Our Love Story
I realized this year that we've never shared our love story before and we're often asked how we met. The beginning of it was a little bit complicated but the ending is the best ever.
So here ya go...
The beginning of summer 2012, I was serving on a committee at The Recording Academy (our local GRAMMY office) where Jeff was on the board. I'd heard more than a handful of people talk about him and I sent him a DM on twitter that said "hey, we have a lot of friends in common, we should know each other."
He responded with "oh really?" and that launched us into a direct message conversation that continued for two days. Our conversations weren’t flirty at that point, but we had so many friends in common and shared experiences that there was almost no break in conversation. I had a boyfriend at the time and I had zero clue what Jeff’s relationship status was. I'd been a fan of his radio show for a while so I knew he had been through a divorce but that's pretty much the extent of it and to be honest, I didn't really care because I was just being friendly.
There was a big music industry event that me, my friends and co-workers were all going to. He asked if I'd be there and I said yes. (I found out later he wasn't planning on going but decided to go after he found out I'd be there.) That night in July, we met in person. I remember thinking it would be awkward since we were only friends online but it wasn't at all. We exchanged numbers and continued to text each other as friends. We shared a love of dogs and one day, I sent him a link to a story of the cutest dog ever, about to be put down at an animal shelter. Within about an hour, he forwarded me an email from the shelter saying that a donation had been made to save that dog. His note with it said, "Congrats! You saved a dog today!"
I remember thinking, "you've GOT to be kidding me. Did he seriously just do that?"
I was sitting in my office, 1000% blushing and thought- "holy crap, this guy is awesome. Oh god, I'm in trouble. Wait, this means he likes me right?"
Looking back on that gesture, it doesn't surprise me at all. If I knew him as well as I did now, I'd know that he would do that for anyone. This is the same guy who secretly buys laptops for our local school in need and who is the first person to make a donation to research when he finds out someone we know has been diagnosed with cancer. ...but I didn't know that about him and that email definitely generated a crush.
The second time I realized just how much I liked him was a weekend he was out of town at a work event with Wendy and Jenn from his old radio show. I felt weird about continuing to talk to him without dropping the "I have a boyfriend" bomb so randomly...I did. He was shocked to say the least and told Jenn how confused he was. She took his phone, put it in her purse and told him to ice me out. She told him my reaction to being iced out would tell him everything he needed know about how I felt. She was so right (THANKS JENN). I was going nuts. I sent about a billion texts and even sent him a DM on twitter asking if he was OK (I'm so lame).
My then-boyfriend and I broke up and shortly after that, Jeff invited me to an event he was taking one of his co-workers to. I'll never ever forget while the three of us were walking around the event, he held my hand for the first time. It was so discreet and innocent and really the first admission of "hey, you're right, I kind of like you too". I can't remember anything else about that event because I was so excited that he wanted to hold my hand. That night we also kissed for the first time. I was hooked. For someone I talked to all the time and who I felt like I knew, I really didn't. I didn't know who his friends were, I didn't know why he got divorced, I didn't know if he was dating, I really didn't know that much at all.
After I decided I was "in", I started internet lurking. I quickly realized that my new major crush was definitely enjoying the single life. DANG IT! I'd see late night pics on social media with the same handful of girls and my jealousy level was out of control. I really liked him, so I told myself to be cool. He'd been married for 10 years and deserved his time to be single. Any time I saw he was hanging out with one of the handful of women I assumed he was dating, I told myself to just be cool, sometimes I'd even say it out loud.
There were a couple of nights I showed up on the doorstep at my girlfriend's houses, wine in hand with puffy, red, eyes from crying. I still don't even think he knows that. He seemed so content to be dating around that I chose not to let him see how much I wanted to be with him.
It was hard to not fall in love with him when we started going to his house in South Carolina together. We'd get away from our single lives in Atlanta and spend the whole weekend together. We'd come back and I'd realize we still weren't exclusive and for months it was a cycle of "he really likes me" and "ok wow he's hanging out with other girls". I WAS A BACHELOR CONTESTANT IN MY OWN LIFE. I continued to date around, even though I didn't really want to. I think that was my way of insuring I wouldn't get hurt and I wanted to prove that he wasn't the only one who wanted to spend time with me. I AM IN DEMAND, DANG IT. All of this is funny now because I've always been a serial monogamist.
The lake weekends became our thing and we spent a ton of time there. Those weekends are still some of the best weekends of my life. That was our place to escape everything. It was just us. One weekend, on our way up to the lake, we stopped at a rest area to walk our dogs and we were bickering about dating other people (at some point along the way, I stopped being cool). We were mid fight, which is funny because we don't really fight, when he shouted "Don't you know that I'm in love with you?!?!"
WHAAAAAT? It was something I wanted to hear for months but refused to say it back to him because I was so mad. I remember thinking that he didn't deserve to hear it until we were exclusive (holy stubborn). I started that fight and then he joined it, annoyed that I'd been on another date the same week.
About a month after that, it seemed like we were spending more time together and he was spending less and less time seeing other people. I invited him to a massive concert that one of my clients was playing at Centennial Park. We got passes to watch one of the opening bands on the side of the stage and wound up watching the entire show from side stage while tens of thousands of people crowded the park. I couldn't even see the end of people and we were front and center. We got to hang out with Sting and watch him from stage, we saw Grace Potter and Dave Matthews and hung out with Usher. The entire night was one rush of adrenaline after another. We snuck into a VIP area, we ate free food, we sang and drank and when we went home together, we burned a frozen pizza after falling asleep and spent a crazy amount of time laughing.
