Tag Archives: marriage

my marriage thesis

A dear friend I met during my writing course was married this weekend, under a steely, stormy sky. She asked me to say some things about marriage during the ceremony, because she and I have talked extensively about what it takes. And I’ve thought about it a lot, being a romance writer and everything.

This is what I came up with:

  • One of the most wonderful parts of marriage is the comfort and familiarity of it. But as marriage is so often a contradiction, the opposite is also true: marriage can’t flourish without allowing room to be always new and surprising. Because people are always new and surprising. Or, as I once heard it put: Remember – you aren’t marrying yourself.
  • When you’re married, I have found that love can transform from being a fuzzy feeling, to being implacable – a bedrock you can build a life on, that asks for transformation and trust and acceptance, when those things seem impossible.
  • Which is probably why I’ve found that the single most important practice in marriage is kindness.
  • The most confronting part of marriage for myself – and most people, I imagine – is the fact that you’re promising something you don’t know you can fulfil on. But if you were to vow, “I will be with you until it doesn’t work any more,” that wouldn’t be a promise – it would be a statement of fact.
  • When you commit to something beyond what you know you can do, “I will be with you always”, you are calling yourself to be great. You are creating something entirely new, where all the inconsistencies and complexities of marriage become possible.
  • There’s a line from the move Valentine’s Day: “Love is the last shocking act left on the planet.” I agree. Today you two are taking on something shocking – something worth striving for, and worth being great for.

wedding vows in action

We wrote our own wedding vows. Contrary to what you might expect, mine were full of well-considered guidelines of behaviour for our future, and special k vowed to love me beneath a mountain, by a forest, under a moon.

One of my vows was this:

I will not mistake success or failure in our lives for the success or failure of our marriage.

Today I went for an interview at the Big Issue for a part-time editorial position. I didn’t get the job.

When special k came home, he cuddled me for a while. He told me that it isn’t nice to have someone say, “No. Not you.” Then we cooked dinner together. We carefully planned how we would stuff the zucchini flowers with mozzarella then dip them in beer batter and deep fry them. I watched with admiration as he added the pasta to mushrooms and tomato cooked in shallots and garlic, and he cheered me on as I fried the prawns.

We were closed in the kitchen in the kind of warm camaraderie that autumn brings. I tentatively allowed myself to think, “At least I still have this,” which was when I remembered my wedding vow.

It’s an odd feeling, an odd equation that the human heart makes. I did not succeed today, it says. Therefore I do not deserve the unreserved comfort and enjoyment of home.

I knew, when I wrote that vow, that it would be a hard one to live by. But today I did, and I feel triumphant.

while the husband sleeps…

it’s one of those magical times – an expanding moment of independence within marriage. He gets the rest he needs, I get the time to follow my solitary pursuits and look at naughty comics online.

I’ve just finished reading Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert. Two things are lingering:

1. She and her finace had performed their own private vows to each other, which for them sufficed. I definitely stand on the same side of this line as her friend, who said in frustration, “Marriage is not prayer”.

To her, their private vows sufficed, and it was coming to terms with what society demanded that she found so hard.

To me, her very reluctance to get married makes it clear that speaking your own vows to each other and speaking them legally, with witnesses, are very different things. They had already vowed fidelity to each other, to love each other always, to be kind and true. But something about making those vows legal and official absolutely terrified her.

(I don’t blame her. It is terrifying.)

It’s different for everyone, of course, but I know a lot of people who have experienced the same as me – that getting engaged/married (for me it was really the engagement) changes everything. People tell themselves all the time, “We’re practically married anyway, it’ll just be like a big party to celebrate that”.

But having someone with the authority to do so declare your union official is something else altogether. And there’s something about that particular cultural ceremony that allows vows to really happen. That’s what’s so moving about weddings, right? In that moment, they really are going to love each other forever.

2. It was a long time and a lot of panic before she came across the idea that marriage can be subversive – that it’s a cultural reaction to the human insistence on intimacy, in the face of anything.

This is what romance novels say. It’s what people so often miss about them.

is 25 too young to get married?

Elizabeth Gilbert writes:

I had already made this mistake – entering into marriage without understanding anything whatsoever about the institution – once before in my life. In fact, I had jumped into my first marriage, at the totally unfinished age of twenty-five, much the same way that a Labrador jumps into a swimming pool – with exactly that much preparation and foresight. Back when I was twenty-five, I was so irresponsible that I probably should not have been allowed to choose my own toothpaste, much less my own future, and so this carelessness, as you can imagine, came at a dear cost.

Me and special k got married when we were 26 (he’s only eleven days older than me – the story goes that I pushed him off the cloud, which is how we ended up on opposite sides of the planet).

My vows started like this:

You’ve taught me how to actually love another person, because you’re worth facing myself when it seems impossible. I adore you.

I know, and Elizabeth Gilbert knows, that everyone is different. For me, love launched me into the transformation of my late twenties; it gave me the courage and motivation to face myself. (It still does.) She grew out of it.

What is a good age for marriage?


I’ve just launched into Elizabeth Gilbert’s book about marriage, Committed. I didn’t get very far with Eat, Pray, Love, because her experience didn’t speak to me, so the shabby use of tense annoyed me.

This book is more interesting to me so far, for obvious reasons. I will most likely have a lot to say about marriage in the next couple of days.

