This isn’t an advice blog. This is simply Derek’s and my story of our beginning, and what lead to our marriage.
I believe in two things: Only investing your time into a person you intend on marrying, and even if you are with the right person, it may be the wrong timing, and we should never pull the trigger on marriage until the wrong timing becomes right.
We wrote this story raw and unedited, because that is how life actually is. This is our story, and my objective for you as you read it, is to capture the trend that a successful relationship leading into marriage must be built on a sturdy foundation.
THE FIRST WEEK
Sarah: After 18 hours of driving straight from CT to FL, with no AC, and no sleep, I had finally arrived. I grabbed a quick shower, and then immediately drove to my new Crossfit gym to check it out. I walked in, got the tour, and everything was one big blur of being overwhelmed.
Derek: I noticed Sarah the second she walked into the gym. I remember her wearing what I thought was a long dress and she had a huge coffee in her hand. I thought she was beautiful. I also knew that was a red flag. I was in a 5 year relationship at the time and Sarah was the first woman who had ever caught my eye like that.
Sarah: For the first week at the new gym all of the coaches talked to me except for Derek. He never said a word. He would just awkwardly stare. I specifically remember the first time Derek ever actually spoke to me. We were warming up with the barbell and he came over and said, “It looks like you’ve done Crossfit before,” to which I sarcastically replied, “It looks like that because I have in fact done Crossfit before.” Conversation over. He walked away.
Derek: It was one of those things where you stand there for days thinking of what to say, and then you say something, you instantly regret opening your mouth because you weren’t ready to respond back to what they said to your initial statement.
Sarah: I started asking around about who was who. One of the coaches specifically told me not to even bother getting to know Coach Derek. He said that Derek was a military guy about to leave on a contracting job to the middle east, that he was a super shy guy that only liked to workout, shoot people, hang out with his dogs, and go home to his girlfriend. Ya, not my kind of person.
Sarah: I was sad that he was leaving. He had my favorite coaching style and there was this innocence and humility about him that I liked. I also sniffed him out as a person who was currently stuck in life, needed a new direction to walk in, just didn’t have the resources to currently do so, and didn’t have anyone asking him the right questions. I decided that I wanted to be that person, so one weekend when I was traveling to Georgia for a business seminar, I cut right to the bone and started asking him deep, life questions.
Derek: Sarah’s questions freaked me out. But as much as I thought it was weird, I was intrigued because she was the first person in my life who had ever asked me the questions she was asking. She messed me up that weekend. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was sitting on top of a fence, and she was trying to help push me off the fence, telling me to pick a side.
Sarah: Derek was so receptive to my questions. It had been a long time since someone would actually play back with me and give me straight, honest, raw, authentic answers. I decided that weekend in Georgia that Derek was someone I could invest my energy into because he was giving me what I needed. Authenticity and a willingness to change. The biggest thing at that time that I wanted to help him work through was making a decision about his current relationship. I advised him that he needed to get 100% in or 100% out. There was no ulterior motive. I was thinking about his girlfriend as a woman, and how I would feel if I were her, and how he needed to do what was right for her, and he needed to do what was right for him. There was nothing wrong with her by any means, it just wasn’t the right fit. It was a convenient fit.
Derek: Sarah helped push me off the fence. And I did choose a side. Within a week of Sarah coming back from Georgia, I broke up with my girlfriend, cut that relationship loose for both of us, and decided to move forward. It was a long time coming, I had just never worked up the courage to actually do it. And I didn’t do it for Sarah. She showed me no signs of interest in any way other than friendship.
Sarah: Things did NOT get easier after that point. In fact they got worse. Derek and I were both going to be at a Crossfit Halloween party one weekend, about three weeks after his breakup, and he told me his ex was going to be there and that he was nervous because he wasn’t sure if she was going to do anything. I told him it was fine and that if she did do anything, I’d handle whatever happened with grace. She was under the impression that Derek had left her for another woman, and she was determined to find out who the woman was at that party. Midway through the party, she determined that I was that other woman, had the DJ turn off the music, and publicly announced to everyone at our gym that Derek had left her for me. So one month into moving to Florida, I was now Coach Derek’s quote on quote “homewrecker.”
Sarah: The next month was pretty painful. People were highfiving me, others just looked at me with complete judgement in their eyes, rumors were spreading fast, and nasty comments were being thrown our way. While I did go home and cry a few times, I was extremely proud of both Derek and myself. I was proud that God gave me the skills to pinpoint a person who wanted change and to assist them in change, and the guts to withstand whatever consequences came with people’s “assumptions” of what was actually happening, and I was proud of Derek for being so quick to make such a drastic life change. I’m very accustomed to people telling me they’re going to do something, and doing the exact opposite, so Derek shocked me when he decided to make a drastic life change, and did it immediately, because he knew it was the right thing to do.
Derek: Sarah could have handled this entire situation completely differently than she chose to. She could have have sensed my vulnerability and flirted with me while I was in a relationship, she could have been selfish, when she was accused infront of 100 people, she could have acted out and made a scene, but she didn’t. At that Halloween party my ex got in Sarah’s face and was about to slap her, and Sarah just stood there ready to take that hit, because Sarah was thinking from my ex’s perspective. Sarah understood what it looked like from the outside in, she sympathized with the pain and confusion my ex was feeling, and she would have taken that hit and done absolutely nothing. Sarah gained all of my respect with how she handled the entire situation, and she could have so easily have lost all of it had she done things differently than she had.