We've still never talked about it but that night I think we both see as the "ok let's do this" night. It was pretty clear from that point on that we both had really strong feelings for each other and we didn't want to be with anyone else. He started calling me his girlfriend shortly after that and life was pretty perfect. The first time he said that word, I was again, being cool and acted like it didn't phase me. I was screaming like a teenage girl in my head. We went on vacations together, had so many incredible experiences together, we got dressed up on went on a million dates. We laughed a lot and no matter how much time we spent together, I could never get enough of him.
About two years into our relationship, my rescue dog Blair was diagnosed with cancer and it broke my heart. I was devastated. I rescued Blair when I was single and she was my instant best friend. I came home from work the day after she was diagnosed to Jeff, who spent the entire day researching her kind of cancer and everything you can do at home to help her prognosis. He was cooking special food he found in his research that was healthy for dogs battling cancer and he divided it up into bags for each day and labeled them. I walked into his house in awe that a boyfriend would do that for a dog that wasn't his because he loved me so much. I read somewhere once that true colors really show in a relationship when you go through something hard. This was the first time we'd ever been through anything even remotely hard and I realized the extent of how incredible he was. I was a mess and he held me together.
Not only did he do research and cook for Blair, he carried her up the stairs when she was too weak to walk with us up to bed. He laid with her on the floor when she didn't feel like she could stand up. On days where she had to be inside most of the day to get chemo, he would make a bed for her outside so she could get fresh air and filled it with tennis balls. The day I had to decide to put her down was the worst day of my life and Jeff was there the whole time, sharing my grief and making sure her last minutes were full of love.
THAT is the man I love so much. That is the Jeff that I know. He's truly the most incredible person that I've ever met.
Two and a half years into our relationship, on the lake where we fell in love, Jeff proposed during the most magical sunset I've ever seen and I said yes. We had never discussed marriage (I was still trying to play it kind of cool) and I had zero intention of pushing him on the subject, but I knew he was the person for me. He told his parents he was going to propose, he asked both of my parents and designed a ring based on what he'd seen me post on Pinterest (I'm totally casual, I know), all without ever giving me a hint he'd thought about it. The proposal was the best surprise of my life. It was so us: middle of the summer, middle of the lake, wine and and the most magical sunset. There were a lot of tears, so many smiles, and at one point I did a happy dance. We were so caught up in the moment that he forgot to show me the ring. The ring is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. I can't believe that he spent months with a jeweler and I had zero clue. Every time I look at it, I think of the day we got engaged. To me, that was the start of a brand new life for us. Things felt completely different in the best way from that moment forward. I traded me for us that day, and even on our worst day, I feel like I'm living in a dream. I can't seem to wrap my head around that he chose us forever. It blows my mind and I'm grateful every day.
Side note: don't go crazy, we're both independent, but the day we got engaged I said goodbye to making choices that were only good for me. I took myself out of the #1 spot and put our relationship in its place. Every choice I make every day is for us as a team.
We're married now and I can say without any doubt in my mind that I married my perfect partner and the best friend I've ever had. It's hard to believe that it all started when I was pretending to be cool and he was kind of a player. Like- who were those people?! I'm pretty straight forward and he's the most loyal person I've ever known so those people who started casually dating years ago seem like strangers. I would never tell a friend to stick around when a guy isn't choosing her and I certainly wouldn't ever tell my girlfriend to hold back her feelings. Somehow, it all worked out for us and WOW, we've grown up together so much since then.
We aren't perfect by any means, but our relationship amazes me every single day. He treats me like an equal, he encourages me to spread my wings and fly and he values my independence. On our wedding day he told me that there will always be times in my life where I have to choose what my next path is. He told me that no matter what path I choose, whether I want to hold his hand through it or walk that road alone sometimes, I will always see him at the end of the road.
He encourages me to nurture my friendships, is kind to my friends, treats my family like his own and always keeps his word. He fights fair, he loves me unconditionally and there isn't a single day that I wonder how he feels about me because he shows me every day. He is my biggest cheerleader and the most outspoken supporter of my career and this blog. He introduced me to gratitude and to finding a silver lining in everything. There isn't a day that goes by that he doesn't make me a better human being. He's my inspiration. I'm his #1 fan.
We are both undoubtedly better partners in our marriage because of what we experienced in our past relationships and the hard work we each did in therapy that came after those breakups. We know how to fight fair and treat each other with respect. We have taken what we thought we knew about partnerships from our last relationships and redefined partnership for ourselves. Our marriage is a true partnership. I look back on the beginning of our relationship and am so thankful we had that time to be single. It makes me giggle now. IF WE ONLY KNEW!!!
Thank you for loving me with your whole heart, Jeff Dauler, and for choosing us every single day. I honestly didn't know I could love another human being so dang much. You have expanded my capacity to love. I can't imagine life without you by my side and I will spend the rest of my life trying to be the best possible partner to you. Happy day like any other day, baby (Jeff hates valentine's day)! I love you!