For tonight, after an argument with special k (which between us tends to be a tense, rational conversation full of ominous silences), there’s this: Marriage isn’t conducted to some cosmic scale of weights and balances. “Unfair” is simply irrelevant. You try and figure out what’s important and you do whatever it takes.

2 years of marriage

last night me and special k went out to celebrate our 2-year wedding anniversary. Though it’s not long in the scheme of a whole lifetime, I am insanely proud.

(My mother, whose husband takes her out every sunday and languishes when she has to go away for work, is always prepared for the possibility that he’ll find a much younger, more energetic woman to leave her for. She’s very philosophical about it.

My sister recently told her she’s just going to have to come to terms with the fact that Dad’s never going to leave her. I may have inherited some of her matter-of-fact weirdness about the future – in light of which, every day my marriage is still real and lasting is a success.)

I asked special k, “So, how do you feel, two years down the line?”

He pulled a bunch of faces at me, and I thought: Here we go, he’s gone into awkward boy mode, in the face of an intimate, searching question. “Are you going to answer?”

“It’s a big question!” he said. Then he looked at me, loving and vulnerable and said, “Complete,” with a lack of self-consciousness that only love, I think, can utter and hear.

I said, “I think it’s still the most exciting thing I’ve ever done.”

Then we drank a bunch of cocktails that tasted like Old Spice.

human by portions and percentages

there’s a new Aussie show on ABC1 that I’m really enjoying for its indulgence and humour. That show is Rake, about a highly flawed, disreputable barrister in Sydney.

A short segment of dialogue from the last episode has stuck with me.


Cleaver Greene, our anti-hero, has just slept with his best friend’s wife. In an effort to unload himself to his ex-wife, he starts talking about a nature documentary he watched about chimpanzees – how they’re 98.7% like humans.

“There’s this 1.3% disparity”, he says, “that apparently has something to do with our ability to program dvd players, but essentially they are us, and we are them.”

Followed by an ode to the chimp way of life: the women in competition, until they go on heat, which pitches the males into out-and-out war with each other. He bemoans the fact that humans are expected to stay married to the same person for a lifetime, no matter how dull it gets. Then:

“98.7% of us is telling us we’re morons, it’s just this 1.3% – the dvd-programming part – telling us we’re doing the right thing.”

This struck me as such a poignant picture of the human condition. And it really is what marriage feels like sometimes – the tiny, cultivated part of the brain at war with tens of thousands of years of biology.

is mess ever this cathartic?

so I don’t know if it was yesterday’s post that finally inspired me, or whether it was the super-vivid, early-morning visions of what was growing in my sink, but I cleaned today.

Actually, I know what it was. Special k lay so still in my arms this morning in bed, and because I was still mostly asleep I could interpret his stillness perfectly. “Don’t be disheartened!” I said.

And though I could feel how every cell in his body longed to just stay in bed forever, he still got himself up and went off to run a cafe/slay dragons. I dunno, would you be able to have a lazy day after that, if the gorgeous man was paying for you to follow your dreams?

Anyway. Off topic. The point is that aside from all the “averting the apocalypse” stuff from yesterday’s post, cleaning my space cleans my mind. I walk through my flat and my brain is quiet.


So I’m wondering whether, for people who are obsessively clean, creating a bit of mess is ever this cathartic.

some brilliant writing

last night my sister came over to watch the New Aussie Drama Offspring. It was pretty meh. But we got suckered into watching the show that comes after it, and that was a revelation.

The show is Married, Single, Other and there are going to be spoilers, so maybe don’t read on if you were thinking about watching it.

The episode started kind of regular-paced, but was good enough to keep us past some ad-breaks. But by the time one of the women found out at the end that she had an inoperable brain tumour and six months to live, I was clutching special k to my chest and trying not to shake the house down with my repressed sobs.

Ok, so I may be slightly premenstrual, but there was also some incredible writing that went into me having that reaction.

Think about it – I didn’t even know these characters before that one episode. I had nothing invested. And really, even in shows you keep up with, you may think “Aw, that’s sad!” but how often are you really, truly moved and made to feel sad?

The dialogue between the woman and her fiance (who she has two teenage boys with) was flawless. Everyday and quirky in a non-contrived/specific-to-them sense (the private language of lovers and life-long friends).

So when the fiance claims that he will punch holes and make the earth spin the other direction before he lets anything happen to his girl, you get why he would say that, and what it means that he does.

(Oooh, getting teary just thinking about it – how lame!)

It’s the very best of that British self-depracating melodrama.

Oh, and another very original description. Today our nephew described special k’s eyes thus: Kind of brown in the middle like they’re rotten, then blue but like cracked glass.

Er, thanks?

the marriage paradox

as Cheryl pointed out a few days ago in response to my post about love, being in relationship is paradoxical.

Special k encapsulated that very clearly tonight when he said:

You need to do what you need to do, and I need to do what I need to do, and we need to do it together.

Maybe marriage wouldn’t be nearly as attractive if it wasn’t such an impossible equation. There’s something about being human that thrills to the challenge of achieving something that looks impossible.

As Andy Griffiths told my class today, what kids love most is being somewhere familiar (say, the shower) then being put in an impossible situation (you’ve cemented the door so that you can fill the cubicle with water, then you can’t turn the tap off) then figuring out how to get out (climb into the roof, then fall naked on the very important dinner your parents are holding in the dining room next door).

Marriage and psycho bums: one and the same?