A ‘relationship of gratitude’ built on common ground

A story of unknowingly meeting each other, walking separate paths and reuniting birthed a marriage Doug Heinold and Tracy Shields cherish.

While recreating a photo from their wedding album, Tracy Shields and Doug Heinold re-tell the story of how they met and eventually fell in love (Krystal Nurse/The Sun).

Not all love stories reflect what’s in the movies. Some happen online. Others follow a break-up. Some happen because of mutual friends.

Doug Heinold and Tracy Shields can attest to all of those — and more.

Most couples can pinpoint the time when they first met. Doug and Tracy actually knew of each other long before dating.

When I was about 17, my brother (Tim) had a band and he had a room that they called ‘the punk rock room’ and they would go in and play horrible music,” Tracy recalled. “(Doug) was one of the musicians that my brother brought over one day.

Band members flooded Tracy’s home, and she remembers hearing their music rattle the walls and telling them to “shut up.” The two said Doug was like as a human shield between Tracy and Tim.

She was like ‘Oh, hello,’ and went back to yelling at her brother for making too much noise,” Doug remembered. “Meanwhile, I was thinking to myself ‘She is kind of right, we have been making a lot of terrible noise for two hours now and it is probably annoying.’

Tracy didn’t remember that interaction, but learned of it along the way in their marriage. Before that, they would see each other in passing, but interaction was limited because their social circles weren’t close.

Years passed and Facebook was invented, then started growing in popularity. The couple — both of whom had children — took advantage of that.

I was dating this guy and he dumped me. I was so heartbroken,” Tracy recalled, laughing through the details. “In the old days of Facebook, you’d put it in your profile that you’re in a relationship, and you’d update it when you’re out.

“A message would go out to your friends. He had friended me the day before, and Facebook revealed that “Tracy was no longer in a relationship.'”

Doug messaged her and they talked over text, emails and Facebook. A first date came to be after many back-and-forth messages.

A turning point came with Tracy’s disapproval of coconut cake, a dessert Doug brought to her house for a date night in.

I despise coconut cake,” she said with a laugh. “I was like, ‘This is a bad sign.’ We stayed up until 4 a.m. and we talked and it was for the first time in my life I felt attracted to this guy.

Doug mentioned their relationship was organic and they agreed that “whatever happens, happens.” With marriage came a blending of families.

Tracy has two sons Daniel, 21, and Julien, 19. Doug has one son, Chance, 16, and a daughter Grace, 13. The two are grandparents with Daniel’s 2-year-old son, Jesse.

“The interesting thing for me was when we first started dating, her oldest, Daniel, and my youngest, Grace, gravitated toward each other,” Doug said. “Danny would take care of her and pay attention to her.”

The other children had instances of rivalry, but those passed.

Tracy had taken international vacations with her kids, mainly to Spain because her sons are half Spanish. When the two families became one, the couple, who are travel junkies, agreed do a family vacation every other year. Separately, Doug vacationed with his kids, typically to Vermont or Florida.

As a couple, they go alone to Spain or the Southwest.

We’ve been to Spain the most,” Doug explained. “It’s the place we go back to most frequently since her youngest, Julien, lives there while he goes to school.

A conversation with the couple revealed a shared sense of humor. They enjoy making each other laugh over the silliest or most complex topics, all in good fun.

They laughed over the idea that there are people who would not date someone with kids, then turned serious as they recognized that not everyone is as lucky as they are to have found each other.

“There’s one thing that this is, it’s a relationship of gratitude,” Tracy mentioned, gazing at her husband. “We know that not everyone has two legs to walk or a love story to tell.

I’m very grateful that I did find Doug.”

One of the things about this relationship is that you appreciate what you have,” Doug said, smiling at his wife. “You know how difficult some relationships can be, and how thankful we are to have this one.”

Facebook, as Doug noted, was the facilitator of their marriage, but the two agreed they wouldn’t participate in online dating as it exists today.

People who are wanting a relationship and are more apt, emotional about it, vested more quickly about it than usual, they’re going to be the ones who will be let down by that kind of scenario,” Tracy opined.

“If you’re more logical and not a person who does fantasy thinking, you’re going to be able to handle online dating.”

A serious relationship, Tracy later added, involves shared values and respecting differences in beliefs that can sometimes be trivial.

Despite their shared dislike for today’s online dating, the two could not resist imagining what they would write in the other’s online dating profile.

I’m not as cold and rigid as I look,” Tracy said she would write. “Doesn’t he come off as,  ‘Hello. How are you? I’m this cold German man.’

“He’s a very passionate guy.

Trying to contain his laughter, Doug said his message would be, “She’s not as wild and crazy as you might think.