At his sister’s engagement party in May 2010, Bill McClintock couldn’t take his eyes off of Abby Williams.
He also couldn’t work up the nerve to talk to her. After she left he rushed to his sister and asked, “Who was that?”
His sister explained that Williams, a friend of hers from graduate school, was dating someone, though it didn’t seem to be going well. “If she ever becomes single, keep me in mind,” McClintock pressed.
In fact, Williams was at the end of her rope. The guy she’d been seeing for the last few months was just the latest in a series of romantic frustrations. By 25, she’d bought a house, earned a master’s degree and launched a career in social work. But none of the guys she dated were on the same level. “I just felt like, ‘This is what I’m doing with my life,’ ” she says. “And I was meeting these people who didn’t really know.”
A month later, after Williams and the guy broke up, McClintock’s sister mentioned that her brother thought she was cute. She didn’t get her hopes up. “I was just like, ‘I’ve got a five-year plan and I’m done with all these folks,’ ” she says. “‘So, sure I’ll go on a date with your brother, but after that I’m done.”
In June, she sent McClintock a Facebook friend request; he quickly responded, apologizing for not introducing himself at the party. They traded a few messages before Williams bluntly wrote, “If you want to go on a date, here’s my cell number.”
McClintock’s jitters built as he drove from from his place in Falls Church to hers in Silver Spring. But he was greeted by the same bright smile he remembered from the party and quickly felt at ease.
The two headed for an Irish pub but were so busy talking they forgot to order dinner. They discussed families, previous relationships and visions for the future.
“I felt very able to communicate with Abby from the start, which I’m not usually very good at,” McClintock says. “To to be able to open up to Abby that quickly felt good.”
McClintock was eight years older than Williams and working in hotel finance, a career that required him to move frequently. None of his relationships in the past decade had lasted longer than a few months; in recent years it felt as though he had to compromise big parts of himself to even get one off the ground. He’d come to the conclusion that wasn’t a sacrifice worth making. “I was finally at peace with where I was — if I’m alone for the rest of my life, then I’m alone for the rest of my life,” he says. “But I'm not willing to basically completely change who I am just to be in a relationship.”
But that night he drove his Jeep home with the windows down and music blaring. “I was thrilled,” he recalls. When they went out the next week, they again got so lost in conversation that they forgot to order dinner.
They started seeing each other once a week but rarely talked or texted between dates.
“It was like we both secretly knew that ‘Wow, I was supposed to meet you and you were supposed to meet me. And this is kind of it, so let’s take it slow and build this,’ ” Williams says.
“It was almost like a first date each time,” McClintock says. They saw the world the same way, had similar taste in music and comedy and both kept family at the center of their lives. “If this wasn't going to work, I don’t know how I can make anything work,” he remembers thinking. “Just because I felt so in tune with Abby.”
By late fall they’d met each other’s families and talked about living together. Before McClintock moved in the following March, Williams reached into her bag of social work tricks and requested that they both write down a list of expectations.
“It was really, really detailed stuff, like ‘If you come home from work and you’ve had a bad day, where are you going to go in the house? And how am I going to know that you need some space?’ ” she says. “I think couples expect these things but they don’t let the other person know.”
The transition went better than expected. “I didn’t want to stay late at work anymore. I didn’t want to leave in the morning,” she says. “I was so excited when he got home. I still am. It was just so easy.”
At the end of September, he met her in the driveway after work with a bouquet of sunflowers and a mix CD titled “Marry Me.” Then he got down on one knee and asked her to be his wife.
Neither Williams, now 27, nor McClintock, 36, wanted a big wedding, but their families overruled them. “We quickly learned that getting married is about us, but the wedding is really not about us,” Williams says. “It’s about everybody else having a good time and getting to celebrate with us.”
So on April 28, 150 friends and relatives drove to Williams’s parents’ river home in Mechanicsville, Md. An unseasonable chill forced the ceremony into a tent on the lawn, where the couple got what they wanted most: to be declared man and wife.
“We have fun every day,” McClintock said before the wedding. “I wanted somebody who felt like a friend and that’s what it’s turned into — she’s become my best friend.”
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