Allow me to add a few other groups to that list: anyone who has ever doubted they’ll find a loving, lasting partner. Anyone who struggles to find a partner who will support their ambitions. Anyone who has found that person well past their 20s or early 30s, the artificial deadline our culture still holds up for falling in love, and anyone who’s still looking in middle age or beyond.
I don’t know much about Harris’s mind-set surrounding her love life before she met her husband, Doug Emhoff. In her memoir, she briefly mentions the difficulties of dating while in the public eye. But I do know that they met and tied the knot when she was in her late 40s. It was her first marriage and his second. To anyone who finds themselves frustrated by their own search for their Doug or their Kamala, the second couple’s courtship offers hope, inspiration and a little instruction.
There are three small steps they took in the beginning of their relationship that stand out. And they’re things that any of us can emulate.
Harris writes in her memoir that, the morning after their first date, Emhoff wasted no time in arranging a second one. “I’m too old to play games or hide the ball,” he said in an email, which included his schedule for the next couple of months. “I really like you, and I want to see if we can make this work.”
The momentum of a good first date could have easily fizzled. It happens all the time. Instead, Emhoff followed through appropriately, offering a little vulnerability. He put his feelings out there but didn’t come on too strong. He also got down to the logistics, which can be complex for two busy professionals who live hundreds of miles apart. (He lived in Los Angeles at the time, and she in San Francisco.) This is a man who recognized that a good connection is rare and wanted to explore it together. Note his use of “we” from the very beginning. It’s the language of someone who recognizes that a relationship is a dual pursuit, not one person driving the train with the other along for the ride.
After their second date, Harris writes, Emhoff wanted her to meet his teenage kids, Cole and Ella. While Harris was “eager to meet them, too,” she felt this was too soon. “As a child of divorce, I knew how hard it can be when your parents start to date other people,” she writes. “So I slowed things down.” Okay, so now he was coming on too strong. Still, she didn’t cut things off while deciding: This guy is overeager — next! Instead, she took it as a sign of enthusiasm and put on the brakes.
Yet in that decision not to rush, they still found a way to commit. After their third date, Harris writes, “We agreed to commit to each other for six months, and to reevaluate our relationship at the end of it.” The opposite of an ultimatum, it’s an agreement to give their budding connection the time and space to spark, grow (and maybe even founder a bit) before casting a judgment on it.
It’s easy in the early days of dating to get ahead of yourself. Just recently, we saw what that kind of love haste looks like, with a Bachelorette who squee’d, “I just met my husband!” on first sight. After they had a single one-on-one date, he proposed marriage and she accepted.
When you’re still building something, it’s just as easy to cut things off prematurely. Someone has a busy stretch, and they declare: “I don’t have time to date right now. Buh-bye.” Or there’s an argument that turns to indictments of: “You don’t understand me! I’m out.” Setting a realistic time frame to get to know one another gives both people the peace of mind to know they won’t be judged by one wrong move or one lackluster date. It’s an acknowledgment that, even in the honeymoon stage, everything’s not going to be perfect. We might need some parameters and some leeway to keep us focused. It’s a decision that shows wisdom and maturity — and sounds like something two lawyers would devise.
In those first six months, Harris did meet Emhoff’s kids. After that initial period, she brought him into her professional world by inviting him to a speech she was giving. After about a year of dating, Emhoff proposed, and Harris said yes.
Emhoff, who probably never thought he would be on this public a stage, is preparing for a White House role that has been occupied only by women. Emhoff has already shown confidence in a supporting role. He was active on the campaign trail. In August, he took a leave of absence from his job as a partner at the law firm DLA Piper to avoid any potential conflict of interest with his wife’s work in the White House. On social media, he’s effusive about the love and pride he has for his wife — and Biden-Harris supporters eat it up. Emhoff fans refer to themselves as the #DougHive, a play on Beyoncé's BeyHive.
The admiration is mutual. Six years into their marriage, Harris beams whenever she mentions “my husband, Doug.”
For those of us still looking for a relationship that makes us smile that wide, their bond has a way of signaling: Keep looking. Your Doug is out there.