I first met Marty in the summer of 2011 at a ward service project. It was a sunny day and I was riding the high of feeling like a good person for serving and enjoying the company of my dear friend and roommate Jana. The project was to help beautify a local park in Provo, and after an hour or so of working in one area, we were directed to follow a young man named Marty to a new area of a park that required our efforts. Now, Jana and I are known to be quite playful together and we both quickly decided that Marty was delightfully fun to heckle, and heckle we did. This is often my favorite technique for making new friends, and I left our meeting thinking both that I was incredibly funny, and that I had made a new friend. Little did I know that this was a terrible technique for becoming friends with Marty, and he left our meeting thinking that if he never saw me again that would be just fine with him.
Let's rewind just a little bit. A month or so before this meeting, Marty had been called to be our home teacher, but we had not seen or heard from him yet. Jana was a great home teachee, and had diligently sought from the Elder's Quorum President to know who our home teachers were, and we were given Marty's name. He also mentioned his surprise that we hadn't heard from Marty yet, because Marty was "so solid!". After we met Marty at the park, we realized that we had finally met our home teacher. We sought him out at church that following Sunday and informed him that he was our home teacher. I (incorrectly) assumed that he would be pleased because we had already started to become such good friends. Luckily for us, Marty puts his priesthood duties above personal biases.
When Marty and his companion came to visit us for the first time, my other dear friend and roommate Michelle was there with me. (Jana at this time was dating a fine young man by the name of Russell, who occupied much of her free time, including this time). It was in this first meeting that we learned why Marty had neglected us for the first month or two. He had been working very long hours at his summer job, at the time, I believe around eighty hours a week. Now, Michelle and I were always, shall we say, generous with our advice and opinions, and she promptly began to inform him that his future wife would not like these long hours. I then countered that my preference would be to marry a workaholic, because there's nothing that drives me more nuts than a lazy man. I think this may have been where the jokes about Marty and I dating began.
I have always had an affinity for hard working men, and it was either this visit or the next that Marty came to see us wearing a t-shirt with the slogan "I'd rather be pulling weeds". I couldn't help but think of how useful he was going to be.
Over the next several months Marty proved to be the best home teacher I've ever had. Not only was he diligent in visiting at least once a month, but he became a real friend to all three of us. I think the real reason that he was my favorite was because every time he came over he would let us (me) talk to him forever. ...And anyone who's known me for more than fifteen minutes knows just how much I love to talk.
Marty was the first home teacher that I came to both love and trust. He was the first one I ever requested a blessing from, invited over for meals and game nights, spent time with outside of our monthly visits, and felt safe asking for help and guidance from. We all thought he was great, and tons of fun.
On one of his visits, my Mom happened to call. I jokingly asked if he wanted to talk to her, and Marty, being especially gifted at building rapport with anyone a generation or more older than him, picked the phone right up. This very well may have been his best move ever, because after a short 15 minutes of talking with Marty, he became my Mom's new favorite person. After this initial introduction, any given phone call with my mother was likely to include mention of the new couple in their ward whose wife was taller than the husband, followed by a question about how Marty was doing.
At the end of that year, Michelle and Jana had both moved out (and onto bigger and better things like marriage), and Ali and Kalisha had moved in to help fill the void. Somewhere around this time Marty was trying to put together a group to take a trip to the Manti temple. I had been wanting to go for some time, so I quickly joined in. The "group" was not as well populated as we might have hoped, and ended up only being Marty and myself. At first I was a little worried because he and I had never gone anywhere as just the two of us before, and I didn't want it to feel like a date, but even more than worrying about that, I was excited to get to talk the whole long car ride.
Back to being worried about it feeling like a date. Marty will tell you that I am a manipulator... and I may or may not enjoy orchestrating situations to my advantage. On this particular day I wanted to make sure to make it clear that this was a strictly friendship adventure, so I went into friend-zoning mode, a mode I have very thoroughly developed for men shorter than me. Step one was to make a point to talk about other (tall) guys that I was interested in, because everyone knows you don't talk about other people you want to date while you're on a date. I followed that up with a comment about how great it was that our friendship was so "safe". I elaborated by explaining that because of our height difference, there would not be the romantic tension that often exists in guy-girl friendships, because dating was so clearly off the table with our six inch height difference. Friend zone: solidified. Mission accomplished. Now I could go back to talking his ear off, worry free.
