I celebrated my sixth wedding anniversary with my husband last year. It was beautiful, and we cheesily recaptured many moments of our initial romance such as doing a gorgeous mountain bike trail. Cycling was a leitmotif of our early relationship, and something we sadly have not found time for of late.
We also did something completely different for us: we decided to wear our wedding outfits! Some friends of ours who live in Malawi once mentioned they do it as a tradition every year, and we thought it was hilarious. But as we passed the five-year mark and felt the need to reassess our relationship ahead of (finally!) having children.
We were staying at an overnight spa resort but a rather chilled one. We were a bit nervous about walking into the dinner area in my extravagant red silk sari and his dramatic black sherwani. But the staff couldn’t have been sweeter.
One thing I’ve realised about my marriage, and this is not a topic I’ve spoken about publicly previously, is that the same intensity that I bring to my work and friendships are brought to bear on my marriage… and while Luke wears this weight lightly it can be difficult.
We did not have a traditional start. Or perhaps we had a very traditional start – you decide.
We were virgins when we wed. We did not live together until after the ceremony. And, perhaps even more dramatically, I had never had a boyfriend before him.
The fact is, I had SO many unresolved issues before marriage that I didn’t think were issues at all – or weren’t even aware of. One doesn’t really need to address such character fault lines outside of such an intimate union. We can often evade a certain amount of scrutiny of our character from friends and even family once we start living independently.
But under the 24-hour spotlight that is marriage, both our issues and stubbornness bloomed forth in equal measure. The first two years were harrowing. My favourite anecdote is returning to see a marriage counsellor we visited every few months when we needed help and her first remark being: “You two are back! As I watched you leave the last time you were here I thought: those two aren’t going to make it.”
It was hilarious. She didn’t mean it unkindly – she was trying to encourage us. “You clearly love each other very much to still be together.”
It was true. Whenever I thought of leaving Luke when things got hard it wasn’t religious dogma that stopped me or the thought of what people would say. Rather, it was the thought of my life without him. When we fought and were not together, it seemed as if my world drained of colour, and I turned inwards upon myself. The nature of our fights have always been absolutely mundane and ridiculous – proxies for the war raging to be right, to have my way, to not have to change. (To be fair… me more than him, I still believe!)
Our Instagram accounts look pretty good, but they don’t tell the full story: It took a lot of work on ourselves as individuals to get to a place where one day we both suddenly realised, around the three-year mark, that we hadn’t fought in ages and had started to simply disagree and discussed solutions. And that we were really, really enjoying our marriage.
And enjoy it we have: we are ridiculously blessed with a gorgeous house, family, dogs, flexible work at times and loads of travelling opportunities. I was blissful in my, finally, peaceful marriage.
Then a new phase came… as the drama receded so did the intensity. I worried that we were growing distant. Were we simply becoming functional life partners? Have you fed the dogs and don’t forget to take the car in for a service and where should we go on holiday this year?
Being an intense person has its pros and cons. I can achieve the height of success in my work and incredible intimacy in my many friendships… and feel pretty down when I feel unloved or unsafe. I am not satisfied with easy answers or shallow relationships. I have a deep hunger for depth in every way. This can sometimes drive people mad – and often drive them away. But I am on a journey of moderating myself.
Luke has had to live through all this. But as much as I know I can be TOO intense at times, I don’t want the opposite. When I sense Luke slipping away into his phone too often, and realise we haven’t had a heart-to-heart in ages, I have to take action. I can’t allow us to become pragmatic life partners. Marriage and love is magical, I still believe. I won’t give up on that.
We are on the threshold of an entirely new season now: parenting. We know everything will change soon. But I still have a thrill when I hold his hand or gaze into his eyes. I don’t know what the next six years hold, but I always want to feel, deeply, and live, to the fullest.