I met my husband, Dave, during a low point in my life. I was in a long-term relationship that ended, somewhat suddenly, with plenty of emotional damage to go around. Despite years of personal development and coaching prior to this breakup, I couldn’t figure out why I still wasn’t “getting it” or what other work needed to be done before I could find “the one”. First, that’s not how personal development works; it’s an ongoing and never-ending process you should learn to love and embrace until you’re no longer in your earthly body. Second, there’s no magic finish line you get to cross once you’ve done x amount of work, and then you’re rewarded with, say, a husband. I knew this. I even taught this. Nevertheless, something still wasn’t clicking. I felt deflated.

Soon after Dave and I started dating he made me a playlist. To this day, it’s still one of my most favorite gifts he’s ever given me. I believe music has a wonderful way of connecting others and communicating in ways you’re unable. Of all the songs in the playlist, one stood out the most and hit me the hardest, “Hand Me Down” by Matchbox 20. It was the culmination of how I felt at the time, like he read my mind and knew my heart. And regardless of all of it, he was ready to love me just as I was – to happily accept his thrift shop treasure.

Some of the baggage I was toting when I met Dave was a lack of worth and an inability to fully trust (myself or others). Due to past relationship failures, some more epic than others, I had learned to live in defensive/protective mode. Sadly, somewhere along the way it became second nature. One can’t truly love fully or wholeheartedly from this place. Even now, despite my ongoing attempts to let these old emotions go, I sometimes revert back to being guarded if things between us get tough or start to feel shaky. But when I’m ready to rise above again, there’s Dave, patiently waiting – a loving reminder that even though I continue striding to be the best version of myself, he’s never expected perfection…he simply loves his hand-me-down.

“I’m here for the hard times, the straight to your heart times. Whenever it ain’t easy, you can stand up against me.” To this day, when I hear those song lyrics I’m overcome with emotion. In part, because it’s incredibly sweet and loving; words that Dave has continually proven time and time again. But also because it, unfortunately, was more true than I think Dave could’ve ever imagined when he first dedicated it. While we’ve had our fair share of joys, our relationship has been filled with more grief than I still know what to do with.

In the short two years we’ve been married, we’ve planned two fundraising benefits, two celebration of life parties, attended five funerals, changed jobs, bought a house, endured a pre-baby medical leave, birthed said baby, and overcame postpartum depression (also from said baby). I feel like we’ve lived a 20-year marriage in just 24 months. Through it all, Dave has held my hand, wiped my tears, cleaned up puke, urine, and other bodily messes (sadly not from said baby), and let me tell him the same stories over and over because he knew how much it meant to me to be able to share certain memories. Through each milestone, crappy or joyful, I’m reminded of my worth and the trust that’s been built during this time, because even though Dave is amazing, he’s not carrying this relationship. I’m an equal partner, so if we’re great, that means I’m pretty damn great too!

I’m still not sure how I got so lucky as to have Dave as my partner. Maybe I finally suffered enough, or maybe I did enough personal growth to make me realize my worth and what I want out of a relationship. Whatever the reasons, I feel blessed to choose, and be chosen by, Dave every day. I’m honored to be the hand-me-down he couldn’t live without.

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