Today, my husband and I celebrate our ten-year wedding anniversary, and we will celebrate in the same way we celebrated our big day – with alcohol, and lots of it.
The things I’ve learnt about marriage in the last ten years are not dissimilar to the things I thought I knew as I walked down the aisle in 2009. In fact, the past decade has only cemented in my mind what I assumed then to be true.
But as new figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal that the proportion of married women in the UK has now dropped below 50%, I wanted to share with you the things I’ve learnt about marriage to explain why I feel it’s still relevant today, or, at least, why it’s still relevant to me.
(Quick side note: If marriage isn’t for you, then I wholeheartedly support your decision. I’ve not written this piece as a criticism of unmarried people, and I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to think that my thoughts on marriage come from a place of judgement. They don’t, I promise.)
Marriage is more than just a piece of paper
I couldn’t say with 100% certainty where my marriage certificate is right now. Quite frankly, it’s not that important because a piece of paper does not justify my relationship or give it greater validity.
To me, marriage is about more than the legalities. It’s about mentally moving from one stage in my relationship to the next. It’s about cementing mine and my husband’s intentions to stay together.
Marriages change as they age
I’d love to say that my ten-year-old marriage is still exciting and fresh and new, but it is (like anything that’s lasted this long) starting to look a little fatigued.
That’s not to say that it is in a bad state. Far from it. My marriage is like the overworn jumper you once bought in a Zara sale that’s now faded and frayed and stained in odd places – not the same as it once was but loved just as much, if not more.
That is to say that over the past ten years my husband and I have faced our fair share of challenges, and subsequently our relationship – our marriage – has had to adapt and change. We’re comfortable living in these changes because we now know that our marriage can go through a hot wash (that jumper analogy really isn’t working, is it?!) and still come out the other side, albeit in a slightly altered form.
Marriage isn’t about the convenience of everyone having the same surname
Marriage, for all its advantages, has taught me about the patriarchal society that we continue to live in. I didn’t change my name or become a Mrs on my wedding day which often prompts people to ask why I bothered to get married in the first place (something I find extremely offensive, by the way).
For me, marriage isn’t about the convenience of everyone having the same surname. Marriage unifies myself and my partner on a deeper level than one which is immediately obvious to others. I genuinely believe it’s a mindset, and I bang on about marital name-changing so much because it’s incredibly important to me that society becomes more accepting of those of us who don’t conform to the tradition of a woman taking her husband’s surname upon marriage.
Marriage keeps couples bonded
Some of you might disagree with this one, but bear with me…
When life became a struggle for us (four years into our marriage my husband sought professional help for depression, and three years ago we found out that we couldn’t have biological children), being married united us in our fight to overcome our problems. It wasn’t the thing that kept us together, but it made us feel bonded by more than just the obstacles that had been put in our path.
“Never go to bed on an argument” is a piece of marital advice that you just don’t need
After we got married, people imparted this little piece of ill-placed wisdom as if it were the solution to every marital problem that ever existed. That’s bollocks.
My husband and I argue more in the evenings when we’re tired than at any other point in the day. Rarely do either of us (particularly me) have the energy or power of rational thought to apologise past nine o’clock. Does this mean that I’m presenting my husband with divorce papers at the breakfast table the next morning? No, it does not.
Weddings are the ultimate form of self-care
Yes, they’re often expensive. Yes, some people get married so they can have a party (and to them, I say: just wait for a big birthday, ffs!). But organising a day for you and your partner to celebrate the love that you have for one another with the people you care about the most, isn’t something to be sneered at.
The daily grind is real. Often we spread ourselves so thinly that life becomes one big to-do list, so let’s not lose sight of the importance of days that aren’t spent doing the things we have to do but doing the things that we want to do with the people we want to do them with. These days won’t get lost in the monotony of chores and routine, they’ll be remembered – and celebrated – forever.