Today is my wedding anniversary. Today, Mr Mess and I have been married for 8 years. Most of you reading today probably haven’t been following me from the start. You probably weren’t here when this blog was started. When it was a bleak, unhappy place. When it was my therapy. You possibly don’t realise that those 8 years haven’t always been easy. That there was a time when I thought my anniversary celebrations were over.
Maybe one day I’ll tell you the whole story – most likely I won’t. Some things are private. Some things we should keep to ourselves. You don’t need to know all the gory details. You just need to know that today is special. I’ve spent two anniversaries hoping, but not knowing if we would ever be happy again. Today, I can say we are.
Someone recently asked me if I can still count the two years we were apart. I replied that I think they count more, not less. People think that we celebrate wedding anniversaries to mark the day that we became husband and wife. I realise now that that’s not quite right. The anniversary doesn’t mark one particular day. It marks all the days in between – the good and the bad. For the first time this year I feel like I really appreciate what this date means. For the first time, I feel like we earned the right to celebrate.
I had planned on doing “a letter to my husband on our anniversary” style post. When it came down to it, that just didn’t feel right. My husband knows me well enough to know I don’t really do sentimentality. Besides, anything important I have to say to him I’ve told him already.
Instead, I’ve decided to share with you 8 things I’ve learned in 8 years of marriage. It’s not necessarily profound and I certainly won’t be writing any self-help books any time soon, but it’s honest.
1. There is no happily ever after
The fairytales tell us that the prince and princess get married and ride off into the sunset. Experience has taught me differently. You don’t get to finish the final chapter, close the book and settle down into a life of blissful domesticity. Marriage needs work, always. You can’t relax, can’t be complacent. If you do, the cracks will begin to show. You have to keep putting in the effort. It might not always be easy but it’s better than the alternative.
2. It’s good to argue
Now, I don’t mean screaming and throwing vases at each other. That’s never healthy, even if sometimes you feel like you want to. I just mean that sometimes it’s important to disagree. Sometimes you have to say what you’re feeling, even if it might hurt the other person. You can be diplomatic in how you say it – you don’t have to be cruel. It’s just important that you be honest. It is far better to acknowledge that something isn’t working, than to pretend everything’s ok. These things always come back to bite you eventually.
3. Find someone who brings out the best in you.
Only you can define what is the best of you, but it’s important to find somebody who amplifies your strengths, instead of intensifying your weaknesses. Take me and Mr Mess. When I’m with him, I’m stronger than I am without. I can sometimes be strong when he can’t. I am calmer and more in control when he needs me to be. I like to think that I’m the best possible version of myself when I’m around him. I’d like to think I do the same for him.
4. Love is an action
During my separation, I read A LOT of books on marriage advice. One of them was “Love Life for Every Married Couple” by Ed Wheat. It has a whole chapter on a concept called “Agape”, which is far too complicated for me to explain here, but I’ll paraphrase. It talks about how love should be unconditional, even when the other person may not deserve, or even want your love. One bit that really stuck with me is that “agape is action, not attitude. ” It says you should “make a specific effort to do loving things for your partner daily.” I like the idea that true love is not shown through grand declarations or gestures, but with actions. I try and remember this and act accordingly every day.
5. Think outside the box.
When Mr Mess and I decided to try again with our marriage, we knew we had to make some serious changes. The way we’d been living our lives clearly hadn’t worked. Drastic times called for drastic measures. It was my sister-in-law who suggested we change roles – I would focus on my work and become the main breadwinner. Mr Mess would take over the domestic side of the family and be a stay at home dad. It sometimes feels a bit strange, it certainly isn’t what we expect to be doing, but so far it’s working. Don’t be afraid to mix things up a little and try to find the lifestyle that suits you best.
6. Learn to compensate each other’s weaknesses.
Every person has them, even if we don’t like to admit it. Part of being a good partnership is acknowledging your other half’s weaknesses and supporting them through them. Mr Mess knows all of mine. He knows which situations will make me stressed or scared or anxious. So he knows exactly how to help me cope with those situations. He knows when to tell me to take a break or when to offer assistance. Likewise, I know when he needs a break, or a rest, or some alone time. We make allowances for each other and we provide balance.
7. Just keep laughing.
In my humble opinion, one of the greatest aspects of our relationship is our ability to laugh. Even on our darkest days, we’ve found some dark humour. It’s how we both deal with the crap life throws at us. People are sometimes surprised by just how black my humour can get, but it’s got us this far. Life really is far too ridiculous not to laugh about it anyway.
8. Don’t give up.
Above all, the one thing I have learned beyond anything else is never to give up. My marriage was over, we were talking about divorce, we were planning separate futures but somewhere inside I knew that wasn’t what I wanted. So I refused to give up. Mr Mess often says that the reconciliation of our marriage is all down to me – I was too stubborn to let go. In a way, I suppose he’s right. He never would have made the first step. I had to show him the door was still open. However, he also had to believe that there was a chance things could get better. He had to be willing to try. Together, we refused to give up. That’s what led us to this day.
Happy Anniversary Mr Mess. Two more years and you get a badge!