In the temple that day, an elderly man approached us and made a comment indicating his assumption that we were some kind of "item". We chuckled at his clear lack of understanding that the two of us would never do an absurd thing like date each other. This was one of many false assumptions of romantic relations between Marty and I.
After the temple, we decided to get something to eat in Manti, so we went to a nearby pizza place. I wanted to continue to neutralize any date-ness of the day so I insisted on paying for our food, claiming that it was to pay him back for my share of the gas cost. I was not about to let this outing be planned, paired off, and paid for.
A few weeks later I was in conversation with our mutual friend Oliver, who asked me if I had ever dated Marty. I laughed and said no, and that I could only date a guy so much shorter than me, and Marty was below that threshold. He said that he had thought that our trip to Manti was a date, and I quickly corrected this highly inaccurate information.
Valentine's Day. Oh, Valentine's Day.
This is a day when being single is especially sad and/or lonely, and you work hard to do as many fun things as you can, so you don't really notice that you don't have someone to celebrate romance with. I had gone to a fun dance party and came home to find three pink packages on our doorstep. Each had an envelope attached, one was for Ali, one for Kalisha, and one for me. The packages were wrapped in pink paper that I recognized as Marty's signature gift wrap. Our sweet home teacher had left us gifts for Valentine's Day.
I was the only one home so I opened my package, to find that it was a bag of potatoes. I'm not sure if I chuckled or not, I was mostly just confused. I opened the envelope attached and found a note something to the effect of "yours will be worth the wait". So I had a bag of potatoes, and something that seemed like an 'I owe you'. This was not cool.
Soon Ali and Kalisha made it home, and they received a pineapple and strawberries, respectively. In their envelopes were cute funny poems written by Marty, I laughed but felt a little left out and picked on. And so is the fragile ego of a single girl on Valentine's Day.
That weekend I ended up taking a trip to the Grand Canyon with Ali and several other friends in the ward. When I returned that Monday night there was a manila folder on my kitchen counter addressed to me. I sat down and opened it up and it looked like pages of scripture and was titled The Book of Martin. The first line read "Martin defines his relationship with Shelly Konold" and I was struck with panic. Oh no. Is Marty going to tell me that he likes me? Is this going to ruin our fantastic friendship? Oh no. I continued reading and soon realized that it was not a confession of love, rather it was an endearingly clever and funny account of our friendship and an attempt to inform the rest of the ill-informed world that we were just friends. My panic turned into tears of laughter as I read through the chapters. This was the best late Valentine's Day present ever.
The Book of Martin was circulated through family, friends, and ward members. No one 'got it' quite as well as I did, but my Mom completely loved it, and this only furthered her mentions of tall girl-short guy couples, and questions about Marty. I was just happy to have proof that we were just friends, and that both of us were pleased with that arrangement.
It was that spring that Marty ended up moving into the townhouse right next door to mine, and I was so excited that I would get to hang out with my good buddy that much more often. Around this same time he was called to serve as our Ward Mission Leader, so he coordinated a time to meet with me, as I was serving as the Relief Society President. When he came over at the appointed time, he was wearing a old white t-shirt and jeans, and didn't look any different than usual, but I remember thinking "Wow, he looks handsome". The thought caught me off guard, and I quickly disregarded it.
As Marty and I discussed sisters in the ward that we were concerned about, I was impressed with his diligence and care in seeking out and helping them. I watched him serve members of the ward with the same hard work and love that he had as our home teacher, he had an authenticity and boldness about his efforts that are not easy to find. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I found myself attracted to his spirituality. I saw him living the gospel in a way that I respect and admire a great deal. I would find myself thinking that "I would totally date a tall version of Marty", and he started to become the bar that I would compare the men I dated to.
