When Gareth and I got married, there was one couple we really looked up to as an amazing example, a benchmark if you will, of a successful marriage – my parents. They not only got married around the same age as I did (at 24) but they have now been married for over 30 years. Although their backgrounds were quite different (my Mum grew up in Dublin and my Dad in the UK) we admire how they always seem so happy and in love, even after all those years.
As a child, I don’t ever remember them fighting. As the oldest of three girls, I got in trouble a lot (especially as a teenager – yes, I was absolutely terrible) but they were always a team. They never allowed themselves to be played off each other. At the time this was incredibly frustrating (I honestly couldn’t get away with anything!) but looking back that’s another thing I deeply respect about them. It’s definitely something Gareth and I have learnt from them too – we are Team Williams all the way!
So as we’re just over the halfway point to this Marriage Mantras series I thought it might be kind of awesome to have a chat with my Mum and see if she had any secrets to spill. She is also a trained marriage counsellor so if anyone knows what makes for a happy and successful long term partnership, its her!
You and Dad have been married for over 30 years! What’s your secret?
We are compatible on many levels and we like and admire each other a lot, as well as loving each other. We love our family and our friends but we also enjoy being on our own. We want the same things out of life too, despite our very different backgrounds.
Yet we are not identical clones! Our gifts compliment each other so that together we are a stronger team.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt since being married?
We are both loveable, we both have significance and we can make a difference to others. We are accepted as we are – ‘warts & all’ as Dad says…
Why should people get married at all? What’s the difference from just living together?
Marriage is a public, legal, emotional and spiritual declaration of your love for and commitment to each other. Unlike just being in a long term relationship its not easy to get married – or to walk away from a marriage – so it shows your intention to love each other through thick and thin, for better for worse.
Being in a committed relationship can also make a big difference to our self esteem and our sense of being significant and loveable.
It’s inevitable at this time of year. Up and down the wedding industry comes those oh too familiar rumblings through blog posts and tweets about work/life balance, wanting to spend more time with loved ones and needing some time off. As we near the end of the busy summer season, everyone is desperate for a break, a marathon of their favourite TV show and a bloody long lie in.
5. Making Time
But it shouldn’t just be when we realise we haven’t been doing it for a while that we stop and take stock. We need to constantly be setting time aside each and every day for our partner.
When you’ve been married for a while you can easily forget just how important spending quality time together is. It’s too damn easy to get into a routine and to not make the effort to step back, get away from your desk and make the time to reconnect. It can seem incredibly unromantic to have to schedule things like talking, dates and sex, but if they’re happening less and less often maybe it’s not such a bad idea after all.
And while we’re on the subject of sex, let’s not ever underestimate just how important it is. if you have differences in sexual preferences, desire or expectations it will eventually tear you apart. Make sure you’re taking about any issues around the subject before you get married. If you and your partner are unable to, or if your fiancé doesn’t see any real problem when you do, it should be a big red flag for the future of the relationship.
A few years ago, before Gareth and I were married, I became good friends with Hannah*. She was one of those effortlessly beautiful girls, someone who you’d do a double take at if you saw her walking down the street. She was tall, stylish, funny, confident and, quite frankly, everything I wasn’t. We had mutual friends and we hit it off immediately, quickly spending a lot of our time together. She was single and the two of us would go out most weekends, making a little mischief but most of all just having a damn good time.
It was no secret that I was quite jealous of her. I wanted to be her… badly. There was just one thing I had that she didn’t – a long term boyfriend. Girl to girl rivalry is a weird phenomenon, and although I’d never wish anything bad for her, I did feel quite smug in the fact that even though she was so darn right perfect (in my eyes) I was the one in a relationship.
4. Comparison is the Thief of Joy
That all changed when she met James*. Their relationship quickly became serious and they couldn’t get enough of each other. They were one of those couples that were very comfortable being over-affectionate in public. They were clearly obsessed with each other and it showed. Hannah even got a tattoo of his name on the top of her back within two weeks!
It sounds terrible, but I was crazy jealous. Gareth and I had a fantastic relationship, but I was completely envious of their passionate, overtly sexual affair. They would shout and scream at each other loudly in the street but then be snogging uncontrollably five minutes later. There was something so wild and dramatic about their relationship, and in my slightly warped early 20s mind, this seemed very appealing.