‘On our wedding day, my husband did something I never expected. He knelt down and pulled my 7-year-old son closer. I’ll be honest, I don’t even remember what he said to me. It doesn’t matter.’

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“I read an article not long ago that insisted every person in our world has three great loves in their lives.

One, because it feels right. Two, to teach us a lesson. And three, to last for a lifetime. Three to have someone to grow old with. Three to love you through tragedy… heartbreak… cancer.

Three to leave their socks stuffed into your brand-new couch cushions, apparently, because I don’t know why this man can’t find the laundry hamper but it’s a good thing random Facebook articles describe him as my soul mate.

When my husband and I were dating, I straight up told him we could definitely get married but I didn’t want to live together, so he should totally start looking for apartments in the area. People laugh like I’m kidding when I tell them this, but I was perfectly serious at the time. My previous marriage was one of those relationships you sneak out of in the middle of the night. You walk away from it while he’s screaming a paraphrased version of ‘Everything about you is awful! Everyone hates you! Don’t you dare leave me!’ as you back out of the driveway.

Mother with scrunched face looks up at boyfriend in selfie
Courtesy Briean Vandeventer

Perhaps, one day, you’ll read the ugly details of that story under a subtlety trashy pseudonym, but until then… I’d rather skip to the part where the self-worth function in my brain clicked back to ‘ON’ and I took my life back like a woman on a mission.

Still, I’m not immune to feelings and potentially terrible choices, so of course I promptly turned around and fell in love with the LAST person anyone would have chosen for me.

My husband and I met long after we should have. I met his brother and my future sister in law almost 10 years ago and we became great friends over time, but I remember being shocked when those close friends mentioned that brother I had never heard of.

There are humans in my life that I’ve adored almost instantaneously, and my husband was certainly one of those people. True, he was an absolute disaster and that became more and more obvious as we got to know each other, but something about him just made me feel… safe. We hung out as just friends for quite a while and he fit in well with my people… most importantly, my children, who thought he was absolutely fantastic.

Is it odd that the first person I consulted about getting serious in a new relationship was my eldest son? He had just turned seven years old at the time and I’ll never forget our conversation.

I asked for his forgiveness for my past decisions and I asked for his opinion on the man I had chosen to date. I told him that no one’s feelings about it were more important to me than his… and I meant it.

My husband and I got married with the enthusiastic blessing of all three of my kids in a messy, barely planned affair under some oak trees near our home in Kemah, Texas. He had already moved in with us months prior (despite my original suggestion that he get his own place) and he suffered what can only be described as a complete mental breakdown minutes before the ceremony. My maid of honor was my ex-husband’s eldest niece and the reception boasted Jell-O shots and pink plastic flamingos in the front yard.

Husband and wife standing arm in arm in field
Ron Dillon Photography

I think back on that day sometimes and I’m surprised we went through with it. My husband can be… exhausting. He’s carrying childhood baggage that I can’t even wrap my head around sometimes and leaves crumpled up receipts all over the car and if I ask him to hurry, he moves more slowly just to make a point. He’s stubborn and bad with money and wants to fight about literally WORLD HISTORY when he’s drinking but unfortunately for him, that was a class I didn’t skip in college so no, husband, China did not ban religion from their country at any point.

On the opposite end of that spectrum, I am diagnosed with OCD and PTSD following my previous marriage and have unceremoniously launched my current husband’s clothing off our 2nd story balcony into the driveway at least once, probably closer to three times.

That said…

On our wedding day, I said my vows to my husband exactly as I had practiced them and he said a few things back, as planned… but then he did something that I never expected.

After a few words to me, my husband knelt down and gently pulled my 7-year-old son a little closer. We had told my son he could wear pajamas to the ceremony, but I know now that that’s not the only reason he seemed so comfortable and relaxed. In that moment, I knew for a fact that regardless of our flaws and idiosyncrasies, my husband and I had found each other not necessarily because we were soul mates… but because he was right for my KIDS. And they were right for him.

Mother standing behind son in pj's and her husband kneels in front of son
Ron Dillon Photography

He looked my son in the eye on that day and vowed to be the best father he could possibly be to him. He didn’t claim he would replace anyone or denounce anyone… he just promised to be present, engaged, and active. He promised to listen to my children. He promised to protect them and be there for them no matter what.

Mother stands behind son who is holding two thumbs up in front of mothers new husband
Ron Dillon Photography

I’ll be honest, I don’t even remember what he said to me. It doesn’t matter. What matters more than anything to me is the health, safety and happiness of my children and my husband has gone above and beyond to keep his vows to them and provide even things that an exceptional parent would struggle to give their own kids. He’s not the kind of Dad you praise just for taking a sick kid to a doctor’s appointment or making school lunches. He’s the Dad you admire for taking 2 rowdy boys, a 4-year-old with a broken leg and a 4-month-old baby to the zoo on a summer day just to spend time with them and give his wife some peace and quiet.

This morning, my husband and I argued about who’s job is more important and who buys more groceries. This evening, he walked through the door, the face of our 7-month-old baby lit up like a Christmas tree and my three kids from previous marriages shouted his name as they ran to hug him.

Father smiles while holding and smiling toddler daughter
Courtesy Briean Vandeventer

The internet tells me there are three great loves in my life…

I know right away that’s not true because I’ve been in love many times for many different reasons.  Love is the strict, unwavering teacher that won’t let you go see the nurse when your head aches. Love is the burn on the bridge of your nose and your eyes welling up when something slams into your face at just the right angle. But my husband has taught me that love can be as simple as a handwritten note tucked into a paw patrol lunch box. It’s singing songs just because they pop into your head and it’s letting a 7-year-old wear a pajama onesie on your wedding day.

I may have had three loves in my life… maybe it was more than that… But my children picked my LAST love for me and he has a great beard, so I’m more than happy to roll with it.”

Bride and groom cry at wedding with bride's son close by
Ron Dillon Photography
Father bends over smiling behind stepson and his two children
Courtesy Briean Vandeventer

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Briean Vandeventer, 34, of Kemah, Texas. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here

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