Even in comparing every man I dated to him, I was not willing to admit to myself that I liked him, I just knew I liked having him around. Besides, he obviously wasn't interested in me either.
It was having Marty as my neighbor that really helped things to change for me, because I got to spend time with him much more regularly, and time with Marty was one of my favorite things. He would tell me about his adventures in business, we would discuss gospel topics, and we always managed to find something to laugh (or bicker) about.
After one of these interactions I mentioned to my close friend Janelle that I thought I might be interested in Marty. I had mentioned him in passing, so she knew who he was, and she had read the Book of Martin. Janelle had been impressed with everything she knew about Marty up to this point, and became another one of his cheerleaders. She would regularly ask for updates and I would regularly rotate between gushing about him, to being frustrated at his clear lack of interest, to being sure that I was no longer interested in him.
The longer I was away from Marty, the easier it was to talk myself out of liking him. After all, he was much shorter than me and he hated dogs, and there was no way I could date someone with those kind of disqualifiers.
During the windows of time (immediately following our interactions) I would shift into woman-mode of analyzing everything I could about whether or not he might like me back. Janelle and I had many long, frustrated conversations trying to figure out why this guy didn't like me, or if he did, why he wasn't doing anything about it. We decided that he had to at least have some interest in me, after all, I was always in his head. He would tell me about times he would be doing something and think "Shelly would have so much fun with this", or "I wonder what Shelly would think about this", he would get dressed thinking "Shelly wouldn't like this outfit", and he would come throw bark at my bedroom window before going to bed at night. From what I could glean from these snippets, I was on his mind from morning to night, every day.
We had established that there had to be some sort of interest, so now we had to figure out why the heck he wasn't asking me out. We had it narrowed down to three main reasons:
1. The height difference
2. The I love dogs, he hates dogs issue
3. The fact that I am a "spender", and he brings whole new meaning to someone being a "saver"
Once the list of "hurdles" was established, I set to work on trying to resolve them. I worked hard to stop making comments like "Isn't it great how we can be such good friends because I'm tall and you're short and we could never date each other?", and tried to make mention of guys that I had gone on dates with or was interested in that were shorter than me. I also worked hard to convince myself that dating a shorter guy was something I could be okay with, could I? I learned later that hurdles one and three were more my issues than his, but I was spot on for hurdle number two.
At one point I went on a date with a mutual friend of ours who was even shorter than Marty, and Marty happened to see him pick me up for the date, and asked me about it later. I was so glad to get to tell him that I had both accepted and enjoyed the date. Hat-tip to this friend. In the midst of being interested in Marty and fighting it at the same time, I started dating another guy (we'll call him Joe) who was slightly taller than Marty but still shorter than me. I think dating him was as useful for me as it was for Marty. Marty was not impressed with Joe, and this gave him reason to think that if I could like Joe, I could like him, as Marty had previously thought that I was far out of his league. Dating Joe ended up showing me just how good Marty made me feel.
One weekend I had spent a lot of time with Joe, and by the end of the weekend I was feeling very low, and unsettled, and was trying not to blame those feelings on Joe. I was feeling especially heavy when there was a knock at the door, and I opened it to find a little package wrapped in that trademark pink paper. It was a container of strawberries from Marty that included the note "You may think this means I like you a lot, but I just need to borrow your crock pot". I laughed and grabbed my crock pot to bring it over. I was amazed that after a mere ten minutes with Marty I felt light, and happy, and empowered. I remember thinking to myself "This is how I want to feel around the man I marry". I then took that realization, and used it to further solidify my use of Marty as my 'bar', while I remained reluctant to consider actually dating him.
The marriage contract.
Summer came to a close and Marty moved out of the place next door, but stayed living in the ward, just a bit further away. This caused the windows of time between our seeing each other to get longer, and therefore made it easier for me to convince myself, yet again, that there was no way I could date him. After a couple of weeks of not seeing him, I had decided once and for all, that I could not date Marty, and I was done liking him. Then I ran into him at a party and we ended up sitting off to the side and getting carried away in conversation and before I knew it I was right back in the throws of liking him. Doggone that boy.
