I’ve read my fair share of romantic novels and seen my fair share of chick flicks. I know love is generally not as dramatic, or happy-ending, or sweet. I would like to think I have a realistic view of love but every time I see a couple whose wedding I’ve been to, break up, I feel like crying inside. Why? How could this happen? In the story-books the wedding is the beginning of the happy ever after but as we know in reality there is so much to life after marital vows. Children, work, finances, among other things make making love work, well, difficult. I guess I believed in a time where every second marriage ends in divorce, that people would make sure they were really sure before taking the step of forever (whether there is a wedding or not, for that matter).
Maybe the generation of our parents and our grandparents would have chosen divorce if they had the means to. Maybe some were unlucky in that they felt that religion, morals, the security of a home and family forced them to stay in a relationship where they were unhappy. I hope I am wrong. Is it silly to believe in forever? I certainly do and I think I work hard to keep the lines of communication flowing so that if any issues do arise, we can work through them before anything could come of it.
I was lucky to meet my husband in high school. In true Pride and Prejudice style, like Darcy, I found him both arrogant and handsome. We enjoyed making fun of each other, played tennis together in a school competition and became firmer friends after a school trip to Japan. Things didn’t really get serious until after we finished high school. We were together for nine months, went our separate ways for a month or so and then once we got back together, that was it. We have been together ever since, going on thirteen years now.
I can see how people who meet each other at a young age could grow apart easily. Between our various jobs, going to different universities, various groups of friends and living in different towns, nothing was ever easy. Our schedules often clashed, so we saw each other sometimes just once or twice a week. When I finished my degree, I wanted to teach in Japan but it wasn’t something Andrew wanted to do. We decided to stay together despite being in separate countries. It was six months with a visit in the middle but we made it through. I had a wonderful experience but also missed him like crazy.
A year later I was in the middle of my first year of teaching when Andrew wanted to travel to Europe for six months. We’d done it before and thought we could easily do it again. I have to say that it is much easier when you are the one travelling to different places. I think it’s easier to miss someone when you are left at home. That six months was one of the hardest we have had ,I think. He called often but I would often finish the conversation in tears because I missed him so much. I met up with him when the school year finished but it was awkward when I met him at the airport.
I had visions of running into his arms but I just felt so unsure. We’d been apart for the full six months this time. . .I guess I was just worried that things had changed. Would I still feel the same? Was he the same person? Was I? I think travelling with your partner will either make or break you. We had an amazing six weeks visiting so many of the sights of Europe but had our fair share of fights over directions, the cost of things and all those usual relationship matters. Everything was back to normal!
I had pushed the marriage question before he had left but wasn’t intent on starting a fight once we were back in the same country together. We had been together for six years and we had talked about starting to have a family before we were thirty. Where did marriage fit into all this? We were going to be twenty five the following year.
“I’m not pushing you,” I said, “I just need something to change. Maybe if we move out together when we get home?”
Andrew seemed thoughtful.
“Yeah, ok. I really was going to buy you a ring over here but I don’t have enough money at the moment.”
Hmmm. . .Well that was something. After this conversation, whenever we went past jewellery stores, Andrew asked me to point out the styles of rings I liked. Oh, well, maybe an engagement was on the horizon when we got back home.
Out of all the cities in Europe, Vienna turned out to be one of our favourites. We visited an amazing museum showcasing the home and fashions of Princess Elisabeth, we ate the most gigantic and delicious schnitzel I had ever eaten, and we were blown away by the beautiful architecture. We had an amazing dinner on our last night there and began to walk back to our hotel. It took us past the gorgeous museum building we had been to earlier in the day. It was lit up, beautiful and orange against the pitch black sky.
As we walked through the Platz, we saw yet again the statue of a man on a horse in the middle of the square. We decided to climb up onto the platform around it to survey the view of the city. It was breathtaking. Andrew had walked around the other side as I jumped off and headed back. The stars were winking down at me from the heavens. I turned around and could not see Andrew.
I don’t know what possessed me or why I remember this but I shouted, “Oi! Let’s go,” to Andrew. What was he doing?
“Come back up here,” he motioned for me to get back up on the platform. I’d just gotten off it. Really? I humoured him. He kept looking behind him, twisting back and forth. What was going on? Why was he acting so weird?
Suddenly Andrew bent down. Had he dropped something? I craned my neck and looked down. Was he tying his shoelace or something? Suddenly he looked up and held up his cupped hands to me. I’m sure he was asking me to marry him but I truly can’t remember him speaking the words, just my answer.
“Are you kidding? Is this a joke?”
I don’t think that was the response Andrew was hoping for but honestly, he had spent the last five weeks explaining to me why he couldn’t propose to me for a while longer.
In his cupped hands was a huge diamond, which he hadn’t been able to have fitted to a ring yet and well, because he didn’t know what size my finger was.
Of course I was saying “yes” but I don’t think it was in the manner he had hoped. He motioned for us to leave.
“No, stop. I’m sorry. Let’s sit down here for a minute and just enjoy the moment”.
There was a bench on the edge of the square where I sat on his lap and he hugged me around my black leather coat. I looked at the diamond.
“Why were you getting me to look at rings if you already had this diamond?” I asked.
“I just wanted to check that you liked this style. I was a bit worried when you said you like all the little diamonds in a row”. He looked up at me. “Your sister was supposed to talk to you and let me know what you liked but she didn’t”.
I laughed. Andrew and my sister had a funny relationship.
“Well, I’ve never worn a ring with anything this big on it so it’ll be hard to get used to, but I love it, I really do!” I added after seeing his eyes narrow at me.
About nine months later I ran down the stairs from our block of flats and got into my little yellow Laser to go to work. I checked I had all my work things, adjusted the mirror and began to reverse our of my allocated car park. I stopped. I could see a tall man with his back to me, in the revision mirror. Wow! I don’t really look at other guys but he looked handsome, from the back anyway. Tall, dark hair, great bum. As I finished reversing, I had to laugh. Andrew came up to my window.
“What are you doing down here, you were asleep two minutes ago,” I said.
“Just remembered we have to put the bins out today,” he replied.
I smiled. “I just saw the back you of you then and was thinking, ‘Wow! Who’s that hot guy? I haven’t seen him around here before! Haha!”
He shook his head at me. “You’re a worry”.
I love telling that story. I already think my husband is the handsomest man in the world but it reassures me that when looking at him with fresh eyes, I still felt that way. Your perspective of the person you love, and love itself changes so much over time. For me, it got to a point where it wouldn’t matter even if I met someone else who was ‘perfect’ for me, they wouldn’t share all the memories and experiences that Andrew and I already have had together. Not that I’d be looking anway.
I’m completely content with the idea of forever. Rather than grow apart, we have grown up together and after living together, getting married and having children, I see a man who is essentially still the same man I met all those years ago but who has also transformed into a wonderful husband and father. I’m not saying life is perfect and that we never have our disagreements, but we still enjoy spending time together, laughing, teasing each other and still say “I love you” many many times a day.
Lesson learned: Love evolves in its own way and in its own time. Happy ever after IS possible, but you may have to change your perspective on love a little.