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L.A. Affairs

'No matter what' leads to what matters most

House and HomeSandra BullockStarbucks Corp.
'No matter what' vow became the clue to what matters most for one L.A. couple
A misspoken phrase at a marriage ceremony becomes a life motto for one L.A. couple

A 100% match! I did a double-take on the results of my first foray into computer dating. I hadn't made any concessions on what I said I wanted in a man, clearly stating my "musts": Must be Latino, educated and enjoy sports, theater, movies and Frank Sinatra. My list also included that he be spiritual and reside within 25 miles of downtown Los Angeles. It was a lot to ask for, but I had nothing to lose.

I had left a seven-year relationship that was not meant to be for the long haul. And I was happy with my life in Solano Canyon. I had my dog. My friends. My home.

But could the dating computer have found a man who met all my criteria? I was sent five other candidates, but the runner-up was just an 82% match.

I had to meet Mr. 100%.

But he was too busy to meet me. The match was made in mid-January, but he was traveling for work. We communicated through email. It felt like good old-fashioned letter writing as we shared details of our lives. He, a Southern California boy, was amazed at my love of gray skies. I, born and raised in Chicago, was surprised he preferred the desert to the ocean. We both were reading "The Four Agreements," and we shared an interest in the spiritual teachings of Ernest Holmes.

Our first date was finally set for a Sunday afternoon in March at a Glendale Starbucks. Not wanting to judge or be judged, I hadn't posted a photograph and I didn't request one. "How will I know you?" he asked. I casually offered that I resembled "Sandra Bullock, a Latina version." His reply to the same question: "I'll be wearing golf shorts."

Sixteen months later, we stood in front of 200 friends and relations in Elysian Park and said "Yes" to each other. We wrote our vows the day before the wedding, leaving little time to memorize. During the ceremony, I couldn't remember my reply after his vow to love, care for and honor me. I giggled nervously and offered, "No matter what!"

The guests had a good chuckle, but I realized the words mirrored my subconscious fears. I loved Mr. 100% but wondered if we could walk together in wedded bliss carrying our heavy baggage. He had been married before, twice. And I wondered if I were truly over my seven-year ex. Would either of us fall back into old habits?

Turns out the "no matter what" clause had nothing to do with either scenario.

We settled into a nice rhythm. I continued my freelance writing from home; he went to his executive office in a major banking institution. My career offered us movie screenings and theater tickets gratis. His gave us the security of a steady paycheck, health insurance and weekend dinners in elegant restaurants. Both of us contributed to the household fund.

Then one day he came home early. His department had been outsourced. Overnight, his job had disappeared.

And he changed: The spring in his step was gone, and the sparkle in his eyes dimmed. He struggled with who he was if he wasn't a longtime executive at a major banking institution.

Counseling offered directions to a new life. He soon realized he wasn't his job; he was a loving, caring, brave husband and father. I assured him I'd love him "no matter what." After a few months, we embraced a different lifestyle within our new budget. We planted a cost-efficient backyard garden. Dinners at home became the norm. He embraced his role as head chef; I took on sous-chef duties. We still had free movie screenings, but health insurance would have to wait. We patted ourselves on the back for getting through this challenge as husband and wife.

Heading into Year 10, we were doing well. He had found a position that offered him the flexibility he craved; the paycheck didn't match an executive's salary, but we were doing fine.

Then the terrorist arrived on our doorstep. Cancer. The healthiest person I know: Me. He became my primary caregiver. Money was tight, but we were more worried whether I would live through the treatments. We discovered it was easier to give the burden to God. We were grateful I got on a community health plan that was a bridge to Obamacare.

But I worried, having heard of couples breaking up during serious illnesses. One or the other feels this isn't what he signed up for — thinking life's too short or the love is not strong enough — and packs his bags.

Early on in our health-challenged time, Mr. 100% patted my balding head and said, "No matter what." I giggled at the words blurted out a decade earlier and finally knew their true meaning. Our love would survive. With a lot of prayer, we held hands and kicked the terrorist to the curb, adding, "Don't come back. No matter what."

De Los Santos-Reza is a film and TV writer living in Solano Canyon and a contributing writer for the book "8 Ways to Say I Love My Life!"

L.A. Affairs chronicles dating and romance. Past columns and submission guidelines are at www.latimes.com/laaffairs. If you have comments to share or a story to tell, write us at home@latimes.com.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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