This is the second post of the series, Our Year Before Marriage. In this post Justin and myself write about our first memories of affection towards the other. We will also introduce one another for the series in which we will journal our thoughts, experiences and emotions as we countdown the days until we say “I do”.
The First Time I Saw Crystal
Written by Justin
I remember the first day I met Crystal as clear as if the day were yesterday. I was out of college and now working full time in Green Bay. My close friends and I would frequently visit our favorite bar at the time, Mackinaws, and watch any sporting event that was on while we were becoming friends with much of the staff and regulars.
This night didn’t seem different than any other night, my best friend Jeremy was talking about two girls that had just started bartending that he thought were cute. We decided as young men do with the prospect of good looking women involved to stop in and say, “Hi”.
That is When My Life Changed
We walked into the bar and were greeted by some of the usual suspects. As we made our way to the right side of the bar I looked up and saw her smiling at us. My heart immediately felt heavy as it sank deep within my chest. I struggled for a second to respond when she had asked what we were having to drink. I quickly blurted out, “Stella” (Stella Artois), and the rest of the guys gave her their orders.
It Wasn’t Love at First Sight
Immediately I could feel strong emotions for this girl. Her dark brown hair, rich hazel eyes, sun-kissed skin, and petite little body had my heart racing. She was wearing a black shirt and lacy off-white skirt that showed off her amazing legs. It wasn’t love at first sight, what I was feeling was complete intimidation!
The other guys had asked for her name at this point and she responded smiling with, “Crystal!” I couldn’t speak however, my lips were sealed and my mind was racing. What do I say? How do I speak to this girl? She has to be older, with a boyfriend, and he must be a tough guy with a motorcycle or something. I locked up and couldn’t get much for words out the rest of the night when she was around.
Nothing spectacular happened that night, their wasn’t a glance and a magical kiss at the end of the night. But something about her left a lasting impression on me. I couldn’t shake the feeling that this girl was someone more than just a girl at the bar. It was the way that she smiled and shared eye contact with me, as if looking into her eyes revealed a future that I wasn’t expecting.
Friends Before Love
Crystal would become close friends with my group of friends and we would see each other more and more in the following weeks and months. We played on the same volleyball team together, I met her boyfriend and we just enjoyed hanging out together as friends.
All the while I couldn’t shake the feeling that we were going to be something more than just friends. I didn’t tell anyone, I didn’t tell Jeremy who had a crush on her, and definitely didn’t tell the rest of the guys.
I came to learn how beautiful, smart and passionate of a woman she is. She was studying at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay to become a teacher and the tender/caring skills that profession demands were some of her greatest strengths. Her athleticism and competitiveness were just as strong and the main reason to as why our relationship would grow stronger.
As mentioned earlier we played volleyball together and we would bring that competitiveness out in each other. Afterwards it would carry on to the after party in a drinking game of flip cup or baseball (another drinking game). We often would exchange glances and a flirtatious taunt or smile. I couldn’t reduce the attraction I felt towards her.
I told Robynn
It was another night of spending time with Crystal and our flirtation was starting to increase. My feelings for her were starting to spill over and I confided in her good friend Robynn. That was the first time I ever told anyone about my feelings for Crystal.
Just as quickly as I told Robynn she had turned around and told my friend Brett, who she was seeing at the time. My feelings for her were out and became the subject of light jokes and jabs. I could handle the jokes and they were considerate enough to not mention anything in front of Crystal. That all changed however on Mother’s Day.
Now She Knows My Affection
It was Mother’s Day and I had spent it with my mother’s side of the family. Afterwards we wanted to stop at a bar for a drink and maybe a light dinner. Myself, my family and somehow my two friends Jeremy and Brett decided to get together and grab drinks at Mackinaws.
It wasn’t long before questions from my mother were asked about why neither of us had girlfriends. Brett smiled and took this as the perfect opportunity to tell my mother of the affection I had for Crystal. She lit up with excitement and asked more and more questions. Her excitement grew even greater when she was told that Crystal was a bartender for Mackinaws. She immediately summoned our bartender and asked him where Crystal was. Confused he said she was working upstairs and asked if we knew her. My mother requested her to come down and say hi.
Confused Crystal came down to the main bar and peered over at our group. She smiled at Brett, Jeremy and I then said hi to my parents and youngest brother. Before I could even introduce them my brother stood up and leaned over the bar to shake her hand and said, “Hi… I’m your future brother-in-law!”
That was the first time she found out that I had feelings for her.
The First Time I Saw Justin
The first time I met Justin was the summer of 2012 while bartending at Mackinaws Grill and Spirits in Green Bay. I was the “new girl” at the time trying to make friends with the regulars in order to feel comfortable as a first-time bartender.
A group of guys – a couple of years older than me – came into Mackinaws on a weekly basis and it wasn’t long before I knew their stories and became friends. I had only lived in Green Bay for a few months and was dying to meet people!!
