Duncan: ‘I don’t hold hands, I don’t kiss in public, and don’t call me honey’

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Shawn and Megan Duncan photo by Vona Heibel

“I don’t hold hands. I don’t kiss in public. And don’t call me honey.”

We discussed a romantic relationship like a business deal as I curled up on the couch in my downtown Hannibal apartment.

He sat on what had been deemed “his couch” over the last seven years I had called him my best friend.

It wasn’t the same couch or the same apartment the whole time, it was just wherever I lived he had a sleeping couch and I had a sleeping couch because he spent so many nights at my place.

Really he just didn’t want to spend the gas money to drive all the way out to his parents’ house on Hwy 79. It worked for me because I was scared at night all by myself.

In case you are wondering we never crossed the room to one another’s couch. We were legit best friends and nothing more. We were afraid the precious friendship we built would disappear into relationship drama.

Then one day I clipped some butterflies in my hair and the drama began.

Over the years, my heart had attached to him and I finally admitted to myself what everyone else (except Shawn) seemed to know.

So I decided I would show up for work at the Dinette all fixed up and see if I could catch his eye while he slung Maidrite meat in the back.

It was early 2000s and twisting tiny butterflies into your hair was all the rage. So I picked some out and did my eyes up to match.

I smiled at him as I waited for a tray of food to take out and he barely looked up—but then he did. His sparkly blues looked me over and crinkled at the sides.

He laughed. “Why are there bugs in your hair?”

And thus became the first silent treatment of many to come in nearly 21 years of marriage.

That wasn’t the day he confessed his great love for me though. It was just the day I knew I was in love with my best friend.

A year later, we sat on our respective couches discussing our expectations for a relationship. We knew we loved each other- whether it was said or not.

He hated public affection and pet names, so instead I called him “My Dork” which really stuck.

I even got him a shirt that said “DORK” to wear on our honeymoon in Chicago.

We became an “Us” that night but not for long.

I broke up with him six months later because he was spending more time with his car than me (he was painting his ‘69 Mustang at the time).

Honestly, that car is still his baby but now it’s sitting outside our barn waiting for some attention while we raise our kids and do all the things.

While it might be poetic justice, I still feel a little tug at my heart every time I see it. (Truthfully, I love that car.)

It was another year after I broke it off when he showed up at my door ready for a real “Us.”

Then yet another year later when I walked up to him with a calendar and said “Pick a day or else.”

The last 20 years have been a beautiful ride—although bumpy and full of surprises—to this life we have today.

We have laughed. We have loved. We have raised our boys.

What we have created is better and more real than I could have ever dreamed that day I carefully adjusted those butterflies in my hair.

Part of that is many screwups along the way.

Throughout our marriage Jesus has scooped up buckets of grace and handed them to each of us.

“Give this to him,” Jesus whispers while I’m staring Shawn in the face mid-standoff. “And don’t worry there’s always more where that came from.”

He has given Shawn plenty to hand over to me too.

And this is what we do—over and over again—because we love through Him. Thank God for His endless grace.

But that old adage of his is now null and void because we’ve grown and changed over the years in many unexpected ways.

He does hold hands. He does kiss in public (just a little peck hello or goodbye because we are pushing 50 and no one wants to see that.)

And while I have called him many names over the years, I still don’t call him honey

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