Yost was more impressed than ruffled. “She had some spunk,” he says. “She wasn’t just a wilting flower.”
When she told him she was a snowboarder as they made their way to Pennsylvania for a church-sponsored ski trip, he was skeptical. Then she took off down the mountain like a rocket and he hustled to catch up.
Yost, an engineer, was a happy bachelor. He’d never understood what it was that made people want to settle down and live a life that required so much selflessness and compromise. But he loved his role as the go-to guy for women at church who needed help moving or fixing a toilet.
When Neven was buying a new car, Yost went with her. When it needed a new battery, he took care of that, too. Still, she never thought of him as anything other than a friend.
But when he mentioned he was going to see a movie in November 2007, she decided to go along. As they began hanging out more frequently, Neven developed a crush.
“I just enjoyed being with him,” she says. “I never had as much fun in my life as I did being with him.”
After a month of “non-dates,” she asked what was going on. Yost admitted the affection was mutual, but he wasn’t sure where it would lead. “It was like, ‘All right, this isn’t a random friendship, so, okay, we’re kind of dating,’ ” he recalls.
As they grew more serious about each other, Yost became increasingly uncomfortable. He knew that Neven wanted a relationship that would lead to marriage, but he wasn’t ready to commit. Just before Valentine’s Day 2008, they broke up.
“I was crushed,” Neven says. “I had found him to be a man that I felt like I could love for the rest of my life.”
Looking back now, she thinks the breakup was made worse by the fact that she and Yost had been physical in their relationship. Although both were intent on saving sex for marriage, they had kissed occasionally. “I think as women, we get more physically attached,” she says. “And it was more like we were using each other instead of loving each other.”
“It made it a little hard to come to church, knowing I had to see her,” he says. “And of course I didn’t deal with it like I should have and talked to her directly. It was more like, ‘I’m just going to kind of ignore her and act like a junior high kid.’ ”
Neven occasionally went on dates with other guys but never felt the connection she had with Yost. Over time, she became “content in my singleness,” she says.
Early last summer, Neven, now 34, began contemplating a possible move back to California to be closer to her family. When Yost heard the news in June, he worried that the tension between them was driving her away and e-mailed her, offering to join a different church.
She replied, saying it was the opposite. “You actually make it hard for me to leave because then I won’t be able to see you,” she wrote. Figuring she had nothing to lose, Neven confessed she still had feelings for him.
Yost, also 34, was shocked. He had recently rededicated himself to the church and for the first time in his life found himself wanting to get married. He often thought about Neven but “thought the door was closed on that.”
They arranged to get together and had as much fun as ever hanging out. The next day, Neven texted, seeking clarity. “I can’t go down this path again,” she wrote. “It’s either forward or backward.”
“Forward,” he replied. That week, they met with their pastor to seek guidance. He told them that because they had dated before, they should be able to tell pretty quickly whether they were meant to marry. He gave them a list of topics to discuss, including family, friends and conflict.
They decided to date again — and this time not to kiss until they made it to the altar. Because they knew where they were headed, being together this time felt much different than it had in the past. “I just enjoyed that more — getting to know her at a different level, figuring out how I can serve her,” Yost says.
They quickly worked through the discussion topics and found no red flags.
On her birthday in September, Yost arranged a picnic on the Mall and proposed with a sapphire ring.
On the morning of Jan. 12, the two exchanged vows at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Before a lunch reception in the church hall, more than 200 friends and relatives cheered as the couple shared their first kiss in years.
Sometimes Neven can’t believe how quickly their lives changed — and sometimes it seems they were headed this way the whole time. “I had never stopped loving Kyle,” she says. “I tried but it just never happened. And in my mind I had always pictured myself marrying him.”