Before I really got to know Justin, I initially became great friends with two of his best friends from high school (Brett and Jeremy). Through hanging out outside of work and playing bar league sports with them I eventually got to know Justin. From the first day I saw Justin he had caught my eye – it’s funny because I didn’t think he was the nicest of his friends; however, I was definitely attracted to him.
Something about him, without even knowing him, instantly intrigued me. I didn’t act upon any of these feelings because I was in a relationship with a nice guy and Justin, again, didn’t seem to be the friendliest person in the world. He didn’t make small talk with me, didn’t seem interested in what I had to say, he actually seemed annoyed with me at times. I remember thinking one time, “man he’s cute, but he’s got some tude!”
Over the next year me and the loyal Mackinaws group developed friendships that will never subside – still to this day. Brett, the first of that group of guys I became friends with is actually happily married to a great friend of mine now. We all met at good ole Mackinaws. Justin and I both stood up in their wedding, and they will be in ours!
He Likes Me?
Justin began showing some interest in me after a few months of building a friendship within our mutual group of friends. I found myself becoming incredibly infatuated with him. It wasn’t until Mother’s Day, 2013 that I finally was reassured that the feelings I had for Justin were real.
I was working in the upstairs bar at Mackinaws when my boss and a co-worker said a family was here to see me. Questioning who they were, I went downstairs to the main bar to find Brett, Justin, a teenage boy, and two adults in their forties. It didn’t take long to realize it was Justin’s family.
His mom yelled to me, “Crystal, we have heard so much about you!” At this point my confusion was through the roof because I had never met these people in my life. I walked over to them and Justin’s brother introduced himself by saying, “Hi, I’m Jarrett, your future brother-in-law!” Immediately Brett busted out in laughter while an embarrassed and flushed Justin gave his family the ultimate death stare. It was at this moment I knew my feelings for Justin were mutual. I smiled a little and said, “nice to meet all of you.”
The Start of Something New
It wasn’t long after that day that I broke up with my boyfriend in order to pursue a chance with Justin – something I’ve been wondering about for months.
The beginning of our relationship was filled with immense passion and fire, I’ve never felt anything like it. Just three months after dating him I told my friends, “he’s the one, I just know it” and most agreed because they could see we had something special. Our relationship started out as one of those relationships you see in the Notebook, it was incredible, unique, and special.
The Honeymoon is Over
A few months into our relationship, after the “honeymoon” stage subsided, Justin and I started facing some extremely difficult times in our relationship. Difficulties that a lot of our family and friends thought maybe we would be better off without each other.
It seemed that passion we shared for each other early on was now channeled through anger and fighting. Justin and I have always been faithful to each other, never lied or cheated, but our fights came from petty personality differences and early relationship mistrust.
Having never “lost it” in other previous relationships, I had seen a side I never knew I had. A side that cared so unbelievably much that it almost made me crazy if he gave me the silent treatment or didn’t call me back after I hung up. I knew I needed to keep my feelings in check and keep it under control when I got upset if I ever wanted this relationship to work. It was an opportunity for personal growth.
Rain Subsides to Sunshine
Even through the tough times, I had a never-ending burning desire to make it work with him, no matter what. I was determined, a determination some of my friends couldn’t understand. I realized our relationship wasn’t perfect rainbows and roses like other couples seem to have; ours was tough. I wasn’t sure if Justin and I were going to last, but the one thing I did know was that I was not letting go until I was completely and emotionally exhausted.
We had one breakup in 2015 that seemed to be the end of Crystal and Justin. Thankfully we took time to ourselves and reflected on what had gone wrong. How can two people have this unbelievable connection and burning desire to be together but not make it work? I did a lot of praying during this time asking for clarity. Justin had moved to Chicago so it was easier not to see or talk to him during this time and really reflect on what I wanted.
In June of 2015 we decided to see each other again and it was one of the most amazing feelings I have ever felt. I felt unbelievably emotional and most of all safe. The feeling was incredible and I thought from that day on I was exactly where I wanted to be. I wanted to be part of Justin’s life.
A Relationship is About Growing Together
Justin and I started dating while we were young, immature, and unsure of life. I was 20 when we met and he 23. We started dating at 21 and 24. I have seen him grow tremendously in the past few years and am so proud of the person he has become today. I also had maturing to do, still do, but Justin and I want to grow together.
He tells me all the time that I make him a better person while he continues to challenge me to be the best version of myself. Love isn’t always easy, marriage won’t be either, but with some faith and a partner who wants to work at it equally as hard makes the journey beautiful.
Both Justin and I believe it’s the hardships that allow for the most growth and we are happy we’ve gone through it knowing the other stood right there. For this reason we decided to start this series to serve as a means of reflection, honest communication, and to allow couples like us see relationships aren’t always perfect.
If you have the mutual respect for each other to make it work along with some faith, Together your tough times will turn into a beautiful journey.