A few weeks ago, I cuddled up to my husband—whom I married the end of last August (2017)—and flicked on Toradora, a favorite of mine. With Adam being fairly new to anime, I’m trying to stick to ones I know well and feel he’ll enjoy so we can discuss and enjoy them together. Had you told us when we first met three and a half years ago that we’d be cuddled up watching anime together, we’d both have laughed at you, calling you crazy.
Adam and I met in college, on our first day— September 9, 2014. We both showed up to the same Christian club on campus. He was the cute flirt who played guitar and sang. I was the shy nerd who sat in the corner reading. As far as stereotypes and their groupings go, we were in two separate worlds. We were well aware of that after meeting, too. Neither of us really liked the other one much, because we were too caught up on who we assumed the other person was based on some very shallow perceptions. After the first semester, I had evening classes the same night as the club and could no longer attend. Adam and I fell out of touch for the most part.
I’d occasionally fire him off a message or comment on one of his posts. We’d sometimes message a bit and then fall back out of touch for weeks, maybe months. At some point, I reached out to him, inquiring about local (he lived in my area) young adults groups. He brushed me off entirely, not wanting to be associated with me in his social circles. We fell back out of touch. That was fall of 2015. During the summer of 2016, we found ourselves chatting on and off over politics and posts regarding our shared Christian values. In November 2016, he suddenly invited me out to a young adults group, referencing when I’d asked a year prior.
That invitation snowballed into a conversation on why he was asking after brushing me off, apologies for our assumptions of each other in college, and a commitment to try to be friends. We reconnected in earnest, and quickly began to realize who the other person really was—not who we thought they were, but who they actually were. After a few months of talking daily for hours and praying about our relationship, we were dating. A week into that, Adam asked my dad’s permission to marry me and my dad obliged. Three weeks later, we were engaged. Four months later, we got married. Almost nine months later, I could not be happier to call him my husband.
Watching Toradora, then, I was reminded of something Adam and I talked about when we were on the fence about committing to each other. We had lamented about our “story”. Usually when couples tell you how they met and fell in love, it sounds cutesy and happy. It was love at first sight, or they were always good friends and it just evolved from there. Our story? Not so much. We went through a series of hurdles to get to know each other, worked through our own judgement, and undid the damage our misconceptions had caused us. We were both a little bit hesitant after all that past. Despite that, we made an effort to pursue each other. Without even realizing it until we were both neck-deep, we were learning to love each other, and our friendship changed from “just friends” to “what if we got married?” It rather reminded me of Taiga and Ryuuji.
Taiga and Ryuuji started off as polar opposites. Taiga looks nonthreatening, but is a handful. Ryuuji looks scary, but wouldn’t hurt a fly. They connect, despite holding many assumptions about each other because of preconceptions and rumors. As they spend more time together, they begin to learn more about each other; they begin to understand each other, to discard the false ideas they held about each other. It’s a messy process, and it involves some failed communication, some fights, some meltdowns, and some needed vulnerable talks. Ultimately, though, this all leads to the two of them promising to marry. When they see the other person for who they really are, they realize they love them. They can’t imagine them with someone else. As they work through the “mess,” they learn to trust and respect each other, and that builds the foundation for love.
The first time I watched Toradora, I didn’t understand it. I didn’t get how a relationship that was so messy could survive and flourish. I thought all their past would catch up to them and doom them to fail. Now? Re-watching the show, cuddled up to my husband, I realized something. Sometimes the messy relationships are the best ones. Those are the ones that have history because you toughed out tough times for them. They have arguments in their past because the relationship wasn’t worth sacrificing to the fight. The relationship is still alive because it was worth the work to keep it that way. Those are family members that you reconnect with after a fallout, or the friends who have been through it all with you. That’s marriage, too—going through the good and bad together.
Even at the end of Toradora, Taiga and Ryuuji don’t get their fairytale wedding. Taiga had to resolve things with her family before returning to Ryuuji. Just because they committed, the work didn’t end. I’m writing this while Adam and I figure out how we’re going to afford a car to replace his work van that broke down, pay a tax return, cover a vet bill that showed up five months late, and sort out what seems to be a fraud charge on one of his accounts. Getting married doesn’t end the messiness. I realized the other day that we hadn’t even brought it to prayer yet. We’ve both been committed to faith for years, but even that doesn’t make the messiness go away. But our marriage is worth the work. The more we invest, the stronger it becomes—a mess, perhaps, but a beautiful mess indeed.