“I . . . choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naive or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.” — Anais Nin
Today I have been married for 37 years to Brian M Allred. We are in a hotel room at the Oregon Coast. It is pouring outside, so I am on my computer writing and he is lying on the bed reading an article on memory in Psychotherapy Networker magazine. My memory has traveled to November of 1977.
After my post- graduation stint as a newspaper reporter in Salt Lake City, I had gone home to Vancouver, Washington to heal. I was depressed and worn out from the dark shadows I had been faced with—both professionally and personally. My oldest brother Rodney, 17 years my elder, and his wife Jean, had become parental figures for me after the deaths of my parents years earlier in my life.
Rodney had called me in Utah and encouraged me to come home. Then he called my managing editor and told him I would be needing a leave of absence. Once I was home, he encouraged me to attend a social group for young adults sponsored by our church. I resisted, he persisted. He won.
Begrudgingly I drove my VW bug to the house where the group was meeting. My hair was dirty so I’d wrapped it up in maroon floral scarf and called it good enough. I remember sitting down and noticing Brian right away. I thought he and I were the only ones in the room at first. (I have just asked him and he said ‘no, Kenny was there too!’ )
I believe him. And I think my mental image is based on the importance of that meeting. Something about him made me curious. He says he had a heightened interest in me, that I was “definitely different.” We both agree that it felt like we were the only two people in the room.
Our first date was a New Year’s Eve dance. Before we even left for the dance we talked non-stop for at least an hour. We both love to dance and danced and talked all night and into the next morning. When I went home, I went into Rod and Jean’s room and said, “I think I’ve met the man I’m going to marry.”
Brian was going to college and living at home after having lived in Bolivia for two years. He told his parents later that morning, “I think I’ve found the woman I want to marry.”
Two days later we got engaged! Three months later, we married!
Meeting Brian was somewhat like washing ashore onto a tropical island after surviving a storm. My heart threw open its doors to this man because he was deeply spiritual, intelligent, and very funny. I fell in love with him because he seemed to welcome the whole of me—the strong accomplished parts that sometimes kept other people at arms-length, my critical side, my vulnerable parts, and perhaps most importantly my potential.
I chose the quote at the top because it so describes how Brian has continued to hold my talents and potential. When we were first married and broke, he made sure I had a typewriter so I could continue to write. A few decades later when I said I wanted to go to graduate school to become a counselor he immediately said, ‘That’s a great idea! You’d be a great counselor! When I told him it was going to cost over $30,000 he simply replied, “We’ll find a way to make it work.”
He complements my seriousness with his light-hearted-ness. He loves to tease and joke, which sometimes is annoying to me. But as I’ve aged I’ve come to see that he is the perfect antidote to my traumatic childhood, always supporting my efforts to heal, but also nudging me to not take myself so seriously.
“I knew you were deep when I married you,” he chidingly once told me, “I just didn’t know I was getting the Grand Canyon!”
And once, he had the nerve to ask me if having both of my parents die when I was young was “the ultimate home alone experience!” That might sound appalling, but it was actually mind-expanding. He is the only person on this planet I would have allowed such an inquiry. It led to a wonderfully deep conversation about something other than the profound loss. It became an exploration of how in some ways I was very unencumbered and basically could do anything I wanted to without concern about parental approval or disapproval.
Ultimately, he has always held a secure base that not only allowed me to be who I am, but allowed a continual unfolding. And his own unfolding has been quite remarkable. Three years ago, at age 56, he received his own master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. He was the oldest man at his graduation ceremony and the only one with six daughters in their twenties and thirties jumping up and down and screaming as loud as they could as he received his diploma. We are now in private practice together.
It may sound like I’m nominating him for sainthood. Even though he survived living with seven women for many years, I’m not. We both have our weaknesses, our limitations, along with our strengths. We are counselors who have gone to counseling.
So now I’m crying and Brian just said, “Are you crying?”
“I’m just so thankful for you.”
“You better write about me more often then!”
Enough said, except for “Happy Anniversary Sweetheart!”