Our conversation drifted into dating and I was lamenting my lack of success in finding a man that I couldn't walk all over. We bantered back and forth for a minute until I told him that I couldn't walk all over him, and he boldly disagreed and said "If we were married, you would walk all over me!". I disagreed right back, and a few short moments later we were in the midst of contract negotiations for our fake future marriage. We covered all three of the issues that I had thought were our hurdles- we both voiced that we were okay with the height difference, we came to an agreement on the amount of dog in our lives, and covered various financial stipulations. We easily spent 30 minutes detailing contractual arrangements for every possible marital disagreement.
I walked away from that conversation frustrated that I liked Marty yet again, but also thinking that we had just constructed the perfect marriage. He walked away thinking, for the first time, that I wouldn't be weirded out if he were to ask me out. [I had also since learned that he had considered asking me out on many occasions throughout our friendship, but my constant reinforcement of "we're such good friends because we could never date" deterred that thought from ever persisting.]
In the days following the marriage contract, I could not get Marty off my mind. My mom sent me a text asking about him, I got a call from a mutual friend that I hadn't talked to in a while asking about him, a picture of us on facebook started getting "liked" by several people from my home ward... Then, that Wednesday, he called me to borrow a cake pan to bake a cake. Marty should not be allowed to bake anything, so I offered to help and he readily accepted. He came over with the supplies and I baked the cake while he did the dishes (part of our contract included me doing the cooking and him doing the dishes). That night I talked to him about an email that I wanted his thoughts on and forward it to him. On Friday I hadn't heard back yet so I sent a quick text to see if he had read it. He had and wanted to chat more about it so I offered to let him come over that night. He couldn't but suggested the next night and I let him know that worked for me. He responded by telling me that he'd come pick me up. This struck me as odd, we almost never actually went anywhere together, I thought he was just going to come over. I asked where we were going and he informed me that we were going to City Creek mall in Salt Lake to eat dinner. I stared at my phone in shock that (I was pretty sure) Marty had informed me that we were going on a date.
The first date.
I was excited and terrified. I had thought that I liked Marty off and on for so long that anything actually happening seemed surreal, and intimidating. What if we go on this date and it's awful, or awkward, or both? What if the height difference is too weird? What if we have nothing to talk about? I did my best to shut off those thoughts, and prayed before I left to be calmed and to be able to see with spiritual eyes- I didn't want my feelings about the date to be clouded with superficial concerns.
He came to pick me up and on the drive up to Salt Lake he told me "now you can tell your Mom that we've gone on a date!". Okay, so this is definitely a date, good to know. On the date itself we settled into conversation easily and I remember thinking that it wasn't weird, it just felt like me and Marty, it was nice. I got home and decided that I had enjoyed myself, and would say yes if he asked me out again.
The days after our date went by and I heard nothing from Marty. Marty and I had discussed our dating lives on many occasions, and as I mentioned earlier, I have always been generous with advice, so I knew that Marty had a weakness when it came to "maintaining" the girls he would date. As Marty would say, he would forget to feed his "sharks" and they would die. He had mentioned before that girls would find a way to text him and he would be reminded that it was time to take them out again. I waited alllll the way until that next Thursday after our date and decided that it was time to remind him of my existence. I found an excuse to text him and shortly thereafter he made arrangements to take me out again that next night. Success.
On date two I remember thinking early in the evening that this date was just okay, but by the time we were on the drive home we had once again fallen into rich conversation and I found myself thinking that I didn't want the drive to end. After date two I again decided that I would say yes if he asked me out again. I then saw Marty several times over the next few days at a variety of church functions or casual outings, and each time was quite nice. It was at this point that I left on vacation for two weeks to Europe.
Over those two weeks Marty crossed my mind several times, and I secretly hoped that I would turn on my phone upon returning to see a voice mail or text message from him. I came home and turned on my phone to a flood of text messages, but none from Marty. Ugh.
I again waited through a few more days of no contact, and sent him a text, which again turned into plans to take me out that weekend.
