Marina and Jarrod

January 5th, 2011

Most love stories follow a fairly linear path. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love and get married, then buy a house and a crock pot.

Marina and Jarrod’s story isn’t like that.

In order to understand the road they’ve taken over the last 17 years, you need a GPS.

Even the way they met was circuitous.

While on a study break from college classes, Marina was sitting outside a coffee shop with a friend, and Jarrod marched right up to her and said hello. Then he walked away. She wouldn’t see him again for two months.

Turns out, he got into a rock climbing accident. When he started socializing again, a mutual friend of his introduced him to a potential climbing partner named John.

John just happened to be dating Marina.

Once, when John and Jarrod decided to go for a climb, Marina and Jarrod’s girlfriend, Andrea, decided to tag along. Marina didn’t know Jarrod was the guy from the coffee shop all those months before.

There was a moment, though. Marina and Jarrod made eye contact. That would be enough to get the butterflies going, but it still wasn’t enough to bring them together.

In the meantime, John and Jarrod became best friends.

Marina stopped dating John.

Jarrod asked John if he could ask Marina out. John said sure, but Marina had already moved on to Steve.

That didn’t stop Jarrod. He was committed from the very beginning.

“The next thing I knew, Jarrod was suddenly everywhere,” Marina recalls. “I was the girl who was loud and obnoxious, out on the dance floor or standing on a chair at the bar. Jarrod was solid and stable. Calm and quiet. When I knew he was there, I knew I could rely on him. He seemed to always know where I was. I was dating Steve. Jarrod was always there. Steve was not.

“There was a big Halloween party and my roommates and I decided to go. Jarrod asked me to dance and we pretty much danced the rest of the night. The next week we got together and were hooked from that point on. We were engaged two months later.”

That’s right about when Steve (Marina’s ex) and Andrea (Jarrod’s ex) got together.

When they got married, John (Marina’s ex and Jarrod’s best friend) was the best man at their wedding. Marina still didn’t know Jarrod was the guy from the coffee shop until three months after their marriage.

Speaking of marriage, neither one of them were really at a place in their lives where settling down seemed like a good option. But not being together seemed like even less of an option.

Jarrod was on his way to becoming a professional vagabond, and had plans for cross-country travel, climbing trips and outdoor adventures. But he chose Marina.

“We got married, and the life I had planned wasn’t something we could do at the time,” he says. “There were a lot of things I just gave up.”

When he was offered a job running a family business – a 90 degree turn from where he wanted to be – he took it. They had a family now, and Jarrod was committed to supporting everyone, but was unhappy in his professional life.

“It was very frustrating,” he admits. “Marina encouraged me to go out and get back to what I wanted to do. That made a big difference.”

Marina says that, at first, the supporting the family thing was great and the money was nice. But seeing Jarrod unhappy wasn’t worth it.

That’s when they packed up the family and moved from Idaho to Washington.

That’s when Jarrod spent five months living out of a tent, then working ski patrol in the winter.

“Making a change is much harder with a family,” Jarrod admits. “It seems like it would be easier if you were single, but, at the same time, I also question whether it’s almost easier when you’ve got someone else encouraging you to take a risk.

“It’s so important to have someone who knows you well enough to encourage you to move in the direction they know is important to you.”

Of course there have been challenges. Sometimes they don’t see each other for months. He misses the kids growing, and some readjustment is necessary each time he returns. But when Jarrod is home, he can devote all his time to the family and help Marina. Plus, he actually sees the kids more, as was not the case when he was working 70 hours a week.

“Jarrod has really stepped in and helped me the past few months,” she says. “There were some hard times in my family, and he has been wonderful. I didn’t have to worry about that.

“We’re in this together, and the other person’s goals kind of become your own. You want to see them reach them. If I wanted to be president, I would have to give up certain parts of how I could achieve that, in order to take Jarrod, my main support, with me. If I decided to ignore him, there would be no way I could expect him to support me. Which might mean I don’t end up being president because he will support me in every aspect of my life, not just that one goal.”

Speaking of goals, Jarrod says being married was never the goal. He says the goal was the commitment.

“It wasn’t about being how we were the moment we got married for the rest of our marriage,” he says. “It was more about the commitment of figuring it all out, and being together as we figured all of it out.

“I’ve learned that as stressful, frustrating and hard as it sometimes is, I can always go back and look at why I wanted to be married to Marina in the first place. The same touchstone beliefs and reasons are still there. I imagine that with some couples, those do change, and then it’s time to move on. For us, part of why we’re attracted to each other is because those beliefs are a part of our core, not just a façade we put on. Being able to remind yourself of that is very important.”

Marina says marriage helped her get to know who she really was. Before marriage, she admits to living a life that was all about her. Now, she has learned about compromise, and that alone has changed her view of everything.

“It’s a huge relief when you can look at someone and say, ‘This is how it has to happen for me,’” Marina says. “Once you feel comfortable saying that, you can work on it.”

And that’s what marriage really seems to be about: work. Depending on the couple, the work may not be worth the end result, but it definitely seems that way for Jarrod and Marina. They have spent 17 years working on a shared commitment to cultivating a life filled with personal joy, equality and compromise.

It’s sort of like that climbing trip they took together before they ever started dating. They had no idea what
was at the top of the mountain, but they kept climbing.

They knew it was really about the journey more than anything else.