This isn’t your typical wedding anniversary post.

I’m not sure if it’s the fact that our first wedding anniversary is this weekend, or because I’ve read the entire Jenny Han series, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (plus the Netflix movie), but I’ve been inspired to share a little bit about my relationship with love growing up – enjoy.  

And so it begins.

I thought I was in love more than a few times growing up. Starting in elementary school, I can remember betrothing myself to a boy I thought for sure was the Corey to my Topanga. I’d make up these elaborate fantasies in my head and convince myself that no matter what happens in life, he and I would always be together.

These built-up fantasies played out in my head with different boys all the way through college. I’d see a boy, or meet a boy, or befriend a boy, they’d do something funny, cute, or kind, and I’d instantly think to myself, “I’m in love.”  

The thing is though, I never really had a boyfriend besides my elementary school dreamboat and a short-lived high school sweetheart.   

I loved the idea of being in love, of having someone to look at me in a way no one else would, someone to protect me and stick up for me; someone to cheer me on and support me, and someone to love me unconditionally and be by my side no matter what.

I dreamed of a playful, silly, light-hearted relationship. Someone to hang out with, share my secrets with, laugh with, adventure with, and be myself with - a person who just fits. I wanted a best friend.

I had a lot of guy friends growing up, and they were all the funny, life of the party, attractive in every sense of the word kind of guys; it was hard to not have a crush on them. But as a kid, one minute it’s, who wants to be my friend and play at the park after school? And the next it’s, these boys I’ve known my entire life and have seen me drenched in mud during kickball are now the same boys I have to throw a cute top on, do my hair, and put mascara on for? At a flip of a switch, you’re seeing people in an entirely different light.  

And I’ll tell you what, that is CONFUSING.

So, I’d dream up different fantasies in my head about what it would be like to be with each friend. One day it would be Tom the next day Jimmy, and then one day Sam would go off and do something funny and I’d be convinced he’s the one (none of these names are relevant by the way). Needless to say, I had a crush on someone constantly, but I rarely acted on it.

Excluding all of the “mini-crushes,” rendezvous, and celebrity loves I’ve had throughout my life, I’ve only truly fallen for 7 boys (and dated 2).

  1. One was “Corey” from elementary school.

  2. One was a middle school heartthrob turned classic heartbreaker (we’re still friends though; it’s cool).

  3. One was a childhood friend, turned high school boyfriend.

  4. One was one of those older boy crushes that was NEVER actually a thing, but in my head, it was TOTALLY a thing.

  5. One was my very best friend senior year of high school.

  6. One was the most complicated relationship I have ever had with a boy (who was never actually a boyfriend).

  7. And one is my husband.

Each one had their own real-life fairytale built in the privacy of my mind. And because I’d keep these stories and fantasies with me, it was hard for me to ever fully commit to a relationship. How does one “put herself out there” if she’s constantly thinking about what could have been with boys 1-7?  

Needless to say, once I got to college, I didn’t really have room for another “what if” fantasy. Crushes came and went for sure, but I questioned myself too much to ever act on anything. And on top of that, college was when the confidence I had in my body and myself went SWOOSH out the door.

Back to my hubby.

To take it back a few years, I had a crush on my husband freshman year of high school. He had a crush on me too, but because of these stories and “what if” moments in my head, I was too scared to jump into anything with him. Thankfully, we remained friends throughout high school and college, woke up to what had been in front of us the entire time, and started dating after we graduated.

This was the first time I was able to actually play out one of my imaginary daytime soap operas.

And I can concur, from experience, that real life is not quite the same as fantasy.

It’s better.

Not because everything is all roses and rainbows, but because it’s real. Because when there is pain and anger and frustration and sadness, there is also pleasure, joy, fulfillment, and happiness. The love story that is Braden & Kathleen Layer is not a modern-day fairytale. We dated long distance for 4 years, we moved from small town to small town to small town (each one better than the last I might add), and we’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices along the way. But every single hello, goodbye, and move opened the door to a new adventure, and a new opportunity to trust, and to love, and to live a life knowing that no matter what, I have his back and he’s got mine.

After living in my head for so long when it came to boys, I realized all the good stuff isn’t what I thought it would be. The good stuff isn’t the big gestures and the fancy dinners for two, but the small things. Like checking in with each other, asking how you’re doing, an arm around you on a walk, a dinner made when you’ve had a long day, picking up emergency toilet paper on your way home, 10pm cereal dates, impromptu kitchen dance parties, and a framed invoice of your first paying client. These small moments are what make the “fairytale” great. 

All those boys I loved before will always have a special place in my heart. Every single one of them gave me different memories and taught me something different about myself, relationships, and the world. But now I have found this person, this man who looks at me in a way that no one else does, protects me and sticks up for me, cheers me on and supports me, loves me unconditionally, and is by my side no matter what. A person who I tell my secrets to, who makes me laugh every day, is always up for an adventure, and is 100%, without a doubt, my best friend.

Those fantasies I held so dear in my heart prevented me from opening myself up to someone, but they also led me to the very person I’d spend the rest of my life with.

So, to all the boys I loved before, thank you; you are wonderful, kind, amazing humans. And to my husband, I can’t imagine spending my life with anyone but you; thanks for giving me a second chance, and cheers to one wild year of marriage. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Forever and ever,  


Kathleen Layer