Last week, my SO and I celebrated our 20 year union and it got me thinking. According to tradition we should have a china gift. Or if we consider ourselves modern a platinum gift. The gemstone for 20th wedding anniversaries is emerald and the flower, a day lily. I’ll take the emeralds and day lilies but really? Why?
What is marriage? The Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary defines marriage as the legal union of a man and a woman in order to live together and often to have children. Not exactly a romantic definition. The history of marriage isn’t exactly romantic either. The BBC notes ten key moments in the history of marriage (www.bbc.com/news/marriage-17351133) which I’ve summarised below:
- Marriage was primarily a tool to develop diplomatic and trade ties and played a role in strategic alliance for early tribal groups in Britain
- In the 11th Century marriage was about securing economic or political advantage
- The Roman Catholic Church deemed marriage to be a sacrament at the Council of Trent in 1563
- Nearly 500 years ago, the Book of Common Prayer scripted the purpose for marriage and wedding vows
- Divorce is a relatively modern phenomenon and rare before the 19th Century
- The State became involved in marriage around the 18th Century
- The Marriage Act of 1836 meant non-religious wedding ceremonies could legally take place in registry offices
- It wasn’t until the Victorian era that love became accepted as a foundation for marriage
- Catholic and Anglican doctrine enshrined procreation within the boundaries of marriage. This was challenged with the advent of birth control
- In 2005 same-sex marriages became recognised by the state obviously, in many countries including Australia, equality for same-sex partnerships has not been granted to date
Interesting stats on marriage from McCrindle:
- Marriages in Australia have been rising over the last decade
- The average age for male grooms is 29.9 years and brides 28.3 years
- The average length of marriages that end in divorce is just over 12 years
- One in 5 will marry more than once
- One in 3 will end in divorce
- 77% of Aussie couples cohabitate before marriage
I know, you’re waiting for me to give you some pearls of wisdom. You think I’ll be able to give you a short list of what to do for a successful marriage; that there’s a magic formula. A few years back, when my SO and I were going through a particularly rough patch, I bought a book called “Secrets to a Successful Marriage”. I went looking for it in our bookcase and alas, I seemed to have tossed it. I obviously thought I have this whole marriage thing worked out. Except of course I don’t. No-one does, do they? Marriage, like everything in life, is hard work. Some have it easier than others, some decide to cut their losses and try the institution out with someone else or chuck the whole institution altogether.
Both my husband and I come from a history of failed marriages. Our parents divorced; their marriages lasted a fraction of what ours has lasted. My maternal grandparents particularly hated each other. I don’t think hate is too strong a word in this case. My nana went through many family snaps poking my granddad’s eyes out with a sharp instrument. On days when removing his eyes wasn’t enough she tore him off completely. My husband’s paternal grandparents divorced. On the other hand, my dad’s parents lived to a ripe old age and died within days of each other. My husband’s grandad was heartbroken when his first wife died unexpectedly and too young and never got over his loss. We have a 50% chance of making it I guess.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised that to do anything well in life, you must first relax. Not an easy endeavour when you are wired like me – leaning more towards perfectionism than not. I admit to going at a million miles an hour. Life is best enjoyed when you relax, when you don’t sweat it but still give your best efforts without over-thinking and analysing everything. Life is about the moments and enjoyment comes from leaning into them.
My husband of 20 years is far from a saint. I have not trained him well. He leaves his clothes in a messy pile in a corner of our bedroom. He often fails to fix me a drink. He’s far from romantic. When we decided to get married, there wasn’t a romantic proposal which to be frank, I would have dry retched had there been. But he drove behind me when I took my car in for a service last week to give me a lift home. We stopped at McDonalds and ordered tall caramel lattes. We looked at each other and laughed. We made it. Somehow we’ve been married 20 years and we’re relatively happy. He retains the ability to make me laugh. I still think he’s sexy although I can’t sleep facing him. I don’t want to breathe in what he’s breathing out. Maybe, if we’re very lucky, we’ll grow old together and we’ll still enjoy each other. I don’t have the urge to poke his eyes out of photographs so I guess we’re doing okay. But forget about platinum and china, and even emeralds and day lilies, I’m just happy to have a coffee together.
Postscript: surprisingly my husband presented me with a wonderful gift of jewellery. Unsurprisingly, I opened a packet of frozen mini apple pies and served them with ice-cream. Voila, a romantic I may not be…