“Like the interwoven fibres of cotton, the second year of marriage brings a couple closer together as their lives become increasingly intertwined. And as cotton is at the same time both strong and soft, the couple is learning how to be flexible and adapt to each other’s needs.”
Today is our 2nd Wedding Anniversary. Well, actually, as I write, it is a week prior to our anniversary but with the view to posting on the day. I know that I want to write something for James but I’m not 100% sure (as ever) where exactly I’m going to go with this…
I have one of these ‘Timehop’ applications on my phone that taps into your social media history (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and tells you all the embarrassing stuff you were posting years ago. For the last 6 months I’ve been reminded of the emotional rollercoaster we went through in the run up to our wedding and also how utterly oblivious 3 years ago I was that James was about to propose. Two years ago I had NO IDEA what I was doing and to an extent had no idea what to expect from Marriage. That sounds negative, but it’s really not meant to be. One of my favourite things about being married is the Adventure and feeling as though we are still growing up.
In order to more accurately frame ‘us’ and where we are now, I’ll share the story of how ‘we’ came to be…
James and I met in June 2011, unromantically in a pub. He had returned from travelling about a month previously, still sporting a New Zealand glow. I was singing with my Piano/Vocal duo at the time. The cliché is that we clocked each other and fell hard and fast. But before that I queried a friend about James’s age. I was 27 at the time. “I think he’s 22,” she told me. My heart sank. I know 22 year old boys and they’re not for committing or even contemplating the idea of ‘settling down’, which I can admit now is what I really wanted, although I denied it fiercely at the time. So I resigned myself to not even bother trying.
But I couldn’t resist the temptation to flirt with the idea of this beautiful, curly haired man. So I took myself back to the pub to sit at the bar and ‘learn lines’ (I had a lead part in the most horrendous play which was being taken to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, but that’s a story for another time). As we struck up conversation I realised I was in danger. This guy wasn’t just articulate and polite, but interesting and warm. He radiated a goodness that I hadn’t known in a man who wasn’t my Dad or Brother. He was completely void of pretension, happily chatted away without playing the charmer, asked lots of questions and I knew he was really interested to know the answers. So what did I do? I went in hot pursuit! To hell with it, I thought, I’m allowed one final fling in my late 20’s!
After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing he casually invited me to lunch. James’s story goes that he would have taken me anywhere. My story is that I wasn’t completely sure how keen he was so decided to play it safe and suggested the local pub with a 2 for £10 deal on.
Looking back at our younger selves I still know that we fell very much in love, but it was a fresh, delicate, unaffected love. We grew very quickly to adore one another’s quirks and bonded immediately over our values. I made it clear from early on that I didn’t want just another boyfriend but was looking for the right relationship, to marry and to have a family with. That’s pretty intense for a 22 year old man, but after a series of disappointments I knew I needed to be upfront with the man 5 years my junior in order to protect myself and I had to risk him running for the hills. But James had already made his mind up that I was his One and had even already taken note of the engagement ring I wanted.
8 months in we decided to rent a house together. Big Step Number 1 for Us. We went through the typical toils of adjusting to co-habiting but found that we loved making a home together. A year later to the day he first told me he loved me, at the top of Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, James asked me to marry him. The day before I had a complete meltdown about the topic of ‘marriage’, as James had casually thrown me off scent by saying that when the time came I would have to choose my own engagement ring. Although we both knew we wanted to be married to one another we had never discussed details or timescales. I had no idea that hiding in his heavy winter coat pocket (which he insisted on keeping on all day on a beach in the middle of July!) was a ring I had spotted just after we first met and had snuck into the shop to slyly try it on. It turned out the shop assistant was a regular at James’s pub and when he approached her she put it on hold…for 7 months!
