Vows: He Said No. Then She Did. But Proposal No. 3 Was the Charm

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Vows

By VINCENT M. MALLOZZI

When Adrianne Mathiowetz proposed to Janaka Stucky in September 2011, he balked, so she bolted.

“I worshiped him and he rejected me,” said Ms. Mathiowetz, a 33-year-old freelance photographer in Somerville, Mass. “I broke off the relationship, I just needed some time away.”

Two years later they were together again, and now it was Mr. Stucky who popped the question.

“I was still very bitter,” Ms. Mathiowetz said about being initially spurned by Mr. Stucky.

So this time, she soundly rejected his proposal.

“Along the way, we each had family members and friends telling us to forget about each other and just move on with our lives,” said Mr. Stucky, 38, who owns and operates an independent publishing house in Boston.

“But despite all of our ups and downs, I had not met anyone as kind and as sophisticated as Adrianne,” he said. “No one made me laugh the way she made me laugh.”

He made her laugh first, when she saw him six years earlier performing on a stage at a Halloween event in Brookline, Mass. He was serving as the master of ceremonies of a zombie-themed show called “The Feast of Flesh,” and was shrieking into a microphone while wearing full-skull makeup and leopard-print pants, which he eventually removed as a part of the performance.

He would go on to play several major roles in her life, including best friend, boyfriend and soul mate, and eventually, ex-boyfriend and jilted lover.

“I thought he was awesome,” said Ms. Mathiowetz, who had gone to the show with her boyfriend and taken photos. “He had handsome, movie-star qualities and was the manliest man I had ever seen.”

In April 2009, she was uploading photos on Facebook, including several of Mr. Stucky, which she labeled “Some Awesome Guy.”

Through mutual friends, those images found their way to Mr. Stucky, a fellow resident of Somerville, and he promptly reached out to Ms. Mathiowetz.

“I was blown away when he contacted me,” she said.

Two months later he sent her an invitation to see the film “Moon,” in Harvard Square, which he told her would be attended by dozens of mutual friends.

Though her boyfriend wasn’t available, she decided to go anyway, assuming she would see plenty of familiar faces. But when only three other guests attended, none of whom she recognized, Ms. Mathiowetz said she was “suddenly feeling awkward and out of place.”

Sensing her discomfort, Mr. Stucky sat next to her and they watched the entire movie together — and talked for hours afterward.

She learned that he was the founding publisher of Black Ocean, a Boston-based independent publisher of literary books, and that he had written a book of his own: “The Truth Is We Are Perfect,” a collection of poetry. He was born in Stoneham, Mass., and raised in Gloucester, and had graduated from Emerson College in Boston before receiving a master’s degree in poetry at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Her road to him began in Minneapolis, where she was born. She graduated from Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., and went to Cambridge, Mass., in 2005 to work as an editorial associate for the Public Radio Exchange.

“She was so smart and so beautiful,” he said. “The more we talked, the more I liked everything about her.”

Their conversation eventually took on a more serious tone as they began discussing the personal status of Mr. Stucky, who was going through a divorce.

“He spoke about his divorce with so much emotional intelligence,” Ms. Mathiowetz said. “He definitely came across to me as someone who had done a lot of self-reflecting.”

In August 2009 Ms. Mathiowetz broke up with her boyfriend of four years, and was still reeling from their split when another invitation came from Mr. Stucky, who asked her over to his apartment to watch another movie.

After some initial hesitation, she called him a week later and accepted his offer. He ordered a pizza and rented the movie “Hamlet II,” a comedy, which cast him in a different light as far as Ms. Mathiowetz was concerned.

“Until then, I had mostly thought of Janaka as this very serious, dark, reflective type,” she said. “But when he rented such a silly movie, I began to see he had a fun side to him as well.”

And a romantic side.

“Later that night, we went out on his porch and shared our first kiss,” she said.

They began dating immediately and the relationship became a long-distance one in January 2010, when Ms. Mathiowetz went to the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Me., where she earned a certificate in documentary photography. Six months later, she moved back to her native Minneapolis to live with her sister and worked remotely from there as a website manager for the New York-based public radio show, “This American Life.”

“The distance really didn’t matter to me,” Ms. Mathiowetz said. “All that mattered, from the very start, was that I was very much in love with him.”

Her love continued to grow, and in September 2011, she rather surprised him by proposing marriage. But she was stung when turned her down.

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“I was only recently divorced,” he said, “I just didn’t feel the timing was right.”

Hurt by his rejection, Ms. Mathiowetz broke off the relationship, and they began seeing other people, but still managed to keep in touch.

In October 2012, Ms. Mathiowetz moved from Minneapolis to New York to work on site for “This American Life.” A month later, she and Mr. Stucky, who by now had both been a part of numerous failed dates with other people, reunited, but their relationship was no longer on solid ground.

