Miriam Ebrahimi and Brett Holland on their wedding day on May 25. (Evy Mages/For The Washington Post)
June 14, 2013

After years as a divorce lawyer, Mariam Ebrahimi knew what she didn’t want: marriage.

“I saw why people got into marriages and all the wrong reasons they got into marriages,” she says. “So you look at it from a different angle. It made me much more analytical, rather than, ‘Oh, you’re the one! I’m going to marry you.’ ”

Besides, she was happy. Mariam, who emigrated from Iran with her family in 1978, had a busy career, more friends than she could count and a loving, supportive family. Now 45, the vivacious brunette always dated and had relationships but never felt the need to commit.

“I knew I was not going to settle,” she says. “I never met someone where I could say I can see myself with this guy for the rest of my life.”

She joined eHarmony in the summer of 2009 and met two or three men with whom she had short romances. Each of them had a few of the qualities she was looking for — education, love of family, financial stability and worldliness — but none had all of them.

When she was matched with Brett Holland in late 2010, she was happy to chat with him but didn’t get her hopes up. As they traded messages online, she was impressed with his wit and playfulness and started looking forward to meeting in person.

Unlike Mariam, an old pro at dating, Brett was new to all of this, having recently separated from his wife of 15 years. A friend recommended online dating, and he decided it was worth a shot.

After a month of instant messaging, they decided to meet for lunch in Tysons Corner. The banter they developed online translated in person, and Brett was enamored of Mariam’s candor and honesty. “She didn’t hold anything back,” he says. “It was a breath of fresh air.”

They continued talking online, and by late January 2011, they were spending most of their evenings together when Brett wasn’t with his daughter, Jordan, who was 9 at the time.

As his divorce proceedings got underway, Mariam became Brett’s confidante and adviser. “She was basically that rock for me at that time. There are how-to guides on how to get into marriage, but there’s never a guide on how to get out,” he says. “She was able to explain that it’s nothing personal. It’s just the process.”

In Brett, who had traveled extensively for his work as a federal contractor, Mariam found all the qualities she was looking for. And more than that, she says, “it was just easy.” He was calm and laid-back, while she can be high-strung and easily stressed. Although he’s an introvert by nature, she could talk to him about anything and he always seemed to know the right thing to say in return. “It was so natural,” she says. “I’ve been in relationships where it’s been work. If it feels like work in the beginning, that’s a red flag.”

In December 2011, Brett’s divorce became final and he introduced Mariam to Jordan. Slowly, the three began spending more time together, but still, Mariam and Brett weren’t eager to formalize their relationship with rings or a marriage certificate.

“Why should we get married?” Mariam remembers saying to friends. She didn’t want to have children and didn’t see how marriage could make their connection any better than it already was.

In the late summer of 2012, Brett, now 42, went to Afghanistan for a three-month work project. Mariam worried about him incessantly, although they were able to speak daily by phone. She missed his attentive companionship. “He’s strong and solid but has a gentle side to him,” she says. “I feel safe with him. Nobody ever made me feel safe before — because I never trusted anyone to make me feel safe.”

In November, she was sick for days with a bad bug. Lonely and miserable at home, when they talked at night, she found herself saying, “Well, let’s get married.”

“I don’t know why I brought it up. It wasn’t like something I’d been thinking about,” she says. “He takes such good care of me. And I think because I was sick and I was alone I said, ‘Fine, I’m going to get married — I want to marry you.’ ”

When they talked over the next few weeks, each asked the other whether they were sure this was what they wanted. It was. When Brett came home at the end of the month, Jordan went with them to look at rings.

They bought a house together in the spring, and Mariam began looking forward to the idea of marriage rather than dreading it. “It’s just easy,” she says.

Mariam never dreamed of having a wedding, and the couple toyed with the idea of getting married in Mexico. But Mariam’s sister, a caterer, persuaded them to marry in the back yard of her Great Falls home.

Brett teared up during the May 25 ceremony, seeing both his bride and his daughter look so radiant and happy. Before exchanging vows, the couple and their 140 guests listened as a friend read an excerpt from Richard Bach’s “The Bridge Across Forever”:

“A soulmate is someone who has the locks that fit our keys, and keys to fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; we can be loved for who we are and not for who we’re pretending to be.”

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