Phil’s proposal took me entirely by surprise. I’d spent the week grieving over losing him, wondering how in the world to pick up the pieces, and finally getting to the point of complete and total surrender.

I knew he loved me. And I didn’t doubt for a minute that I loved him.  But I was powerless to take away the worries that nagged at him— his need

to know for sure... to dissipate all doubt... to have everything perfect.

And so I’d let him go. And in the loosening of my heart’s grip on Phil, I’d discovered a greater joy in Jesus than I’d ever experienced before. I knew He would take care of me and that knowing left me riding on a high of unexplainable peace.

So when Phil called and asked me if I’d go out with him on Friday night I was immediately confused. Why? Hadn’t we dragged this out long enough?  Never in a million years did I suspect he would ask me to marry him.

When Phil came to pick me up, my family started acting extremely strange— smirks and grins and giggles. I was embarrassed and not a little annoyed, suddenly wishing I lived on campus rather than commuting to college across town. Couldn’t they see how hard this was for me?  Closing the door behind us, I let out a sigh of relief.

And that’s when Phil asked me to marry him. Right there on the front porch of my family’s home— the home he was asking me to leave so that I could join my life to his.

I don’t remember more than a few snatches of the words he used, in fact, I’m still not sure I even answered with any sort of clear affirmative.  What I do remember is an overwhelming sense of being loved and the awkwardness of our first kiss that left us both laughing out loud with the joy of it.

Yes, yes, yes!

He wanted me. This man I admired more than any other was telling me that he wanted me forever. I could hardly believe it, and yet I knew without a doubt that this was right, that God was in this, that He had brought us together.

When finally we came down from the high of that moment, the planning began. How long till we could pull together a wedding? Could we do this quick now that we’d decided? Was four months long enough? Was there any reason to wait?

We settled on a July date and got to work. Or at least my mom got to work. I mostly walked around with my head in the clouds and let her do all the details.

But a funny thing happened in all the flurry of planning and doing and dreaming— Phil and I began to argue. We’d never argued before. Not once. Now it seemed that my feelings were hurt all the time and he was frustrated and we spent hours and hours working out what we couldn’t understand. What was wrong with us?

The pre-marriage counseling we got was minimal. Our pastor met with us a couple of times but we were so sure we knew how to do this that we weren’t listening much. There were no personality tests or workbooks to fill in, though I was reading everything I could get my hands on and tucking away a whole list of rules to follow for the perfect marriage.

And all that kissing was keeping us heated up so hot that I’m not sure our brains were registering much anyway. Tension was mounting as we counted down the days one at a time. To my mom’s frustration, we spent more time planning our honeymoon than our wedding!

I was certain we were going to have the Ideal Marriage. Of course we would— Phil was my Ideal Man, after all. And I was reading my way through a stack of books to learn how to be the Ideal Wife.

Clearly we were heading for a crash but just as clearly we couldn’t have seen it.

And that is why I want to write this series. Because we did crash and we didn’t see it coming. And there are things I learned in that crash that no book every mentioned.

Things about conflict and oneness and humility and honesty— about two strong-willed people attempting the impossible task of melding their lives into one without destroying each other in the process.

And perhaps most important, I want to write about why he’s not really your Prince Charming no matter how much you love him. And how I, as a woman, as a wife, could choose to spend the rest of my life honoring and loving him skillfully… or draining him of every ounce of dignity by trying to make him into my Ideal.

But I didn’t know any of that on my wedding day. I just knew I loved this man and I had lived for months in that uneasy fear that if he discovered who I really was he’d change his mind.

When July 15th dawned clear and bright and he stood in front of our church and family and pledged his faithfulness for the rest of forever, I breathed a great sigh of relief. The hard part, I was sure, was behind us. Now my Prince would rush me off into our Happily-Ever-After where we would be… happy forever!

And now, nearly 35 years later I can’t help but laugh… and shudder a little… at my fairytale take on life. I had so much growing up to do, so much learning about real life and real love and real happiness.

So come along with me and learn from the rest of my story. Learn what I wish I’d known then, what I want my girls to know now. Learn from my mistakes and learn from my discoveries. Listen better than I did and you’ll undoubtedly avoid many of my blunders.

Most of all, it is my hope and my prayer that you will discover your real Prince Charming. And he’s not the guy you’ve got your eye on.

He’s the One, the only One, who will make you all-the-way-to-your-bones happy.

And He’s the One who will give you the strength and the will and the wisdom and the skill to love your man well.

To all of my girls, with all of my heart,