I Married A Complete Stranger And It Was The Best Thing I Could've Done

by Anjali Sareen Nowakowski
Irina Gonzalez

When I walked down the aisle to marry my husband, I had no idea what hand he wrote with. I barely knew his favorite color. This is just one of the things that happens when you are someone who married a complete stranger.

You see, the date of my wedding was exactly eight weeks after our first date. And it was the best decision I've ever made.

My husband and I had technically known each other for 15 years, but the word "technically" is a really important caveat here. We went to high school together, but we may have spoken about twice for about five minutes throughout that entire period. We weren't friends. We didn't run in the same circles. And we certainly had no extracurricular activities in common.

Fast forward to 12 years after our high school graduation — a total of just over 15 years from when we had first met: We both found ourselves in our hometown for the first time in forever.

I had quit my job as an attorney to travel full-time just a year prior. My younger sister was babysitting my puppy, and I had stopped in our hometown to see her for 48 hours between coming back from Cuba and flying to Guatemala. He, on the other hand, had just graduated from chiropractic school and was back home studying for his boards, making plans for what to do next.

I had no idea he was in town. Though we had been friends on Facebook since college, we weren't the type of friends who ever commented on each other's status updates or really kept up with each other, and he barely showed up in my news feed at all.

Because I was bored at home the day after I got back from Cuba, I hopped on Bumble and started swiping. I didn't actually think I would meet anyone to get coffee with in the 24 hours I had before I left again, but I thought it might be worth it since I had nothing better to do.

And just like that, his profile flashed across my screen.

Of course, I was surprised, but at the same time, I was honestly elated. You know that feeling you have when you're a dorky 15-year-old, and you see the hot guy walking down the hall and daydream about whether he'll ever notice you? Well, for me, that feeling never went away. It turns out, you can have that same nervous anxiety well into adulthood.

I considered whether to swipe right on him or to just to send him a message on Facebook. With the former option, I'd be at his mercy: If he hadn't swiped right on me, too, I'd never get the chance to have sex with the high school hottie (which is all I was going for at the time). But if I went with the latter, he might think I was a creep.

After some thought, I took my chances, swiped right, and boom. We instantly matched.

At that point, I was really mostly excited for the chance to hook up with the hottest guy I had ever seen up close. I wasn't really thinking too far into the future, because I didn't care. He was the quintessential "hot guy" from my graduating class and because of where I was in life, I wasn't looking for anything more than a fling.

After a day of excited texting, we met up for a "coffee hang out thing." I was nervous as hell walking into the Barnes & Noble where we had decided to meet, but it was only because of my memories of him from high school. Our texting had been perfect up to that point: no lulls in communication, no awkward mistakes. It already felt like we were old friends, yet I still remembered him as the popular, untouchable guy from school.

When I finally saw him in the bookstore, he was even hotter than I remembered. And I was anxious, but I later realized there was no need: That night, at Barnes & Noble with him, I had one of the best conversations I've ever had in my life. We couldn't stop talking, even though we didn't know each other at all. Everything flowed perfectly, and I was so attracted to him, I could burst. I barely wanted the night to end and I already wanted to spend every minute with him, because being with him felt like home. It was an indescribable feeling. I just wanted to be in his presence because it felt so perfect to me.

At that point, though, I knew I was feeling really strong emotions, and I was still determined to just let it be a hookup, a possible friendship, and nothing else. I was stubborn, and I wasn't looking for anyone to change my life. So the next day, I left for Guatemala as planned. But the first night I was back in town after that trip, we went on our first official date.

Five weeks later, after spending as many minutes together as possible, after talking about our life goals and dreams, after staying up late every night to get to know each other even more, we decided to get married. And it was a decision — there was no weird, traditional waiting and hoping and dancing around the subject. There were jokes, initially, about running away together. But then one day, I told him I was serious. And he said he was, too. And that was that.

Three weeks later, I had a new last name.

Prior to him, I wasn't even sure I ever wanted to be in a long-term relationship again. I had multiple bad experiences, and at this point, I had determined I wasn't really the "commitment" type. So, what changed? And why so fast? To this day, I don't have a logical answer for that, other than I knew he was the one — even though I never actually believed in "the one" before.

I didn't need to know his dominant hand, his favorite color, or even if he put the seat down to know he was the best human being I had ever met. I knew what his heart was like. I knew that he was full of goodness. I knew that when he said he'd be there forever, he meant it. I knew, without question, that he felt the same way about me as I felt about him.

In the end, all that mattered to me was that I felt like I had never known a better human being.

Being with him felt like coming home. It felt like he was made perfectly, just for me, and I never had an inkling that we would be anything but together forever. The feelings I felt when I was with him weren't like the feelings I had ever felt in any other relationship. I felt full of love, of course, but also calm, peaceful, and relaxed, like if I never made another good decision, marrying him would be the one best decision to make up for everything else.

Even though I immediately knew he was my "one," I also just felt happy that a brilliant, beautiful, kind person like him existed in the world. And to me, that was why I couldn't wait to be his wife. He felt the exact same way.

Sure, we went to high school together, but on the day of our marriage, we had little more than a shared hometown and some friends in common. We certainly didn't know each other better than the eight weeks we had spent together. We were strangers. And that was amazing to me because it meant that we were deciding that the little details about each other didn't matter more than the bigger feelings we felt. It meant that all that mattered was our incredibly strong bond.

You see, I'm not a big fan of the way we're pressured to get married. We put so much emphasis on the ring and the dress and the party that we forget we're not supposed to be planning a wedding — we're supposed to be planning a life together. Not only that, but here in the States, we also think the longer we're with someone before marriage, the better. We think our relationship needs to go through trials and tribulations to make sure it can withstand the storms of what's to come.

But I'm a product of two cultures. Even though I was born and raised here in the States, and I consider myself American, my parents and family heritage are Indian. They both came here after they were already adults, and they filled much of my childhood with my Indian culture just as much as my American culture.

In India, in contrast to here in the States, people don't view marriage as something that comes after a bunch of relationship "tests." People view marriage as a decision: the decision to love, every single day, no matter what comes. So for me, it felt like it mattered very little that I didn't know the things you are "supposed" to know about your husband on your wedding day. It's precisely because we were strangers on our wedding day that I got to see him with distant eyes. I hadn't yet had all the time in the world to analyze every little detail of his being to see if we would fit. Neither had he. All we had was our feelings -- with no "adulting" getting in the way to talk us out of it.

In getting married, we chose love. And it felt great.


Leah Flores

Marrying a stranger, in fact, is the best decision I've ever made. And it's because we were strangers on our wedding day that I think we have the best marriage I could have ever hoped for: Going through with this marriage meant I had to be immediately comfortable with the idea that I didn't know every minute detail about this person. It meant I had to realize our relationship hadn't gone through any "tests," like a trip away together or a holiday with family or even our first big fight, and I had to know we would be tested time and time again in the future. But I knew there was no guessing about whether we'll be there for each other. There was just a calm certainty that we would consistently choose to support each other.

Now, I get to get up each morning, knowing that I don't know everything there is to know about my husband, but that I'm going to learn and love everything about him regardless. I don't feel worried because I don't need to know if I'm going to love everything about him: I've already decided I am going to love everything about him. When you realize marriage is a decision based on commitment and an underlying foundation of love —instead of just a fleeting emotion — you don't have to be scared. You can just be excited.

We're not banking on our history together and hoping that it all works out, like most "traditional" couples do. Instead, we're realizing that while we're soulmates, and that marriage is so much more than that.

Marriage, especially marriage to a stranger, means deciding, every minute of every day, to love the other person. And that's just what I plan to do.

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