What I’ve learnt about marriage

When I got married, I had no idea what marriage actually was. I was fixated on getting through the first bit – the wedding – and didn’t think much beyond that.

Going into it, I thought it was going to be all romance and adventure, not a multifaceted exercise in complex negotiations, personal growth and team work.

I thought creating a functional family would be easy, and that becoming a loving and loveable wife, step-mother and mother would happen naturally.

Boy, was I wrong.

Marriage needs a rebrand

Marriage is marketed incorrectly. I went shopping for it at the bottle shop and the florist when really I should’ve been looking in the cleaning, baby and pet food aisles.

It’s mostly bread and milk, not Champagne and cheese boards.

What I’ve learnt is that a good marriage is about stability, security, reliability and daily decency. It’s about leaving the outside light on when your beloved is out at night, making sure there’s enough money in the bank account and doing your share of the cleaning. It’s about watching shows you both like and waiting to watch the next episode. It’s about taking out the bins and bringing in the washing.

I started out as an idealist and I’ve become a realist.

For me, love is less about trips to Italy and more about trips to the local primary school, the supermarket and each other’s parents’ house.

No-one would watch a romantic comedy about a real couple because no-one wants to hear about someone’s day, times two, multiplied by a lifetime.

But that’s what marriage is: lots of days, weeks, months. Some heartbreaking, some glorious and some completely ordinary.

Things you need to know going into it

You will hurt and forgive each other. You will challenge and enrage each other. You will make each other laugh and laugh together at all the funny, ridiculous and cute things that happen.

You will need to become better. Better at communication. Better at fighting fairly. Better at getting over things. Better at giving more, and conversely, setting boundaries. Better at loving yourself so that you’re not expecting someone else to do the hard work for you. Better at healing your addictions, neuroses and wounds so you don’t harm anyone.

If this sounds cynical or thin on affection, it’s not meant to. My love runs deep and has built in volume against wind and tides. It’s just that it’s become a hardier thing, more geranium than hothouse bloom. It still needs watering occasionally but it’s much more suited to the conditions.

My wedding ring is hard to get off because my hands have aged. When I think of my husband dying, my heart stops. His is the warm hand I want in mine, the dirty coffee cup I want next to mine on the sink.

We were immature when we met and now we are (mostly) adults. That is what marriage has given us.

What is marriage like for you?

More thoughts on marriage here.

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