"Friendshipping" to Marriage
(Algodones, New Mexico)
Later this month Ken & I celebrate eight years of marriage. Every day we are so thankful that God brought our lives and hearts together. We’re closest friends and soul-mates, continually learning what Love really looks like on a daily basis. Our story as shared below is an edited transcript from a recording we made while engaged.
Allison: Our love story first began the fall of 2001 when Ken and my older brother became friends during my first year at college when I was 17. Even though I didn’t know Ken very well personally, I gained a lot of respect for him and his approach toward life, and thought he was pretty incredible from what I observed from a distance. Toward the end of my first year, my brother asked if there was anyone I was interested in knowing better or possibly, and there was only one guy on my list — Ken Willes. But I was certain he’d never even given me a second thought, and since I was leaving to attend a bible college for two years and Ken would be graduating soon, I never expected to see him again.
Ken: When I saw Allison leave after her going away party, I remember watching her car pull away and thinking, Wow! There goes a really special girl. A very, very special girl. I always wondered whether we would ever see each other again.
Allison: Two years later as I returned to finish my accounting degree, I asked my brother whether he and Ken had kept in contact. He replied that he hadn’t heard anything since Ken left for graduate school. I was a bit disappointed but put it out of my mind.
Ken: After completing my interactive design degree, I accepted a teaching position at the college where Allison was attending. The past year-and-a-half had been very full completing three years’ worth of coursework, but I continually prayed to meet the right one that God had for me. My very first weekend back, I saw her and suddenly knew!
Allison: The first weekend of the new school year, I was sitting in church with my family listening to a sermon about how God leads in our lives in wondrous ways. A few minutes later, as we were ushered from our seats and leaving the sanctuary, there sat Ken Willes a few pews behind us. I couldn’t believe my eyes!
Ken: I was surprised to see Allison again, but my parents who were visiting didn’t realize we already knew each other. They happened to see Allison out in the church foyer visiting with other people and she really caught their eye. Individually they each had a similar thought: It would be so nice for Ken to meet a lovely girl like that! They were amazed a few minutes later to find out I already knew Allison when they saw me talking briefly with her and her brother.As my parents and I headed back to my house after church, they would just not let up. Who was this girl? How long had I known her? Why hadn’t I done anything about it?! Before I knew it, Allison’s brother had called and invited me over to their family’s home for lunch. I was elated! All the way to Allison’s parents’ house my parents were already exploring the possibility of us getting married :)
Allison: Visits, phone calls, emails, and text messages started passing back and forth more frequently. But I didn’t feel ready to be in another relationship at that point, and attempted to make that clear to Ken. We frequently spent time together in groups and with my family, and my parents were very encouraging of our growing friendship, to the point they told me that I “really should be nicer” to Ken! One evening as Ken was dropping me off at home after an event, he took the opportunity to make it abundantly clear that he was interested in getting to know each other on a deeper level. I said No; I was only interested in being friends at that point. (Although he didn’t say anything close, ever since I’ve enjoyed teasing that he practically proposed that evening, because he was quite straightforward!)
Ken: A couple months later while on a camping trip with a group of friends, I found a quiet spot and asked again whether she would be willing to take our friendship further. Again she said, “No, I can’t do that; I’m not ready for that right now.” She turned me down a few times!
Allison: Little did I know how persistent Ken can be! Meanwhile, his constant thoughtfulness and amazing, patient listening ear really began to melt my heart.
Ken: Finally, after three No’s, she agreed to take our deepening friendship a (half) step further—on a conditional basis for a couple months. We would reevaluate in January and if things were going well, then she’d consider dating.
Allison: What he didn’t know though, was that by that point I was already dying to be his girlfriend!
Ken: So instead of dating, we did something called friendshipping. It was a term coined on the spur of the moment when someone asked whether we were dating. “No, we aren’t dating; we’re just friends…ing…friendshipping!”