I won’t bore with the story of our Engagement and the stress of wedding planning again. But I do remember being hit like a ton of bricks that we weren’t just
marrying one another, but were joining families and I would have Parents-in-law and siblings-in-law and Grandparents and Aunties and Uncles and Cousins that weren’t my own, didn’t choose me, but that I was legally bound to for life. This prospect terrified me. How could I make a whole new family love me? What if they don’t even like me? What if they don’t understand me? What if I hurt James and then they hate me forever? What if I can’t give them Grandchildren and I’ll have failed in my purpose as James’s wife? What if they don’t like my cooking?! This felt MASSIVE. I just wanted to be with James, always, loving him, serving him, just with him all the time, forever. But I wasn’t sure if I would pass the challenge of pleasing his family. It’s one thing getting them to accept you as a girlfriend, but being accepted as a Wife felt like a whole other ball game.
Now obviously I wouldn’t be writing all this if it didn’t have a happy ending and if I didn’t absolutely love my new family as my own. I really, genuinely do and I love being one of them. I’m proud to be part of our family. But the dawning of that part of Marriage was unpleasant at the time.
Big Step Number 3, we’re only about 18 months in to our relationship…
Fast forward to post-wedding, 2 days after we returned from the most idyllic honeymoon you could possibly dream of James lost his job. Being preoccupied with the wedding I had failed to a) plan what I was going to do to earn money in the interim of our return and the beginning of the school term and b) failed to put any money aside. We had a credit card bill to pay off and general bills to pay and we were both in effect unemployed. We came back down to earth with a thud. Cue huge illuminated sign reading “WELCOME TO MARRIAGE.” 2 years – Big Step Number 4.
James got a job after about 3 months, during which I temped in an accounts department and contemplated ending my existence. He was promoted twice within a year and now manages 2 departments (proud doesn’t even begin to cover it). He works in excess of 65 hours a week some weeks and I do my 5 jobs, weekdays, evenings, sometimes Saturdays. Every Christmas is a challenge in regards to how do we coordinate our families and try to please everyone (the answer is, you don’t). Some of our friendships have been compromised because of how little time we have to ourselves and because, quite simply, life and priorities change when you commit to a marriage. Some friendships have passed away for reasons we don’t quite understand. James is my family, my best friend and my priority in all things. Sometimes that means putting him before my own family, before my friends, before my work, even before myself. We have faced together personal struggle that neither of us had any idea would be so horrid and painful and neither of us would wish upon anyone else. Big Step Number 5. And in January we ventured into buying a house (which, god willing, we are the cusp of closing a sale). Big Step Number 6. We have known each other for 4 years. I would say that that is quite a lot for two young lovers to face together in a relatively short space of time!
We were asked a lot after we married whether we felt ‘different’, to which my response was Yes and James’s was No. What James meant was No, we don’t feel differently about one another. Or if anything we feel more. What I mean was Yes, being married feels big, weighty, awesome and full of responsibility. Everything I do impacts him and vice versa. I remember one person reacting to this response with “that doesn’t sound very fun!” Well, actually it is fun. Doing it all with him is the greatest fun ever. I can’t really explain that properly but then maybe it doesn’t need explaining. I can see and understand why marriage might be a huge turn off for some, but for us all of its intricacies, responsibilities, trials and tests are part of the greatest adventure. But aside from all the Real Life stuff we have plenty of the absolutely mundane – watching a lot of TV (trying to decide between a series of Sci-fi drama series or Come Dine With Me), sitting in the pub playing cards (which we are mocked for by the locals) and doing the shop at Aldi are amongst some of our greatest pleasures. Judge as you will! But we’ve also been fortunate and blessed enough to be able to travel – 3 trips and counting to Stratford-Upon-Avon to the RSC, Paris, Dorset, Spain, Istanbul, the Maldives, numerous weddings all over the country and soon to Venice in a couple of weeks time.
This post was meant to be for James but as usual has done a tangent. I guess what I wanted to say to him is THANK YOU for coming on this adventure with me. For forgiving the countless times I’ve dealt with it all badly, for not making demands of me to be someone I am not, but being the most loyal friend I’ve ever known, for always believing the very best in me and so much more…