January 15, 1999. 4pm. Al is standing at the front of the church, sweating on a 38 degree day in the woollen suit that I insisted he should wear. I am in a car, on one of the few days of my life that I was punctual and ready, being driven around the block a few times ‘to give anyone who might be running late time to get there’. The next 45 mins or so ran like clockwork. Beautiful songs we had chosen were sung. Words with special meaning to us were read aloud. Wonderful close friends and family who had celebrated and supported and assisted in making the day were there to celebrate with us. And for someone who is normally super stressed about big events, our wedding day was one day where I was as calm as I can remember*. That was because getting married just felt so right.
And 16 years later, getting married still feels like one of the best decisions we ever made – up there with the decisions to have our two adored children**. So does does this mean I found ‘the one’? Well, no, necessarily – but, at the same time, yes, I think. Confused? Let me explain what I mean.
From the start, there were things that attracted us to each other, but also aspects that irritate us more than anything. After a few months of pre-dating, when various friends were not so subtly trying to set us up, we were together for four years or so before we were married. Over this time, we experienced:
- A first date which ended with a dispute over the merits of pre-nuptual agreements (Fail. What can I say? We were in the middle of ‘marriage season’ at this time of our lives so it was topical – but certainly not a topic for a first date!)
- Due to my self consciousness, not allowing Al into the house to meet Mum and Dad (not sure who I was hiding from whom), and losing the ability to make conversations with his friends, in case I wasn’t ‘interesting’ enough (Fail. I became more embarrassed once I heard from a mutual friend about this, but took comfort in the fact that I didn’t run out of things to say with Al one on one. Which was good. But the conversation phobia re-emerges from time to time still all these years later – it’s an ongoing struggle. Sigh).
- Career changes from Al a few times (not really a good feeling for a security phobic person such as me – maybe not a fail, but certainly a cause for nervousness).
- Helping him stay focused and complete his assignments for his nursing degree – which he reciprocated after we were married (through taking over all the housework and cooking) when I did a post grad diploma in business management (Wins, definitely – playing to each other’s strengths).
- The experiences, when the first flush of romance starts to fade, of annoyance with each other. Why can’t he be tidier? Why can’t she be on time? (Fail? Maybe not – but the shifting from a fairytale to a real relationship).
- The letters left on my wind screen wipers, even after this first flush had faded, ‘just because I was thinking of you’ (definitely a win).
- The anticipation and excitement, after a month of separate travel through Europe, when we met up again in Florence (A win – even though, due to train delays, this reunion took place at 3am, through via a gate that I had to monitor at the hostel as closing time was 5 hours earlier).
- The squabbling that commenced a week or so later, when my desire for a structure travel regime clashed with his desire for spontaneity (A fail? or just a need to respect each other’s differences? Probably the later).
- When I moved out of home to share with friends, the boundary setting that needed to take place between my expectations, my house mates, and his (not always pleasant, but a necessary process).
- The opportunity to be part of his life as he moved home to help his father and brother care for his mother, in the years before she was admitted to a nursing home with early onset Alzheimers Disease (while I so wish that this disease had never been part of Felicity’s life, the fact that I was able to be part of this with his family was a definite privilege).
- The struggles and support we have each provided for my anxiety and his uncertainty regarding directions in life? (wins always).
- Growing our responsibilities, first with a home (after a long search), then with our dog (a wonderful anniversary present to each other), and then our two children. (Wins, all of them! – although we do fluctuate at times with the house. Hmm. The other three are the loves of our lives!).
It has not always been an easy road. We have been blessed so far with family close (but not too close) by – they have been very important in supporting us. We have had some wonderful experiences traveling and being able to enjoy many opportunities. We’ve had challenging (at times) and accommodating (at times) jobs which have allowed us to grow and develop our experiences, to study, and to experience life outside work. We have had great times with Al’s family, many memories to cherish of his parents, and lots more times ahead with a family full of brothers and sisters, cousins, nieces and nephews and extended family.
We have had times of huge distress, complete frustration with each other when we have felt like throwing it all in, and we have definitely learned how push each others’ buttons. And we have had many times where it has been really only been the support of the other that kept us going. For instance, while I love her dearly, I think of the first 15 months with baby #2, where we existed on not much more than 3-4 hours sleep, if that, per night, plus managing a toddler and full time jobs – and I shudder. Without Al – I don’t want to even contemplate what that would have been like. Possibly there might have been other ‘ones’ out there. I don’t know. But I do know that, as well as generally being compatible, our relationship has expanded from one of attraction at a surface level to an attraction at a deeper level as well. Sometimes we feel just too tired or rushed to recognise this (oh, I still crave sleep – and Al can sleep standing up – so there is a sleep debt we are still making up, and will probably be making up until the kids finally stop coming in through the night. I digress …)
And we have grown in life together. I think that this growth, this intertwined set of experiences, emotions and values, is what has made us each other’s ‘ones’. We are still individuals, yes. But also, we are one couple. And we have made one family. That is what make us ‘us’, And that’s what we are celebrating this 16th wedding anniversary.
Happy Anniversary Al – and to many more to come!
* Our Church Minister, knowing my love of control, graciously incorporated the page and a half of notes I gave him as the basis for his message, despite the fact that he had overseen hundreds of weddings in his 30 years of ministering (and apparently no one had directed him to this level of detail before). And it made me feel good to know he would stay ‘on message’. I think it helped with my calmness.
** who, despite the fact it is 10pm as I write this, are fighting with each other in bed – although they insisted they wanted to sleep in the same room. They are very distracting. They can be SO annoying at times (and loveable as well. It’s confusing how two emotions can coexist, isn’t it?)