Marry your best friend
When I was young life seemed so formulaic. There was a pattern that emerged from culture: grow up, meet your soul mate in high school or college (according to Lifetime movies), get engaged after two years (the perfect amount of time), get a house, pop out kids, etc... In reality though, most of the people I met in high school or college have grown into such different humans than they were back then, I don't know that we would ever match up to this day. In my life I only have one, maybe two examples of college couples that have strong healthy marriages to this day (maybe a few more if you throw in meeting in graduate school). The beautiful reality of being human is that we are beings of growth and change who often don't know until we've been through enough experiences what we really want in a partner. In high school my boyfriend was one of the most wonderful human beings I had ever met, he still is, but did we have enough in common to weather the good days of life, let alone the bad? Probably not. I still hike up mountains, he still plays video games, and while we both could hang out in each others world for a period of time, a period of time does not a partnership make.
Being soul mates back then came from lust, from the fear no one else would like you, from the commonality of going to the same school or being in the same activity, and not from truly seeing a person for who they are and finding a comfort and bond with that person. It's hard when we are young and selfish to take the time to see another person, we often times have a rough time even knowing who we truly are.
Abby didn't take the conventional path out of high school. With a love of baking, and the knowledge that a corporate desk job was not going to make her happy, she tried her hand successfully at graduating from many culinary programs. This journey took her out of her home state and like many young people her age, into a long distance relationship. When you are finding yourself the last thing you want is to lose parts of the world you've created that seem "complete". You say to yourself "okay, I've dated and I landed a partner ... check", "I got myself into my after high school learning experience... check", "next up, a ring, a good job, a family..."
Let's be honest, dating can kind of suck, and when someone seems to reciprocate feelings it can feel like what Hallmark and Disney have always toted as the perfect ending. This doesn't just go for romantic partners, friends that have similar subjects in school or interests can feel like people you have to hold on to forever. The beauty and the pain about growth, however, is that sometimes the best thing for you can be losing the thing you thought was unlosable, and realizing you are all the better for it. In my 20s I shook up my group of friends so hard most of them fell away in the process. Those that remained ended up being the core group of people I have in my life to this day... but we are talking about Abby.
When the unthinkable happened, the breakup Abby never saw coming, she felt lost, confused, very far away from home in a different state, and even more reliant on the new friend she had made, James. They had naturally formed a bond, one that was platonic, but one that came from having similar interests (well beyond working in the same restaurant and having a passion for food), same morals and goals in life, even the same way of looking at the world. Both in relationships, they had formed that rare bond that comes when you truly see another person because your lens isn't clouded by worrying they won't like you back, or the lust that comes when you are single and on the hunt. They loved talking, they loved hanging out, they most importantly were good friends for each other while they each were going through difficult times.
Now I know what you are thinking, movies also tell us that men and women forming friendships at work lead to the demise of the relationships they already have, but just like life having a set list of rules you have to follow, this is farthest from the truth for most people. For some people, like Abby and James, they build a bond of trust, respect, and commonality, without crossing into the line of love. So when each of their difficult relationships came to a head, and they turned to each other for support it was out of the pure feelings of comfort and understanding that they provided each other. They were, bottomline, good for each other, partners, a friendship that was bound to grow into something more. After all, it was Abby's ex that called her that fall day to break it off with her out of the blue, not the other way around.
I remember hearing about James many months later. The love that blossomed out of their friendship was just like every long lasting thing in life, slow but steady. They had gone through their lowest points together and through it all had turned to each other, coming closer together instead of getting further apart. James and Abby never had to pretend to be something they weren't to stay together. James didn't pretend to like food just to keep Abby around, he truly loved it. All the things he did before her, he did with her, and that made them a stronger match. Had Abby simply followed the life pattern she thought she was on, she never would have realized (or maybe would have way later) that just because she found someone that liked her when she was 21, doesn't mean that they are the person that is going to match up with her so well at 30.
James did not propose after two years, it took them a bit longer, but standing with him on their wedding day, listening to him talk about how he snuck out early the morning of their wedding to buy a crap ton more flowers for their alter because the night before Abby had seemed stressed that it was too bare (even though they were on a tight budget) reminded me of what an amazing fit he is for her. He saw what she needed, and made it happen. That is true partnership.
Naysayers might say that there are no perfect matches, but my optimistic heart thinks Abby and James prove that they not only exist, but it's what we all should wait to find.
Congrats you two! You are going to have the most beautiful life.