“As we continued dating I kept waiting for the same patterns to arise as they had before for me, but those didn't show up and I realized one day that Rachael and I had created something wonderful based on support, honesty, communication and love.”
Rachael and Mark have been together for almost six years and live in Portland, Maine. Mark grew up inMaine and Rachael is from Denver, which is where they met in January 2015 on a dating site called OK Cupid.
I couldn’t wait to speak to Rachael and Mark about what makes a successful relationship and see what love means to him.
Mark said, “We dated for roughly four years before I proposed. I had talked to Mom about using the ring that my Dad had proposed with to try to create some sort of family heirloom type of thing but my mother no longer had that ring but she did offer a ring that her mother had given her, so in a way we have create a tradition, albeit a short history, so far. Once I got the ring I was going to wait till summer to propose on one of our favorite hikes but the idea of holding off that long was too much and so I waited all of twoweeks before I put a plan to action. We went snowshoeing on April 21st, outside of Denver (late spring snow storm) with our dogs. It was a magical day for us, our dogs, the mountains, and a snow storm which created a peaceful serenity. We found an off-shoot of the main trail, found a quiet spot and I proposed on one knee, in the snow, on snowshoes in the mountains.”
Rachael explained how she knew Mark was the one. “Unlike Mark, I have been married before. And going through the dissolution of what you once thought would be a forever part of your life, teaches you a LOT of things. Mostly, I learned what I did not want nor like in a partner. It was not until I met Mark that the pieces of what I DID want started to become apparent. From the very moment we met, we were laughing. Mark joked that our sense of humor was so similar we could be related. The joy that comes from spending your days with someone who makes you smile, as Mark makes me, is so transformative.”
Rachael continued, “Aside from our ability to laugh, Mark's openness and active way of prioritizing communication was the clincher for me. On our first date he told me he had recently been diagnosed with Leukemia. Here was this handsome (like really handsome) man, who was showing me this vulnerability that was foreign to me. From that moment on I knew that I was getting all of him, not just the pieces he felt like sharing, but him in totality. It was such a rare gift to me that I grabbed on, with both my hands and legs wrapped around him. I told him early on that we were intended for the long haul. He would caution me to be in the moment, and not rush things. But, I was a woman with her mind made up, and I slowly brought him around to my way of thinking; we were married in December 2020!”
Mark recalled, “The beginning of our relationship wasn‘t very typical, as I had been recently diagnosed with Leukemia before I met Rachael. I was diagnosed in December of 2014 and we met in late January of 2015. I wasn't going to divulge my recent "news" but somehow it came up on the FIRST date. I think most women would have bailed after that news but to her credit she was willing to see how things went with us. I can't imagine what went through her mind as I dropped that nugget over salads at dinner.”
He continued, “For me it took a while. Marriage was something I wasn't sure was going to happen for me. As we continued dating I kept waiting for the same patterns to arise as they had before for me, but those didn't show up and I realized one day that Rachael and I had created something wonderful based on support, honesty, communication and love. At that point I knew that I wanted to move our relationship to the next level.” Emmaleen: Can you tell us a loving story from your relationship?
Rachael: “I have an endless list of stories that I could share, but of those, two are upmost in my mind today. The first is when we decided to refinish our kitchen cabinets in our house in Denver. It was March 2020, Mark had just lost his job due to COVID-19 and we were shielding at home, taking it very serious due to Mark’s cancer. I was working from home as too and so we were feeling the pinch of our small home; which we shared with our two fifty-pound boys (our knucklehead dogs).
So we decided to spruce up our home ala fixer upper. We wanted to start with the kitchen cabinets. It was a hot mess! Dust everywhere, pantry items and paint everywhere, not to mention that what we expected to be a two week project turned into a six-week project. It brought us closer. We thought the mess was hilarious. Our complete lack of 'handy-ness' was remarkable. The cabinets led to the need to paint the walls, which quickly led to the decision to sell the house and move across the country to Maine, all within a three-month timeline. The reason why this is a love story for me is that I was so present. So much of my world was crumbling and then I lost my job.
I feared for Marks's health in a very real way, I watched friends get sick, some die, we had to cancel our wedding. And all the while we had this mess that we hadcreated together, and it held me in the moment with him every day, and we found a way to smile and laugh about it. Plus he looks adorable in his Carhart overalls.
The second love story is from December 2020, when we got married. We had decided to elope rather than wait for the world to return to a status that we felt comfortable to have a proper wedding in. We wanted to be married, that was the most important thing. We decided to bring some humor and lightheartedness to the situation, so we married at the UPS store down the street from our house. We asked the two ladies behind us in line to be our witnesses, and we took our first kiss as husband and wife wearing our best flannel t-shirts.
Later in the week, we hired a photographer to follow us around in our proper wedding gear. As we were getting ready Mark started playing a song that is very precious to me. It was one of my dad’s favorites, I lost him before Mark and I met. I started to cry, telling Mark that I was so sad that my father never had the opportunity to meet him, as he would have given his absolute blessing, and loved him as a son. Mark said, "I have met him, I met him in you". Instantly, I doubled my love for him. I congratulated him on the mike-drop perfect sentiment, and we went on to have a wonderful day.”
What is the key to a happy relationship?
Mark: “Communication, checking in with each other, making changes, evolving. We developed a saying early on "we're happy to listen to each other complain about something as long as we were actively trying to change whatever we were unhappy with". Complaining for the sake of complaining gets one nowhere.”
Rachael: “Kickboxing. And the freedom to call each other a dickhead from time to time. I suffer from depression, and sometimes Mark bears the burden of things from my past that he should not have to. But,he has a brilliant way of seeing me for who I am and knowing when I need to talk, cry, or sometimes just hit the boxing mitts. I am not the best at knowing this myself, but he doesn't let me stew, he brings to light that he sees when I need something, and we work through it. As to the latter, it is wonderfully cathartic sometimes to call your partner a dickhead,when doing so comes from a place of love. It always slows down the situation, brings us face to face for a hug and kiss. It alleviates most ills. In fact, I surprized him with a wedding cake that said, Mr. & Mrs. Dickhead.”
What is Love?
Mark: “I'm not sure I have a great answer here. Love is little moments that are strung together in a tapestry that we weave together as a couple. There are holes, and loose ends, and strings that don't match, and worn out spots, but we love what we've created, and we continue to weave not knowing what we will create and when we look back we can see all those wonderful, painful, funny, sad, happy moments in our tapestry that covers us, keeps us warm, and safe and offers a glimpse into who we are and what we've created together.”
Rachael: “Love is acknowledging that life with your partner is greater than the sum of our two parts. With Mark, my hardest day is only ever a maximum of three on a scale of one to ten. Even when I am mad at him, I know that I have this light of a person who will see me through it, and more often than not be the better for it. And conversely, on my best day, when we are together, so much can come from it.
Life can be hard, and stupid, and seem unrelenting; but in our relationship, we have a love that makes the hard worthwhile, because the goods are amazing.”
So what is their advice to anyone wanting a lovelike theirs?
Mark: “For me it took practice. I had to actively date, put energy into it, learn what was important to me and what was important to my partner. It's not something that just clicks without effort. Like anything in life, you have to work at it, put thought and energy in to reap the rewards. I can't think of anything that happens without effort or thought.”
Rachael: “Do not expect to do it all correctly. Embrace and learn from the missteps. I am fortunate that I met Mark when I was older, as I would not have known to appreciate him and cherish what he brings to the table, as much had I been younger when we met. Largely because it took me into my late thirties to really know myself.
So my advice would be the old adage, good things come to those that make a ton of mistakes first.”
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