CELEBRATING OUR THIRD FIRST KISS

January 29, 2022

Cathy and I broke up twice during our dating relationship. The first time was only for a few weeks. But after we started seeing each other again, it took a little time to share our second first kiss. The second time we broke up lasted over a year; when I wrote Cathy a letter asking her to date me for marriage. At the time, she was seeing two other men who both had serious intentions--and trying to choose between them. When she got my letter, two became three. She sent me a message saying, "Boy, do you ever know how to complicate a girl's life!" She didn't answer right away, but told me she realized she needed to make a choice soon.

Fast forward a month and Cathy and I spent an entire day together, mostly running errands. But we had a chance to talk and explore what marriage together might look like. As we sat on her living room carpet looking into each other's eyes that evening, she told me that her Bishop had recommended that she read Elder Dallin Oaks' talk entitled, "Good, Better, and Best." She told me one of the men she was dating was good for her, the other one was better, "and Jeff is best." That was when our third first kiss happened. Cathy wrote "JT shifts" in the margin of book her annual book that contains a spiritual thought for every day of the year (on January 29, 2018). That third first kiss was a big moment. I believe it was the moment when Cathy chose me--and I felt chosen. (I had chosen her weeks earlier when I went out on the limb to write the letter.)

This past weekend was the 4th anniversary of that third first kiss. We decided to recreate that evening. We took off our wedding rings for the evening. When the kids were in bed, I made dinner for Cathy. Then I told her, "Your date will be here any minute. I should get going." I went out through the garage and came around and knocked on the front door. Cathy invited me in as though I was arriving at her house for the first time that day. She greeted me the way she generally did, with a big smile.

During the evening there was a lot of banter and joking as we tried to talk as if it was that night four years earlier, without the comfort of a settled relationship and almost four years of marriage. We didn't stick to the script entirely, but it was fun just trying to remember details from that evening four years earlier and put them out there. We re-read the page Cathy read on that date four years ago when she wrote my initials on it. We tried to avoid talking about anything that didn't exist at the time of our third first kiss. We avoided talking about events that had happened since that time--although we threw in some prophetic (and hilarious) little statements about things that would happen later. Of course, we reenacted that third first kiss. That was pretty great. I think we should kiss more.

As we were preparing to go to bed that evening (something we didn't do together on the night of that third first kiss), Cathy told me she thought our little role-playing experiment was fun. She said, "It was like being on a vacation and pretending to be other people--even if those other people were our former selves." I think that describes the experience pretty well.

This little experience provided me with some thoughts involving courtship:

1. Cultivate relationship rituals. Loosely reenacting our third first kiss is something we can repeat every year if we want to. You can begin relationship rituals while you are dating someone. Sometimes, when a moment is happening we don't stop and appreciate its significance. What would have happened if I hadn't been with Cathy that evening? It's impossible to say for certain. But it was a moment of destiny. I think I understood it in the moment as being very significant. So bringing back the memory of that evening, even humorously, had a kind of transcendent quality--like it was a moment out of time. Remembering the most special moments during your love story can enhance closeness and intimacy. Sometimes we can do that by directly ritualizing the moment or just celebrating it by going out to dinner.

2. Don't burn your bridges. When you are experiencing rejection or sadness at the end of a relationship, it is sometimes tempting to give your partner a piece of your mind and let go of all of the unspoken frustration you have experienced dating him or her. Our last breakup was a very hard transition for me. But I'm glad we rebuilt our friendship. If we had not done that, we wouldn't be together now. Sometimes you just need a little perspective and distance to appreciate the relationship you had. Maybe the other person needs that. Neither Cathy nor I imagined us getting back together after that final break-up. I'm glad we didn't burn our bridges.

3. Don't get lazy. Romance fades if it isn't nurtured. It's a lot easier to sit at home in pajamas and watch Netflix than getting dressed up and going out to dinner. Often, in dating, creating a romantic mood seems to come very naturally. But when we are in a more settled relationship, it can seem very mundane. On that night of our third first kiss, when I leaned in to kiss Cathy, I wasn't sure whether I would find acceptance. It was nerve-wracking and at the same time highly exciting. When I did find acceptance, it was thrilling. Fast forward four years, we are both a lot more secure in where we stand with each other. That is comforting and good, but it can also steal the thrill of being accepted by someone you really want--when you weren't sure of it before. There is an excitement to taking the risk. I think exploring new ideas and even frivolously play acting can help us restore some of that spark we had in the beginning. If you have been dating someone for several months or even years, you may have seen some of the passions you had in the beginning start to ebb. Does that mean you shouldn't get married? Not necessarily. Butterflies in your stomach don't stay forever unless you feed them. So try an experiment like this with your partner and see if you can bring that spark back.

4. Capture the moments. Cathy and I have no pictures of our first date or on the evening of our third first kiss. It would have been easy to take a selfie, but we didn't. If you sense that you are having a significant moment with a dating partner, enjoy and drink in the moment. But when it is natural to do so, stop and take a photo or do something else to make that moment a memory. You can always use that memento to bring back important moments in your relationship.

I think it's fantastic that, at age 54, I still get to experience romance and passion with the woman I love. You aren't too old to create moments and memories with a new love. I hope every one of you gets to. Good luck!
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