Sarah: Derek breaking up with his ex wasn’t a green light for him to chase after me. In fact it was quite the opposite. I was very clear on what I wanted with my life, what I wanted in relationships, and very clear on how to protect myself and other people from being emotional over being logical. 1. I told Derek that he needed to take some time and learn how to not be in a relationship 2. Derek at that time did not have a relationship with Jesus Christ so the possibility of us being together was at 0%.
Sarah: My relationship with Derek started to resemble what I’d always had with my brothers, who I’ve always been really close with. They see it all, there is no hiding, there is no lying, everything and anything is talked about no matter how vulnerable, all the cards are played out on the table, they’re safe, they protect you, they stand up for you, they grocery shop with you, they road trip with you., and they’re your safety net. Derek had replaced my brothers, who were no longer physically there to do those things and take care of their little sis. The thing I loved the most was that we rarely ever hung out by ourselves. I designed it to be that way. I remember telling Derek, “I don’t care what you’re like when you’re around me when no one else is looking. I care what you’re like around other people, all the time, in any situation. I won’t know you by who you are when only I’m around, I’ll know you by who you are when everyone else is.” Derek and I became best friends authentically, organically, and over time. There were no dates. There was just LIFE.
Derek: I didn’t care what we were doing, I just wanted to be around Sarah all the time. She hated it at first. She was used to doing everything alone with very little people ever checking up on her, so at first she got really annoyed at how much I wanted to be around her, and how much I cared that she was safe. I just loved her. The things that came out of her mouth, the way she cared about other people, her unshakable integrity and character, her work ethic, her vibrancy and ability to see beauty in the details, her dreams and vision for her life, the way she helped me find myself and my path with no ulterior motive, the way she challenged me to be a richer man. I wanted to be around all of it all the time because nothing but good came out of it.
Sarah: I grew to love the crap out of Derek. Holy cow. But one problem. Derek still didn’t have a relationship with Christ. I can’t tell you how many frustrating conversations I had with him trying to explain why I couldn’t be with him on an intimate level. He just didn’t get it, but I knew he would eventually. God totally had His grips on Derek. I just kept praying for that and it was out of my hands. I didn’t care if we were ever going to be together, I cared that Derek found Christ. I could see the pain he felt. He wanted to be with me. I knew that. But I couldn’t be the reason Derek decided to change. I’ve seen so many people fake change to get what they want. And I needed Derek to find Christ for Derek. So I just kept pushing him away. It tore him up inside but I was doing what I was doing for the right reason and I knew that.
Derek: Back then I just didn’t get it. I didn’t understand what she meant when she said I didn’t have a relationship with Christ. I mean I understood what she was saying, but not to that extent. It was a really painful time. She hid her pain really well. Honestly, I couldn’t even tell that she was in pain or that it was hurting her as bad as it was hurting me. But now that I look back on it, what she did was so brave. Because I did find Christ. On my own. And I honestly believe that if she had just compromised and accepted me as I was, I’m not sure that I would have ever gone searching for Him the way I did. She knew what I needed before I even knew what I needed. And for her to go through all of the pain and hurt that she went through by pushing me away yet still tending to our friendship, all so that I would go find Christ by myself without her being involved, I love her for that. She cared about my life being saved over me having an earthly relationship with her.
Sarah: Things changed after Derek found Christ on his own. Quickly. When I was a kid I asked God that whoever I was going to end up with someday, to please throw me and that other person into life’s pits, so that I could really see what this person was like when life was hitting them hard. God did just that. Derek and I, within one year, went through some very large pits together, and those pits showed me that I could wholeheartedly commit to this dude. Holy cow could I handle life with this guy. He was such a champion in the hard times, and no matter what happened he just refused to do the wrong thing.
Derek: For a total of 4 months, with a boatload of other really challenging things going on, Sarah and I both got staph infection. Multiple times. A skin infection doesn’t sound too terrible until you have it. It was excruciating. We were in constant, excruciating pain. It was a vulnerable time for us. But it was also pretty awesome because we knew what to expect from each other. One of the best things about Sarah is that she never leaves you wondering what’s wrong, what she’s thinking, or what she’s feeling. She would straight up say, “I’m in excruciating pain. I’m pissed that I can’t workout. Or barely move. I feel fat. I’m losing my athleticism. I’m going stir crazy. So I just want you to know that you should expect me to be pretty quiet, I’m going to watch a lot of Netflix, I don’t want to talk as much as usual, and I hate everything about this, but I’m really glad that I have you to go through it with, thank you for being such a champ, and I love you.” We kind of just dealt with it one day at a time. There was no emotional rollercoaster, and as a man that takes a lot of pressure off of you.
Sarah: October 1st, 2015 Derek proposed to me infront of everyone at our gym. December 1st, 2015 we got married. We were supposed to get married on April 9th, 2016, and we were planning to do that, but in the process of planning, we just realized how inorganic that was for who Derek and Sarah were. My best friend a few years back eloped in Jamaica with his wife. It was spontaneous and it felt right, and I always said that was exactly what I wanted to do. You have to make moments happen when they feel like they’re ready to happen. For us, that was December 1st. Why did things happen so fast? I think the answer is because things started on such a firm foundation and never left that foundation. Since the day we met we were both sniffing the other one out, seeing just how much we really stood by our word, seeing what kind of character we displayed when things were going to crap, and checking that the other person’s integrity was in line at all times, in public and behind the curtain. When something is built on a firm foundation, time is a pretty irrelevant factor. For us, things just worked out this way.
Derek: What’s next for us? A ton. But that’s for another day.