It’s amazing for me to believe I have been with Juan, my husband, my best friend, the man of my dreams for nearly 19 years. [Side note: You can expect this to be mushy…it’s my love story after all.] To think I’ve spent more of my life with him than anyone else, including my parents, helps me realize the impact he’s made on me. I’m incredibly thankful to God for orchestrating our paths together. We seriously needed one another (and still do) and not in a dependency kind of way, rather in a way to improve and benefit each other’s lives. Although he is hardly the same guy I met back in 1998, I am more in love with him and appreciate who he is today more than ever before.
If you haven’t read How We Met, click on the link.
Before we committed to be with one another, I can remember pretending to be the damsel-in-distress and asking for a ride home from class one day. At that time, I was staying at a friend’s house near Hiram Johnson High School in Sacramento, CA. On the way home, I suggested we get a bite to eat. Even though I didn’t enjoy fast food much, we ended up at a Taco Bell small talking. I couldn’t believe my ears when this 18-year-old guy in his baggy jeans, white K-Swiss shoes and cable-knit vest with a white muscle shirt underneath asked me if I went to church.
Most of the guys I had met outside of church up till this point would never have asked me such a question. I was typically the first one bringing up God in a conversation and usually disappointed with the response. Yet, I consistently found myself interested in the guys that had a semi-thuggish look (funny, I know, but remember I was only 17 years old) but I desired a guy who was smart and loved God.
We began our relationship during our first semester of college, so most of our courtship was spent alongside each other studying for our Bachelor degrees. Both of us were on a five-year graduation plan. I studied Biological Sciences with hope to pursue a career in Pediatrics; Juan sought after a Civil Engineering degree. It felt like the people our age were out partying most nights, while we were spending long, exhausting hours working and studying.
Even though it may have seemed like we missed out on all the fun, I believe it brought depth and maturity to our relationship early on. Without many distractions we were able to learn more about each other. It helped us to understand how we dealt with situations and emotions. Whether it was exhaustion, frustration, joy or victory, we had courtside seats to each other’s lives; we learned what Juan and Angelita was truly made of. Little did we know the struggles we’d eventually endure, the deaths in our family we’d survive, and the attacks we’d get against our relationship literally up till the night before our wedding. It has only made our love and friendship stronger.
The Struggle to Stay Together
The moment we decided to be together, it seemed as if we were in a war. Between conflicts within ourselves and external influences, looking back it’s amazing to me why we didn’t just throw in the towel. We were two young kids that would grow together and learn how to fight for “us”.
In the beginning months of our relationship we would go back and forth on whether or not we should stay together. He was a devoted Catholic and I was a charismatic Christian. Although we worshiped the same God, when it came to how we served Him we were conflicted at times. When ever we attempted to look past our religious differences, there was always someone bold enough to point them out. It felt like there were strings pulling us apart from both sides. It wasn’t unusual for people to tell us our relationship would never work out or that we shouldn’t be together. Yet there was something about one another that drew us closer together when family and friends pulled us the other way. We intrigued one another. We were in love. So, I would faithfully attend Catholic mass with him every Sunday and he would regularly read the Bible with me.
One special Christmas, I invited Juan to join my family so he wouldn’t have to be alone. Since his parents were divorced, holidays were often tough on him and his family. That Christmas, he had sweetly blessed me with a plethora of gifts, which left his family concerned about how much money he spent on me. I gifted to him his first Bible, amongst other gifts. It was a pivotal point in our relationship. From that point on we sought after God together with all our hearts. Juan’s increasing hunger to draw closer to God gave me the accountability I needed to walk in what I knew was right. Looking back, I can see why there was so much warfare in our relationship. God knew we needed one another to fulfill the purpose He had for our lives and the enemy attempted to separate us.
Before long, we were both serving our church community in as many ways as we could. We were hosting weekly bible studies for youth at a local catholic church, volunteering quarterly at youth weekend reflections, leading worship several times a week at different services, making trips to convalescent homes, and juvenile halls to touch lives, teaching Sunday school and directing theatrical art productions. We loved to serve. We loved living for God together.
Aside from our love for God and desire to serve, we both were opposites. I loved to travel and eat out. Juan was more of a home-body and liked home-cooked meals. He was addicted to television, movies and video games. I went years without having a television in my studio home. I didn’t understand the need to sit in front of a screen for hours. I was typically more adventurous and I loved to try new things. Juan was usually conservative with his choices and often leaned to what he knew. He would call me the dreamer and he was the realist. Surprisingly our differences were never a point of contention. Somehow, we made it work, respecting each other’s likes and dislikes. We’d “take turns” with what we’d eat or do and it worked for us. It wasn’t until our engagement that we realized the severity of our differences and the amazement of how we managed to get along despite the differences.
Healing from a Broken Heart
Although there were external forces attacking our relationship, we had inner demons to combat as well. About four years into our relationship we both opened a door to seduction outside of our relationship. We found ourselves drifting apart, not in search for something better, rather distracted and easily allured.
It didn’t take long before there would be broken trust, compromise and battered hearts. I can remember long days and nights of prayer. Our relationship was off and on, more times than I can count. Deep down we wanted to be with one another but there were some choices made that we both could not undo. I often reflect on our relationship and out of the 19 years we’ve been together this was by far the hardest time. I didn’t know if I would ever love Juan unconditionally again or if we could ever trust each other. I believe it was as we sought God as individuals and our own personal mentors, we saw what we really wanted and how to put the pieces back together again.
Stay tuned for How It All Began With Two: The Proposal.