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Timing Is Everything

Jai Girard Photography

Whenever I’m asked how I knew my husband was “the one,” my answer is always the same: When he was courting me, he made me feel like the most beautiful, interesting and fun person in the world (he’d routinely bring me flowers for no reason, and there was a certain gleam in his eye whenever he’d look at me, as corny as that sounds). But, more importantly, we both held family in the highest regard and had the same goals for our future. I knew he’d be a great father because he was a very involved uncle: He used to watch his three nephews when his older brother and sister-in-law would go out of town, for up to a week at a time—can you imagine? He’d get them ready for school every day, make their lunches, take them to their sporting events, etc. When most of the single guys I knew would never give up a weekend of chasing girls around to baby-sit…

Marriage isn’t always easy—and it doesn’t come naturally to everyone—but parenthood, in my opinion, is a different story. You either are a good parent, or you’re not—and it either comes naturally to you, or it doesn’t. And I am so lucky that I found myself a man who treats being a parent like it’s his job every bit as much as it is mine. My husband is the best father to our son that I could've ever asked for…and that's one of the things that helps make our marriage work, after three eventful years together.

For those of you who are new to this blog here’s the back story of our relationship: Jay and I went on a blind date four years before we actually started dating, in 2003. We had a good time, but that’s all it was. So when he called to ask me out for a second date, I didn’t return the call. I was the new nightlife columnist for Chicago magazine, and was having too much fun being single, running around with my single friends. I hadn’t ruled out dating, but I wasn’t exactly looking for a boyfriend either. And for his part, he was about to open his first bar—so even though he called me back for a second date, I’m pretty sure a relationship between us wouldn’t have lasted.

Fast-forward four years, a few insignificant relationships, and a much different mindset, and we re-meet—where else—at a club in Chicago. We got serious pretty quickly—three months in we were saying the “L” word and spending all of our time together. I never imagined myself the inseparable kind—I was pretty used to being alone and independent at 33 years old—but then Jay came along and changed everything. He made me realize a lot of things about myself. I’ve never even told him this, but he made me see myself in a different light—in the same light he saw me. 

Jay is going to kill me for saying this, but he used to keep track of certain milestones in our relationship in his phone. He even kept track of the date he calls a “Breakthrough with Sarah.” (How sweet is that?) See, I was a little resistant to getting serious in the beginning—the more serious things got between us, the more I started pulling back. It’s so cliché, but I was a bit of a commitment-phobe. I was the guy in the relationship, in its early stages (now I’m most definitely the woman).

I had this exciting career that was centered on me being a single gal about town, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to give that up. At the time, I was also writing a blog for Chicago magazine called “Last Girl Standing” about being one of the last of my girlfriends to settle down. I celebrated the exciting life I was leading, and made no excuses for my carefree lifestyle. In fact, in 2005, when I was 31, I wrote a feature story for Chicago titled “Fling Theory,” about the notion of being a female connoisseur of the casual affair, “having way too much fun to even think about settling down.” I wrote about my flings, and the men I was flinging with, at the height of virtual courting and flirting over IM, and how the digital age played a big factor in these so-called casual relationships.

I was the poster girl for single thirty-somethings…then a lot of my close friends started getting married and having kids, and I realized pretty quickly that I wanted all those things, too. But I wasn’t about to settle down with just anyone. I was convinced that it wouldn’t happen for me. I remember talking to my mom about it one dreary, hung-over Sunday: “I can’t picture myself walking down the aisle with anyone,” I told her. She assured me that I would meet the right guy, that it was all about timing. But at 33, I was certain that I knew every available guy in Chicago in my age group, and I wasn’t interested in dating any of them (or had already been there, done that).

Until that fateful night in July 2007 when I bumped into Jay at da club… I was coming off a day-long bachelorette party—my third one that summer—and he was meeting up with mutual friends at the same club. In my buzzed state of mind I spotted him in the crowd, grabbed his arm and pulled him toward me: “We went out once, didn’t we?” That was my opener. We spent the rest of the night talking and taking shots, and ended up at a late-night bar until 4 a.m., innocently dancing and drinking and having a good time. But for some reason the memory that sticks out the most from that night is of him holding my denim jacket over his shoulder for me, so that I wouldn’t lose it; it’s such a small thing, but it made him that much more attractive. That’s Jay: very thoughtful, and always looking out for me.

This time when he called to ask me out I called him back, and he took me to my favorite restaurant for our first date, by total coincidence. I now realize it was a kind of foreshadow: He’s always known me better than anyone. Even for our first blind date, four years prior, he took me to a fun neighborhood dive bar that happened to be one of my favorites, which I had just written one of my columns about—they’re known to have the biggest selection of board games, and I had just written about what a great first-date spot it was. (He claims he hadn’t read the article before our date.) I was impressed with the choice of venues—what better way to get to know someone than over a competitive game of Connect Four?

Anyway, it just goes to show you that timing is everything when it comes to dating. Had we given the relationship a go the first time, we may not have made it because of where we both were in our lives. But by the time we re-met in 2007, we were in different places and both ready to be in a serious relationship. We knew what we really wanted out of life—and family was the biggest part of our dreams.

Our courtship went pretty quickly: After eight months of dating we got engaged on March 21, 2008. We got married exactly six months later, on September 21. And three months after that, we conceived Preston. I’m not going to lie and say marriage is always easy-breezy—as my mom gently puts it, we've jammed a lot of life's milestones into a very short period of time—but I have the best partner in life to weather the storms with. And also? Our son has the most giving, hands-on father.

Happy third anniversary, Jay, I love you more and more every day. Thank you for taking such good care of us, especially these last few months.