My dad surprised me and flew clear from Germany to Rexburg, Idaho, in desperate hope that perhaps in person he could persuade me not to marry Channing, since the emails and phone calls didn’t seem to be working. And he didn’t just try to persuade me; he talked to Channing, Channing's mom, our bishops…
Deep down I was very touched by this gesture, and today it is something I brag about. He did everything he could to help me see what a horrible idea it was to get married to Channing under the circumstances. He had an arsenal of studies and statistics and church conference talks that pointed out all the red flags that I didn’t find that serious or plainly didn’t see.
But on the surface I was very frustrated and put off by my dad’s protective nature because I genuinely and sincerely loved so many things about Channing. Enough things that I thought his trust issues were just making us grow closer as a couple. I saw this trial as the Lord’s way of making us a stronger pair. And my journal entries are broken-record proof of that. But more than those things, I now realize how obsessed I was with the idea of being in love. My infatuation with the idea of love and getting married rang so loudly that I couldn’t hear much else. I certainly couldn’t hear logic or reason during this season of intense emotions ranging from happy one moment to miserable the next. And while my dad’s visit probably didn’t seem successful to him, it did, if only for a moment, pierce that sound barrier. And I will never forget how my dad embraced me and handed me the most heartfelt letter when we said goodbye. There was a mixture of love, fear and emotional exhaustion in his eyes. After reading his letter, I found myself asking questions like,
Do I ignore my parents who I know love me and have never once given me reason to not trust them?
Or do I abandon my commitment and love to someone who…doesn’t trust me?
I don’t know how many weeks passed, but regardless of the professional counseling Channing and I received, he simply didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t trust me. He would for days at a time, but right when I thought we were on solid ground he’d revisit a concern.
“So, this Will guy you dated…you really never kissed him?”
“No, never,” I said, relieved that we wouldn’t be analyzing the physical aspect of my relationship with Will.
“And he broke up with you?”
“Would you have married him if he hadn’t?”
“Yes,” I said honestly.
And then round five hundred and sixty-two began, where I had to convince Channing that I loved him and that despite who I’d dated, it was him who I loved now.
I believe Channing wanted to trust me, and even today I have kind feelings for him and hope he is happily married to a girl who dated less guys than me. (Smile.) He is a good person and deserves a wonderful, healthy relationship. But I was emotionally beat, and I was beginning to realize that I couldn’t continue like this. It was heartbreaking and humiliating.
Claire was married at this point, to a wonderful man who I respected and trusted. At one of my lowest moments I called her and asked if her husband would give me a priesthood blessing. “Of course,” she said. I hung up the phone and went and knocked on the door of their rickety newlywed apartment. It was late and they were in their pajamas, Claire in her glasses. I felt bad and awkward for coming at such an hour, but knew I had to. I don’t remember what was said in that blessing, but when Jaran lifted his hands from my head, I had the courage and strength to do what I needed to do.
I broke off the engagement again. There weren’t tears or apologies this time, and if I remember correctly, I didn’t do it in person but through email, and then I kind of just hid in my apartment and ignored the phone calls and knocks on the door. It felt kind of mean, but I knew it was the only way. I’d been through this twice before with Channing, and I was serious this time.
So serious, that I decided to contact Will pronto.
I hadn’t talked to Will since he called me and told me he loved me. I was scared, really scared. But I found comfort in the memory of his gentle voice, such a contrast to the accusing voice I’d grown accustomed to.
I said a prayer first, and not the rushed kind where thoughts are sent briskly to the heavens. I knelt down next to my bed and prayed fervently that God would give me the courage to call Will. I knew I needed to. I knew that if I could just hear Will’s voice, everything would be okay.
I dialed his number. It rang longer than I could stand, and then he picked up.
“Hi, Will! It’s Marie…”
I waited for his friendly response. I always thought he had a way with people on the phone.
There was a pause.
Something was wrong. This wasn’t the Will I knew. He sounded guarded and even a bit cold.
“It’s been awhile, how are you?” I asked.
“I’m okay. And you?”
And then after some small talk, mostly one-sided, he realized it really was me. (I later learned that at first he didn’t really think it was me, but a prank call from one of his friends, instead. He thought they were teasing him since he’d just learned earlier that day that I was engaged.)
He softened a bit when he realized it really was me, but he still wasn’t completely himself.
Why is she calling to tell me she’s engaged? he wondered. That’s just mean.
I rambled for a little while, and then I just spit it out.
“I was dating that guy Channing for awhile—you remember. And yeah, well, anyway. We broke up,” I said, smiling and hopeful.
“Oh, really?” I started to hear the old Will in his voice.
“I heard you were engaged.”
“I was. But I’m not any more.” Giddy.
And then we talked for quite awhile longer and I felt better than I had in a long, long time.
Right after I hung up with Will, I knew I had to make one more phone call. I needed to talk to my mom. I told her about how I really, truly called off the wedding. And I told her about my conversation with Will, just so she’d know that Channing really was behind me.
I later learned two things. One, when I was 18 years old and first in love with Will—showing his picture to everyone and gushing about him to anyone—my parents were convinced that Will was the one. They just never told me.
And two, after I hung up with my mom, she ran upstairs to the loft bedroom where my sisters were still asleep (it was early, early in the morning in Europe) and jumped on the bed to wake them up and tell them about how everyone’s prayers had been answered! She had the best breakup news ever.