On date three with Marty he took me to a corn maze with a haunted house. What a perfect opportunity for him to initiate a hand hold as you both try to navigate through a pitch-black ghost and ghoul filled room. I was so paranoid that this was his plan. I wasn't ready for that! I had a couple of other guys that I was still dating at the time, not to mention the fact that Marty had yet to make me feel very pursued. I didn't feel like a girl he liked and was pursuing, I felt like his friend that he was buying dinner for. It was always nice, but it was certainly not romantic. I did not feel wooed. He didn't end up trying to hold my hand that night, but my anxiousness about it made me doubt how interested I really was. Clearly the chemistry was not there. That next week I made a silent protest and did not text him, and therefore there was no date or contact with him that week. There was that week however, contact and dates from a few other suitors.
That Sunday, our ward had a break the fast dinner, and Marty was there. He had come and said a casual hello to me and then we both went our separate ways to say hello to others. As the dinner was winding down I was talking with a mutual friend of ours in the ward. This friend was watching Marty get flirted with by a girl whose number he had hoped to get. He did not know that I was equally as irritated as him at watching this exchange. My irritation only escalated as we watched Marty pull out his phone to get this young lady's phone number. I could not believe how bothered I was, and how it stung to watch him pursue another girl. A few minutes later he came up to me again to say hello, and after a minute or so this friend came up to us to ask Marty if he had gotten that girl's number, and Marty confirmed that he had. He then asked Marty how he was able to do that and Marty proceeded to advise him on how to hit on a girl, right in front of me. I was stewing. Just stewing. I abruptly excused myself. I later learned that Marty noticed that I seemed mad, but had not put together why. Of course he hadn't. Ugh.
I left the dinner and met up with our friend Oliver again (the one who had thought we were dating earlier that year). I admitted to him that I liked Marty, and vented my frustration at what had transpired that night. Oliver was engaged at this time, and had become something of an advice guru for members of the ward. He pointed out that neither Marty or I was doing anything to make ourselves vulnerable, and we would never get anywhere without doing that. He encouraged me to tell Marty how I felt, and leave it up to him if he wanted to do something about it. At first I resisted this clearly terrible idea, but he successfully built up my confidence and I concurred that this should be my next step. I sent a text to Marty and we made plans to go on a drive that Tuesday.
Tuesday came and I was so nervous. SO nervous. He picked me up and we drove to The Riverwoods shopping center in Provo and got out to walk around. We walked and talked for a while, then sat down on a bench and talked some more. At least an hour had gone by and I still had not worked up the courage to tell him how I felt. It turns out that I am only scared until I am mad, then I am not scared anymore. He somehow decided to mention another girl he had been trying to date. Seriously? Is he talking about another girl on what felt like a date up until this moment? I can not believe him. He stopped himself as he realized he shouldn't be talking about that with me, and I confirmed this idea. Now I was irritated, so I wasn't scared anymore. Deep breath. I recited the speech that I had been rehearsing in my mind all day. "Marty, I wanted to talk to you tonight because we are friends, and good friends, and that is great. And lately it seems like something has changed, and I am okay with that... and I like you. What I don't know, is whether or not those feelings are reciprocated, and to what extent. Also, you should know that I hate talking about my feelings and this is terrifying for me."
I waited to hear what he had to say, and you could tell that he was not excited to have to talk about his feelings either, but the conversation that followed ended up being wonderful. We both opened up, we talked about our hesitations, our hopes, and openly shared thoughts and feelings. He told me that he had thought things were going back in the friend direction (probably after that unsettling third date), but by the end of the night he said that he wanted to keep going on dates. At this point I told him that I thought he should know that I was dating other guys, and that they were doing a better job than him at pursuing me. I told him of a sales expression that "emotion makes the sale, and logic keeps it closed", and how logically, I was "sold", but emotionally he was not selling me at all. He chuckled at my attempt to "add urgency to the sale".
The next night, Wednesday, he called me. (Yay! I didn't have to text him first!) He called to thank me again for the talk the night before, and chit chatted with me for a few minutes before ending the call. I was glad that he had called, but so confused as to why he hadn't asked me out for that weekend. I had already been invited on a few dates for that week, but there was no date with Marty. Had he changed his mind? Should I not have told him about the other guys? Maybe he decided that just being friends was best after all? I put Marty out of my mind as an option until proven otherwise.
