Last night at 8:30pm marked 12 years since my first date with my husband, Benjamin, and 10 years since we were married. We met in the early days of Internet dating, at a time when few people would have even admitted to posting a profile online. For me it was just the opposite. All my life, I had felt incredibly shy around men, and I never liked having go out in public and trawl for them. So, I thought Internet dating was a godsend, and I told everyone. I knew that I needed lots of practice dating. For the first time I could get as many dates as I wanted and meet a lot of different men. I had no delusions about how badly I needed to date. I knew I had some work to do on myself before the kind of man I wanted would be attracted to me.
So, I posted a profile and I went out on as many dates as possible. I wanted to learn how to feel comfortable with men and understand them, not from a female perspective, but in the way men would want a woman to understand them. All in all, I went on nearly 100 first dates in two years. I had done a lot of therapy and self-help work going into dating, so I knew quickly when someone wasn’t a match. I also wasn’t in a hurry. I was willing to take my time to find the right man. The journey wasn’t an easy one. There were plenty of times when I felt so lonely I curled up in a little ball and sobbed. After a good, long cry, I would pull myself together in the mirror, wipe the mascara streaks from my cheeks, and then go and email five more guys. But no matter how discouraged I felt, I refused to give up. There was nothing I wanted more than to create a life with a lover, playmate, and best friend, and I was willing to do whatever it took to find him. I think I have a pretty wild imagination, but these past twelve years have surpassed even my wildest dreams. Without exaggeration, they have been nearly perfect. My husband and I have only come to love and adore each other more. Our sex has become more passionate with time. We have also developed an uncanny ability to get emotionally naked with one another and create a profound connection. Last week when we were in Costa Rica reading in our room, our eyes met and we just stared at one another until I noticed that tears were falling from the corners of my husband’s eyes. When I meet people who are on the fence about finding a partner, my heart hurts for them because I know what they’re missing. Doing the work to have the right man to share my life with has been the greatest gift I could ever have given myself. It was worth everything I went through to find him. I became a dating and relationship coach because I want everyone to have this. On a sadder note: this last year has been a tough one. We lost my great uncle, Sid, and my father. My little sister has also been struggling emotionally since my father died and my brother and I have had some challenges with our relationship. On top of this, my mother-in-law is 96 and we know that every moment we have with her is precious. Last night she was admitted to the hospital and we are still waiting for a diagnosis. And finally, our beloved Bernese Mountain Dog, Cosmo, was diagnosed three weeks ago with terminal lung cancer. Right now he is lying under my desk at my feet in his favorite spot. My heart is breaking. I literally don’t know the last time I felt such pain. I can’t bear the thought that very soon I will look down and I won’t find him there. But for now, we are plying him with all the McDonald’s Cheeseburgers and KFC he can eat and he’s still a happy boy. Last night Benjamin and I got dressed and headed to dinner at my favorite restaurant, Melisse. He looked as handsome as I have ever seen him. As we were leaving the house, I noticed him tucking something into the inside pocket of his suit jacket. I was hoping it wasn’t a card, since I hadn’t written him one and he’d written me something beautiful for my birthday a few weeks ago. At dinner, he said, “I want to read you something. You wrote it to me 10 years ago…” My mouth fell open. He began reading aloud: “It’s been two days since I became Mrs. Benjamin Shield….” Then it went on to describe in great detail our 3-day honeymoon in Big Sur. There were so many detail that I would have forgotten—the cream puffs we ate in Solvang on the ride there, the lunch we had at the Nepente gift shop, the gorgeous redwoods outside our cabin at Ventana, and the flawless meal we had at Post Ranch where I fell in love with Sticky Toffee Pudding for the first time. I barely remembered writing it, but was even more shocked that he had found it. What a beautiful walk down memory lane. We came home and gave Cosmo the steak bone and Milo the leftover meat from dinner. Everyone was elated. Then I called “everyone on the bed” and we all curled up together among the pillows and the fluffy down comforters—our favorite thing to do. Cosmo’s passing is coming soon and I am extremely sad. Of any dog we’ve had, he seems most bonded to me. The thing is that I didn’t even like him at first. I like ugly dogs—Shar-peis or Chinese Cresteds. I dream of having to have a hairless cat because I love that they look so surreal. Cosmo is just… beautiful. He’s almost too beautiful. It doesn’t seem fair that anything should be that pretty. It’s like having Brad Pitt walking around the house all the time, but in dog form. Yet he is also the sweetest animal I have ever known, and he has this uncanny way of looking straight into my eyes like he knows everything I’m thinking. How does a dog know how to make eye contact like that? Actually, I know someone else who looks into my eyes like that: Benjamin. He just stared into my eyes like that through our entire first date. I don’t know how I would have gotten through this year without my husband. I don’t know how anyone gets through periods like this without a partner by her side. I am a very strong woman, but I wouldn’t want to have to do this alone. If ever there was one thing I did right, it was to find a partner to share my life. He’s the gift that keeps on giving. Literally. He’s very generous. But more than that, going through life together makes even the hardest parts seem beautiful.