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Why Elysha fell in love with me

Years ago, someone asked my wife, Elysha, when she first started falling in love with me.

Thankfully, I was standing beside her when this question was asked.

My assumption, of course, was that she took one look at me, swooned, and fell head over heels in love.

This, it turns out, was not the case. 

“I think I first started falling for him at Chilli’s,” Elysha said.

Not exactly what I was expected or even wanted to hear.

We were both teaching elementary school at the time, one door apart. We were colleagues and friends, but we weren’t yet dating. I already had an enormous crush on Elysha, but I had assumed from the moment we first met that she was way out of my league. 

I still feel this way from time to time today. Actually, a lot of people do. Last year, in the midst of a math lesson, one of my students said, “No offense, Mr. Dicks, but with all the people in the world, why would your wife choose you?”

In the middle of my math lesson!

Even ten-year-old kids think she’s out of my league.

On the night in question, Elysha and I were waiting to attend the school’s annual talent show. I was going to appear in a skit that would conclude with a student pouring a vat of oatmeal over my head.

Elysha was wisely sticking around to watch.

“Want to get some dinner?” she asked. 

I agreed. I was thrilled. 

Chilli’s was nearby. Not exactly the place to take a girl on a first date, but this wasn’t a date. Just two coworkers and friends grabbing a bite before a show. 

During that dinner, Elysha asked me questions, and I answered them with a story, which is what I always do.

I told stories about my childhood, the years when I was homeless, jailed, and facing prison time. I told stories about college, managing McDonald’s restaurants, my friends, and my family.

Ask me a question. I tell you a story. Even to this day. 

“That was the night I first started falling in love with Matt,” Elysha said. “I knew I had never met anyone like him. His stories made it clear that he was different from any other person I’d ever met. I thought I’d never be bored if I was with him, and we’d never run out of things to say to each other.”

Did you catch that?

Storytelling landed me the best spouse in the world.

The stories I told that night told Elysha who I was and who I would be. Storytelling convinced her that I was an entertaining and interesting human being. My stories made her believe that I was someone worthy of spending her life alongside. 

Elysha is a beautiful, intelligent, kind, and incredibly funny person. She’s genuinely popular and exceptionally well-liked. Yet she chose me, in part, because I was willing and able to tell her vulnerable, entertaining stories about my life. 

“I can’t believe you never told me that,” I said to Elysha after revealing the truth about that night in Chilli’s. “Storytelling made you swoon? That would’ve been great for my brand!”

“I’m not in the business of building your brand,” she said.

Rightfully so. 

But when it comes to romance, you can swipe left and right, or you can find a way to connect with someone meaningfully and deeply by telling a story. Sharing of yourself. Making yourself known to another person. 

You can swim in the shallow end of the pool, afraid to be open, vulnerable, and revealing, or you can brave the deep waters and be real, honest, and vulnerable with another person. 

If you find yourself on a first (or second) (or even third) date, may I suggest that you tell some stories? And spare your date your stories about your brilliant exploits and heroic deeds. Instead, share stories about struggle, embarrassment, foolishness, and stupidity.

The kinds of stories that demonstrate strength, confidence, depth, and courage.

Be brave enough, bold enough, and wise enough to open your heart and mind and perhaps find love.

That would be the greatest story of all.