I found out that I in fact was the type of girl who would make out with a guy at a party, the day she meets him, all he had to was call me cute. We drank a bit too much, and I had him call my dad, the Masterchief, and talk to him, and I told my dad that he'd better get used to this one. Ben asked me for my number, and promised to call the next day. He texted while we were still on the way home, and he used the correct spelling of your and you're and there and they're. The next day we went on our first date (Hellboy 2 and dinner), and three days later we were exclusive.
People thought we were a flash in the pan. That there was no way we would be able to keep the amount of passion we seemed to have for each other going. A friend later said, "I thought for sure you guys would fizzle out." This was said at our wedding (in a very nice, funny way). People were wrong. I can say right now I have more passion, and more love for him than I ever dreamed possible. The cliche, 'you complete me,' isn't a cliche with me and him. All of my faults and weaknesses, he not only makes up for them with his strengths, but he helps me to overcome them with his unending loyalty and unshakable belief in me. Now, every time I accomplish something, and he tells me he's proud, I ask him if he's surprised, and he gives me the same look each time and says, "Nicole, I'm never surprised when you accomplish something, it's just what you do." To know that someone has that kind of belief in me, no matter how badly I've messed up, gives me a strength I never knew I had. When I met Ben, I didn't care about how I looked, I didn't wear makeup, I wore cargo shorts and t-shirts, and my hair was always in a pony tail. Now that I'm with him, I truly care about how I appear, and not because I think he'll judge me, but because I have this confidence that I can be pretty, I can be fashionable, and I owe it to myself to look good (darn it!).
Of course, there are always two sides to passion. We are so not perfect, and we have certainly not figured out all the ways to communicate effectively and sometimes we just need to retreat to our corners and be quiet. We fight, and we yell, and we scream, and sometimes I order pizza with all of the toppings he hates and I savor it and call it revenge pizza. There are times when I feel like I could seriously slap him (but I don't), and I know there are times he's wanted to slap me (he didn't, even though I probably deserved it). But those times are few and far between, and getting fewer and further apart. And here we are, about to embark on a new chapter in our lives. We've moved to a new city, a new command, and he's about to start sea duty again.
I find myself feeling scared, but confident. I know we're strong, but I think I'll always wonder if we're strong enough to make it through this much of a demanding schedule. We'll always have things we need to work on, my temper is much better now, and he's so much more willing to accept that I need to lead sometimes, and this Navy life doesn't always give you enough time to work on those things before it snatches your loved one away again. But every time he walks through that door and kisses me, and hugs our dog, and every time I look at him and see nothing but pride and love for me, when just five short years ago, I believe I had nothing to offer anyone, and every time we're just sitting on the couch, watching some ridiculous show I love, but he tolerates because I love it, I know that it's worth it. It is so worth it.