Allison: During this time, we continued to enjoy each other’s company, going on very few what most would consider normal “dates” and instead doing a lot of practical things together such as yard work, cooking, and outreach projects. We found that we truly brought out the best in each other, had so much in common, and absolutely loved spending time with each other.
I recall the exact moment I realized I was falling in love with Ken. We had separately decided to spend Thanksgiving break in New York City on a school trip—I with the School of Business earning credit hours touring Wall Street and various financial institutions, and Ken as a faculty member with the School of Art & Design touring museums and galleries. We were delighted to learn that everyone would travel to and from NYC together, but spent a majority of the time while there with our respective groups. Toward the end of the trip, we attempted to coordinate a rendezvous after our commitments for the day were finished. Between dying cell phone batteries and my less-than-stellar subway navigation skills, it was becoming more and more unlikely that we would ever actually locate each other. However, Ken was on a determined mission to find me, and when I finally saw him round the corner, I felt that I’d never been so happy. Not only was I relieved to no longer be by myself on the streets of New York City as it was becoming dusk, but right then I realized that I never wanted to be apart from him again. We shared our first hug, and it seemed that our hearts had truly found each other, too. Then we raced off to try and catch the last ferry of the day to Ellis Island and The Statue of Liberty, running the whole way (and holding hands to be sure we weren’t separated again :)
Ken: Toward the end of our trial friendshipping period, we read and discussed several books on relationships, love languages, and communication. We were apart during Christmas break but discussed them over the phone. It was helpful to explore different areas of relationships and discuss them before dating. When we saw each other again after a few weeks apart, I was way, way in love.
Allison: After Christmas break, my mind was made up. I fell hopelessly in love with Ken.
Ken: Of course, we continued to spend as much time together as possible, but Allison worked about 25-30 hours per week in addition to a full class load; and I was teaching 7 classes that semester (normal is 4). So we had to be creative to find ways to spend time together. We spent many, many evenings sitting next to each other on the couch in Allison’s parents’ living room, each with a laptop and homework to either complete (Allison) or grade (me) in front of us.
Allison: My dad always liked to wonder aloud how he was never quite sure whether Ken was coming over to actually spend time with me, or if it was because he wanted high-speed internet access since only a dial-up connection was available at his place!
Particularly because of potential issues that could have easily arisen with a faculty-student relationship on campus, we made a conscious choice to do all we could to ensure that our physical interaction did not draw attention to—or detract from—our deepening relationship. We did not even hold hands on campus (where we spent the majority of our time) until we were married.
Ken: However, within a few months, I knew Allison was the one. I wanted to ask her to marry me. At the end of April, I spoke with Allison’s parents and was thankful to receive their blessing. I invited Allison to come to my house for breakfast the morning after her last final exam of the semester, and spent the night before preparing a surprise and praying for God’s final confirmation that this was according to His will.
Allison: Ken had invited me to come over to his house for breakfast, and since we’d both been busy with end-of-semester finals and commitments, it had been a few days since we’d been able to see each other—I was just excited to see him again and had no idea anything was out of the ordinary! There was a note on the door to come on inside, and when I tentatively opened it, I was completely blown away! Ken had filled the entire house with pink and red helium balloons, each with a photo of a memory together tied to the bottom of the ribbon. On the back of each photo, he had written little love notes. The individual balloons were all connected with one long ribbon leading through every room of the house. There were bouquets of flowers all over, lit candles, and a beautiful breakfast prepared on the table waiting for us—complete with heart-shaped waffles. My heart was touched as I went from balloon to balloon reading his messages of love. When I reached balloons with notes that said, “I will cherish you,” and “I will protect you,” I knew something was up.
Ken: That day was the biggest day of my life. Here was the most incredible girl by my side, and we were at the last balloon that said, “I will not let go, I want to be with you forever.” It was at this balloon that I asked, “Will you marry me?” And she said…
Allison: “I’d love to.”
Ken: With those three words she changed my world.
Allison: After eating a special breakfast together, Ken took me to the Tennessee River for a romantic boat ride.
Ken: While there we prayed and committed our future marriage to God, and married nine months later in December 2005.