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My husband Marc and I just celebrated our 25th anniversary, and other than a few more wrinkles and pounds, we seem to be the same couple we were back in 1994. Where did a quarter of a century go, anyway?

I was lucky if a boyfriend lasted one week way back in my junior high days. The chase was always better than the catch.

Cue up a red-headed guy who I met in community theater in my late 20s, though, and I didn’t even realize I was “chasing.” This perpetually smiling guy always made me feel like I was someone special … even though we were just friends for quite some time. We talked about everything; we went everywhere together, and in the rare moments when we were apart, we spent inordinate amounts of time talking on the phone. This was WAY back in the day before cell phones, texting, or Snapchatting, of course.

When he asked me over to his house for a homemade meal one night, I accepted, because he was already a good friend, and I never turn down a meal. After getting lost and arriving at his house half an hour late, he greeted me at the door with his usual smile and twinkle in his eye. Nothing fazed this guy.

He had prepared grilled steak and amazing fried potatoes and onions, and we started the meal with a little appetizer of crab salad and crackers. His little house was perfection, and he even had set the table with a cute wintery decoration (which he told me later that he borrowed from his mom). Also impressive was his dog, Bacardi, who was so well-behaved that she went to her corner whenever Marc gave her the command.

Later that evening while having after-dinner drinks out on the town, I told him I just wanted to be friends, and he didn’t seem to flinch a bit. We talked and laughed like we had since we first met, and the night ended with a huge bear hug.

Could it be that I had just met the nicest guy in the world? I thought about this for days on end, and replayed our steak dinner at his dining room table. I remember looking across the table at him and thinking that he would make such a great boyfriend for someone. Flash forward a couple more weeks, and I thought that maybe that “someone” could be ME!

Everything about the two of us seemed to click, and that New Year’s Eve, we had our first real date … and first kiss. That kiss was our last first kiss. When people used to say that I’d “just know” when it was the right guy for me, I would smile and think to myself that they were crazy. At 12:01 a.m. (or maybe a few minutes later as that kiss went a little above and beyond a “usual” New Year’s Eve kiss), I “just knew.” And so did he. And now, two houses, two kids, a few golden retrievers, a Cavachon, a guinea pig, a couple of hamsters, a couple of bunnies, two hermit crabs, countless vacations, changes of jobs, the loss of one of each of our parents, and time onstage and offstage together in a plethora of productions later … I STILL “just know.”

Marc looked at me the other day and said he couldn’t believe that I laughed at so many of the funny things he said throughout the years.

“Some of them weren’t even all that funny!” he remembered. “And then there were those other times when I thought you’d really laugh at what I had just told you, and you looked at me and just said, ‘Whatever.’”

Ah, marriage. It’s a built-in audience that sometimes is in the palm of your hand and other times, your toughest crowd.

A long-lasting marriage is what both sets of parents modeled for us, and we hope we are doing the same for our kids. I can’t wait to see what this guy has in store in the next 25 years. What I can expect, though, is a never-ending smile and twinkling eyes that look deep into my soul and let me know without a doubt that he, too, still “just knows.”

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Michelle Sprout Murray is a freelance writer who lives in Mason City with her family. She may be reached at sproutmurray@gmail.com.

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