REAL LIFE RELATIONSHIPS: Breaking dating rules brings a lifetime of love

Illustration by Elizabeth Landt

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Illustration by Elizabeth Landt

On her 15th wedding anniversary, Delia Carter reflects on challenging social norms and following the heart

Fifteen years ago, I married the man I once thought I might never be fortunate enough to meet.

Unbeknownst to me, my soulmate lived 700 miles and one degree of separation away during an era when rollover minutes (he had them; I did not) were a thing. Quisa Foster, the person who introduced us did so via email, coyly suggesting that we take it upon ourselves to find out why she thought we should connect.

It took us fewer than two weeks to catch on. By then, Vincent Carter of Cleveland, Ohio, and I were in love.

Back in 2006, singles had to take each other at face value. You, not your social media persona were your own representative. “Googling” was new, so search results yielded less information than today. If you wanted to know something about someone, you asked. Asking is how Vince and I grew to realize how much we had in common. And laughing over the answers is what bonded us.

It did not hurt that cell phones were used for conversations more than for texting then. When you met someone interesting, it was nothing to find yourselves on the phone from sundown until your morning alarm sounded at sunrise. We went deep, putting modern-day lovers’ stingy texts to shame with our marathon phone calls and the emails we sent in-between.

Vince was a breath of fresh air. I am pleased to report that he still is. Our courtship broke every dating rule invented in the name of self-preservation. A week in, he booked his first flight to visit. He purchased tickets for back-to-back weekends, hedging his bets that we were a sure thing. By the time he got off the plane we were openly saying “I love you” and dating exclusively. What in the world were we thinking?

There was a lot to unlearn as we abandoned accepted dating practices and allowed ourselves to go where love took us. Looking back, it was the stuff of fairy tales. The crazy thing was how normal it all felt at the time. Especially since I did not believe in fairy tales.

We made things official exactly one year and a day after the arrival of Quisa’s introductory email. In addition to becoming a wife, I became stepmother to Vince’s children, Chelsey and Tim, on my wedding day. I was 38 years old, and the next phase of my life was just beginning.

Five years later we welcomed Cicely, our newborn, into the mix. Sometimes I wonder if her arrival is the reason we came together. Or is it because Chelsey is now married to Eddie, her own perfect match, and someday they, as well as Tim and his future wife will produce grandchildren who will do great things as they carry on the family name?

Who’s to say? Certainly not Quisa. When I asked her why we got so lucky, she couldn’t pinpoint exactly what made her think of putting me and Vince together. At the time, she was in a matchmaker phase and had another successful pairing in the works. Her intention was never to create families, just to fulfill her duties as what author Malcolm Gladwell calls a connector — a person who knows a lot of people and has a special gift for bringing them together.

Special gift I’ll say. Though the other couple did not make it to the altar, I recall hearing that they dated a good while before calling quits. In our case, she knew Vince was coming to Atlanta on his way to Myrtle Beach for a golf trip and thought we might enjoy each other’s company. I remember the phone call when she first mentioned him to me. Her selling points were that he was handsome, lots of fun and had flat abs. Later he told me all she kept saying to him about me was, “You’re gonna like her. Yup, you’re gonna like D.”

At most she thought that we would enjoy a meal and perhaps see each other again when he came through on his way to Myrtle Beach the following year. We didn’t expect that we would get married or that our blended family would be so cohesive.

I thought I believed in love, but now I know that it moves differently and goes further than I originally understood.

Marriage is births and deaths; gains and losses; good times and bad. It doesn’t look like we expect it to, nor does it come when we plan for it. That’s OK. When it does arrive, we just have to be open to it.

Delia Carter spreads joy through Milestone Markers, a yard card greeting company servicing Metro Atlanta. She and her husband, Vincent, recently celebrated their15th wedding anniversary.

Real Life Relationships is a monthly reader-contributed essay that explores the many ways in which we are connected and the all of the emotions those connections can bring into our lives. Interested in contributing? Email nedra.rhone@ajc.com with the subject line “Real Life Relationships.” Read more on the Real Life blog (www.ajc.com/opinion/real-life-blog/).