I'm going to tell you a story, and as all good stories go, it begins, "Once Upon A Time..."
...there was a young-ish man. Not a kid, but seasoned by time, and some grief. Years before he'd lost the woman he loved to some murderous thugs who raped and killed her, and left him badly injured.
Oh! Did I mention this is NOT a bedtime story?
He took a long time to recover physically, and a longer time to recover emotionally. As the years wore on, he dated occasionally, but never seriously, and withdrew very much into himself. He was kind, but remote, brilliant, but reserved. His life consisted of work, reading, music, and running a local BBS (Bulletin Board System.)
Once upon the SAME time, there was a woman, younger than the man, unhappily married but with two great daughters. She had had to put all her dreams on hold to follow him around the world, but he never appreciated it. Living with him was like walking on eggshells - every word measured, fighting often, knowing herself unloved and under-appreciated. Her husband would snarl at her, "We're not married! We have a piece of paper, but we're not married." She worried a lot about her girls growing up thinking that this was what marriage was, but she was afraid to leave.
One day, her beloved grandmother died, and she saw how the grandfather who had always been so close to her heart mourned his lost wife. It hit the woman very strongly that if she were to die, her husband would feel relief, not sorrow, and it came to her that she deserved better. But after so many years of hurt, she didn't believe with her mind what her heart knew.
About a year later, the woman was testing a new BBS for some friends, and it led her to others in the area. She made several friends online, but the most special one was the man who ran his own BBS. They would talk about games they played online, and music, and families, and he came to realize that she was very unhappy, believing very little in herself. She came to realize how caring but lonely he was. They became dear friends and confidantes...but they had never seen one another.
After several months of getting to know one another over modem lines, they decided to meet. The woman was cautious, picking a public place and taking a girlfriend along. She went to Walden Books, and waited, scared to death. What if he didn't show? Worse, what if he DID!?
The man was nervous too. He didn't wear the sweater he said he would, just in case he decided to flee. But he didn't. He saw her, and he instinctively opened his arms. She walked in to them and it was the warmest, kindest gesture she'd had in years. Their friendship was well and truly sealed.
That was 15 years ago this past Sunday. His caring and belief in her gave her the courage to tell her husband that he was right about them not having a marriage, and she deserved better...even if it meant being alone. She knew her friend would always be her friend, but she didn't know if it would become more.
The man was a bit leery...he was used to his bachelor ways, and inviting three women into his life would mean changes beyond his scope. But after a year and a half, he called his parents while the woman was visiting, and told them the two were getting married. Although he'd asked her earlier in the day what she would say IF he asked her marry him, he hadn't actually done so, and she pointed that out when he got off the phone.
He remedied this oversight, and they were married a year later.
Okay, it isn't Cinderella. It isn't even Sixteen Candles, but it is true. The DH made my biggest dream a reality; he loves me just for me, and I can be utterly my own snarky self with him. Oh, and he still gives incredible hugs.
And we really have lived happily ever after.