“I had put him on a pedestal and he broke my heart,” Ms. Mathiowetz said. “But now I had a whole new life in New York, and I decided to continue to date other people.”

The following summer, in 2013, Mr. Stucky, who said he began to feel that Ms. Mathiowetz “was slipping away again,” proposed to her.

This time, she rejected him, and they broke up once more.

Mr. Stucky begrudgingly returned to the dating scene as well, but over time, neither could find an adequate replacement for the other.

“A friend of mine in New York said to me ‘You need to stop looking for Janaka in every person you date,’” Ms. Mathiowetz recalled. “But that’s exactly what I was doing, measuring everyone I dated against him, and I was disappointed in every one of them.”

“They had no idea how to talk about their feelings and they weren’t interested in poetry and the kind of music that Janaka liked and they didn’t pick up after themselves,” she continued. “It felt like every other person I had met after Janaka was a mess compared to him.”

So in March 2014, they began “cautiously communicating again,” as Ms. Mathiowetz put it.

Three months later, Ms. Mathiowetz was partying with friends in New York when she consumed too many psychedelic mushrooms, a controlled substance that produces hallucinogenic effects. The incident left her paralyzed for nearly six hours.

“I was surrounded by nothing but blackness and stars,” she said. “Any other time I had done mushrooms it was the equivalent of getting a little tipsy on wine, but this was such a different, intense experience.”

Though her body was frozen, her mind began racing.

“I couldn’t remember who I was or what my name was or what Earth was like,” she said. “I felt as if I were hurtling through space.”

As she lay motionless, her “only lucid thoughts,” she said, “were of Janaka.”

“All I could think of was if Janaka were here, everything would be O.K.,” she said. “In all that darkness, he was the only light that came shining through.”

As soon as she was able to crawl to her phone, she called him.

“I can’t believe I haven’t been telling you every day that I love you,” she said to him. “I want to be a better person to you than I have been.”

Mr. Stucky was feeling much the same after receiving that call, as he too had just hours before experienced a bizarre episode that left him longing for what he once had in Ms. Mathiowetz.

“The night before Adrianne called me, I had a nightmare,” he said. “I was on my knees and looking up at a stranger who was telling me I had only 24 hours to live.”

Completely shaken, he awoke and began taking into account all the things in life that mattered most to him, and quickly realized that Ms. Mathiowetz was at the top of that list.

Mr. Stucky’s nightmare, combined with Ms. Mathiowetz’s mushroom-fueled journey through space, landed them back in each other’s orbit, much to the chagrin of many of their family members and friends.

“I defended my decision to stay together by telling everyone that I did try and move on, and that I did date other people,” Mr. Stucky said. “But in the end, Adrianne was the person I wanted to be with.”

In January 2015, he proposed to her for a second time on a weekend trip at a bed-and-breakfast in Portsmouth, N.H., and this time, she accepted. The following month, Mr. Stucky drove from Somerville to New York to pick up Ms. Mathiowetz and brought her back to Boston through a blinding snowstorm.

“I don’t know if it was fate that finally brought us back together,” Mr. Stucky said. “But I do know that we are definitely connected to each other on some other plane of existence.”

Ms. Mathiowetz says she hasn’t used psychedelic mushrooms since that paralyzing episode. (According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, hallucinogens like mushrooms can produce dangerous side effects such as an increased heart rate, speech problems and memory loss.)

They were married June 11 at the entrance to the formal garden at Nawandyn Estate, a private lakefront estate in Bridgton, Me., where lilies and lupines were in bloom. Thirty-five of their family members and closest friends, many of them holding glasses of champagne, gathered under cloudy skies, with Bridgton’s Pleasant Mountain serving as a powerful backdrop across the lake.

The groom’s father, William Stucky, who became a Universal Life minister for the event, officiated, although he admitted to being initially reluctant to fill that role based on his son’s stormy history with Ms. Mathiowetz.

“I was both thrilled and challenged when they first asked me to do this,” he said. “But they’ve worked through their ups and downs and come to a much more mature, adult place inside themselves.”

He led a ceremony rooted in Jewish tradition as the couple signed a ketubah, a traditional marriage contract, said their vows under a tan, embroidered tallit, and broke a glass after repeating their vows.

Ms. Mathiowetz’s sister, Paige Leitch, said the ceremony was “worth the wait.”

“It was very happy and a long time coming because they have been hot and cold,” Mrs. Leitch said. “It was joyous to see it all come together after all the tumultuous lovers’ affairs.”

Mr. Stucky agreed.

“Adrianne and I have a shared sense of comedy and a shared sense of tragedy, and every moment of our life together has been a balance between both,” he said. “It took us a while to get on the same page in terms of knowing exactly what we wanted from each other, but in the end, we finally got there.”

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