That week as I went on dates with the three other guys that had been taking me out, I realized one by one, that I was not interested in dating any of them. Then that Sunday, Marty sent me a text after church because he had missed seeing me, and asking to come over and say hi. I accepted and he came by, and then invited me to join him at his brother's house for dinner that night. I accepted again and had a wonderful time. The contrast of spending time with Marty vs the other guys was like night and day. We just clicked.
The next day Marty called me, to ask me out for that weekend. (Yay again! I didn't have to text him OR wonder all week if he was interested!)
Unfortunately, every night that week was busy for one of us, so we weren't able to solidify any plans. He told me that he would keep working on me, and the next day I ended up offering to cook dinner that Sunday, and he could do the dishes. He eagerly agreed that this would be great. He called me again that Thursday just to say hello, and I realized that Marty had stepped up, and emotionally "made the sale". If he wanted to, I would date him exclusively.
This was about two months after our first date, and up to this point, Marty had yet to be any more affectionate than a hug goodbye at the end of the night. I had told some of my coworkers about how things were moving with Marty, and they had me convinced that if we didn't break the "touch barrier" soon, we'd get stuck in the friend zone forever.
After trying to convince me to help create an easy setting, I decided that if Marty wanted to, he would make it happen, and if he did, I would let him.
Sunday arrived and we enjoyed dinner conversation for the first hour or so, and then he showed me a cut on his finger that had yet to be ointment-ed, so I went upstairs to get ointment and came back to see that he had moved over to the living room and was sitting on the couch. I sat down and we applied the ointment to said wound, and he got up to throw away his band-aid wrapper. When he sat back down he put his arm right around me. Oh my gosh, is this really happening? Wow, I'm nervous. Oh my gosh. I leaned my head onto his shoulder and began nervously chatting away and fiddling with the ointment tube. He listened for a while and then asked to see the ointment. He then placed it on the couch on the other side of him. What? Uh oh. What am I supposed to fiddle with now? He then took my hand in his and I continued nervously talking away (while trying to hide how pleased I was with him now holding my hand). Marty worked into conversation that he liked me, and that I was pretty, and all kinds of sweet things that girls love to hear. He kissed my hand, we talked a little more, he kissed my forehead. We talked a little more, and he kissed my cheek, and we talked a little more, and he kissed me.
More than once we both thought to ourselves "I just kissed Marty [Shelly]. This is so weird." It was weird, and it was wonderful. He kissed me again and then said to me "Just so you know, this means we're dating exclusively." And so it is with Marty- he informs me and I can correct him if I disagree. I did not disagree.
I went to bed that night smiling. And I woke up that next morning with the same silly grin on my face.
In the days and weeks that followed, dating Marty proved to be the best decision I've ever made. I had fallen for him for such practical reasons, and never would have guessed that he could sweep me off my feet with the best of them. Marty was never the kind to dole out affections and sweet nothings to just anyone, even his great friends, so to say that I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement.
Once we got through those first few dates, dating was wonderful and things moved quickly. We exchanged I love you's, he came home with me for Christmas to meet my family, we got to know each other better and better, and it was so fun learning even more than we thought we already knew.
One day when we were together, Marty looked deep in thought so I asked him what he was thinking about (He will tell you how much he loves it when I do this). He was silent for a little while, and then said that he was trying to think of any reasons I might have not to marry him.
[insert mild panic attack here]
Long story short, he told me to take as long as I wanted to decide, because he would wait as long as it took for me to be ready, and whenever I was ready, so was he.
I tell him now that I've known I would marry Marty ever since our first date, because he is just the kind of guy that never gives you a reason to leave. A couple of weeks later, I got 'good to go', and he was calling my Dad to ask for my hand... and some ring shopping and a spaghetti dinner later, we were engaged.
As long as it took us to finally figure it out, getting to fall in love with a best friend was worth the wait.