On Saturday it was 22 years since Andrew and I tied the knot. I thought, back then, that I knew what love looked like. What it felt like and how to be loving. Boy, was I so naive; it was all those things but so much more than I can even now put into words.
Many people comment on our relationship; on how solid it is and how obvious our love for one another is. And it’s nice to hear these compliments but we have both struggled over the years to really understand what people see. To us, we are just doing life the way we believe is right. Some of it is stuff we’ve learned from our families. Some of it we’ve taught ourselves, and each other. But regardless, we have always just seen the way we communicate and do life together as what you’re supposed to do. A matter of simple fact, you could say.
I suppose that there are a number of reasons for why people are so interested in the health of our relationship. We married really young. I was 20. Andrew was 21. We had no real ‘prospects’ as far as careers were concerned. In fact, neither of us even had a licence to drive! And we both came from complicated family backgrounds.
So you could say that in the eyes of others, we had a lot stacked against us.
I even recall our parents being pretty anxious about us getting married so young too. My parents were worried because Andrew seemed such a quiet and unassuming person and I am not known for my quiet or unassuming disposition! Plus, being quiet in our household growing up was a rarity.
One day Mum and I had a pretty decent argument about it all, which was so silly now that I look back on it. Now, all these years later, mum says often that she loves the way Andrew loves me. It’s my favourite thing that she says. Because I know that it really comes from a place of genuine understanding.
Andrew’s and my parents have always supported us even when they were clearly concerned that we had no clue what we were doing (and when they were probably right too!). And, for the most part, they rarely critiqued how well we were doing as adults, as a married couple, and later, as parents. They just went along with what we were doing and did their best to link arms with us and do life alongside us. It is something that, looking back I can see is a treasure beyond worth.
Today, as I sit here in the warehouse office at Andrew’s place of employment, watching the love of my life organise what’s called a Park and Power for a job for tomorrow, I marvel at his natural organisational skills and flair for building strong relationships with the people he works with. It is just one of the things I find fascinating about the man.
And this makes me think about what it is that keeps us both ‘in love’ so to speak. It’s not our celebrity level looks (even though he is a sublime version of a young Sean Connery) and it’s definitely not money or power or position either. I think if we were to really sit down and nut it all out, we would agree that for the most part, it is the unspoken things.
The unconditional acceptance of each other, flaws and all.
The decision to laugh at each other’s jokes and shenanigans even when they’re not particularly funny.
Well, actually that’s mostly Andrew laughing at my jokes and shenanigans. I apparently have the worst ‘dad jokes’ and sense of humour in the family. Secretly I try to find the most cringeworthy stuff to gross out my boys and so far I am in the lead 😛
But it’s also the conscious intention to keep honour and respect as core ingredients in our daily life. When we argue we do everything within our ability to stick to the rules of engagement that we set up before we got married.
- Never let an argument go down with the sun.
- Never bring up hurts from the past that have already been dealt with.
- Never joke about divorce. Ever.
I’d love to take credit for having come up with these non-negotiable boundaries but alas, most of it comes from the Bible and it was those who loved us enough to mentor us through our early years that taught us what it looked like to live a life from the foundation of such boundaries.
In a day and age where getting a divorce is almost easier than getting hitched, it seems that Andrew and I have become somewhat of an anomaly. I don’t think this is specifically because of these boundaries but I certainly thing that they had a significant impact on how we have chosen to manage each day, each challenge, each argument and each overwhelming situation as they’ve come.
I am sure there are more things that Andrew and I have done over the years or have discovered work for us, but when it all comes down to it, these three things remain the core elements of our marriage. And even if you do not consider a faith-based foundation to be relevant to your relationships, I can guarantee you that these three choices will influence every relationship, married or not.
Because it’s not at all about the faith behind them: it’s about what they say about who we are as people. It’s about setting a standard where both parties agree not to step beyond that line. And where both choose to establish a core belief that the relationship outweighs who gets to win the current round.
I have no desire to cast stones, and Andrew and I have had our fair share of failed arguments and difficult situations that have shaken us and made us both feel vulnerable within our relationship. But after 22 years of marriage, and being together for 24, I think we can safely say that just by starting with these three things, you set yourself – and your spouse or partner – up for a much smoother ride and one where both parties understand the responsibility they hold as individuals in a joint venture called a life lived as one.
I know of only a few things that our future holds. Grandparent status is literally on the verge of being instated (woohoo!). I dare say we will do some more overseas travel and at some point, I expect to have finished at least one of my books (haha, no, really.) But most importantly, I know that it will all happen as we join together and do life together, just like we always have.
May you and yours be blessed today. May you find the hope and peace you are searching for and live well with those you love.