I can hardly believe we are celebrating our 10th Wedding Anniversary! It makes me feel quite old looking back at how young, glowing, full of life and filled with hope we seemed that happy day on Hamilton Island... It has been quite a ride and here are just some of the lessons I've learned along the way:
1. Trying to change a man is a waste of time.
It is true what they say. You may be able to improve a man's style, expand his interests and educate him on all things you, but you cannot change who he is, what he loves and how or why he does things. I spent years and years fighting a losing sock battle: they would go into the wash inside out and although I kept reminding Mr P, I convinced myself I was filling them with love as I turned them out right and paired them.... 6 years, 2 daughters and mountains of tiny laundry later I threw in the towel and it makes no difference at all to him. He is perfectly happy to just have a basket filled with inside out, unpaired socks that he can find and pair as required. Ah well, lesson learned!
2. Communication is key for success.
On our wedding day my very wise stepmother, who couldn't be with us on the day, sent a very poignant letter for us to read together that we have kept to this day. It was all about communication, remembering to talk to each other through any hardships and being considerate of the other person's feelings and opinion. We have struggled through some very difficult times and talking doesn't always come easy, but by eventually communicating properly with each other we made it through.
3. Home really is where the heart is.
In the ten years we've been married we have lived in 10 homes across three continents. Even before then we'd moved around a lot and both led a fairly nomadic existence. This can leave you feeling a little lost, lonely, displaced and like you don't really belong anywhere. But we have come to realise that it doesn't actually matter what house we are living in and where we are in the world... As long as we are together - first as a couple and now as a little family - then wherever we happen to find ourselves is home.
4. 'Happily Ever After' is a myth.
As little girls do, I grew up believing in fairytales and happily ever afters. One of the biggest lessons I've learned in life and in marriage is that this is a complete myth. Life isn't a fairytale, the story doesn't end once you get married, you don't close the book, smile, sigh and drift off into blissful rosy foreverness to the tune of an upbeat love song. Quite the contrary, a wedding is only just the beginning. I always used to wonder what happened after the 'happily ever after' and it has been eye opening indeed. Marriage can be beautiful and wonderful but it is also extremely hard work, filled with ups and downs, highs and lows, daily chores and constant compromises. Living happily after the 'Happily Ever After' takes patience and a lot of hard work, but you just create your own fairytale as you go along.
5. Good sons make great husbands and fabulous fathers.
This has been something I have witnessed not only in my own husband but in numerous friends' husbands too. Guys that have a great relationship with their own mothers, that are close to her, caring, thoughtful and appreciative are the ones that not only make loving husbands but also wonderful fathers. Kudos to all of the wonderful women out there that raised such amazing sons and taught them valuable things about kindness, gentleness and treating women with love & respect, as well as vital household skills like cooking and ironing. I thank you, I salute you, I hope that all mothers raising boys nowadays will pass on these vital skills for the next generation of husbands and fathers.
6. The little things are what make life beautiful.
Broke doesn't have to mean broken and penniless doesn't have to mean poor. When all seems lost and hopeless it is the little things that bring you through, remind you why to smile, fill you with a richness no money can buy and make life beautiful. Even through the good times, it is the small daily acts of kindness and simple joys that are the most meaningful. A smile, a song, a thoughtful note, a good laugh, flowers picked from the garden, a walk by the water, playing cards in the rain... It is the little things that all add up to a beautiful life.
7. Kindness is always the answer.
When times get tough, which they undoubtedly do on occasion in marriage, I have learned that getting angry and fighting things out aren't always the best way. Sure, occasionally things just come to a head and that may seem like the only way to deal with it, but by trying to remember kindness - both towards the other person as well as yourself - it puts things in a better perspective and makes solving problems and moving forwards a lot easier. With kindness comes patience, which is a skill that takes practice, but together these make for a much more harmonious life.
8. Sometimes an 'I love you' comes disguised as something else.
Men aren't mindreaders. And as I mentioned above, you can't change them. They are practical, logical and don't possess our multi-tasking, emotional brains. Some just aren't good at shopping, have no idea when it comes to choosing gifts and may not always demonstrate their love in obviously romantic ways like coming home with bunches of flowers or buying the perfect birthday present. (That's what sisters, best friends and clever shop assistants are there for!) But sometimes an "I Love You" comes in the practical form of a full tank of gas before you set out on a long drive, a Sunday morning lie in, an article saved from a magazine that made them think of you or a wheelchair to push you around on a day out when you are struggling on crutches... Recognise them, appreciate them and be happy that you are truly loved.
9. Cultivate independence but also grow great couple friends.
As a married couple it is so easy in the beginning to fall into the habit of feeling like you have to do everything together. You get dragged along to things you're not really interested in, make each other sit through movies the other won't really enjoy and are each other's safety net for everything. However, cultivating a sense of independence and growing meaningful friendships is vital for longterm happiness. We are inherently different species, we enjoy different things and our brains just work differently... Women need female friends and men need male friends so we should encourage each other to occasionally spend time with other likeminded people. Additionally, making great couple friends that you both get along with is one of the best things you can do. These often lifelong friendships are invaluable and will become a part of your married life, will provide you with years worth of good times and fond memories and will be the 'adopted family' you choose for yourselves.
10. Life is an adventure that is unfolding exactly as it should.
Finally, I have learned that too much planning, too much worrying and too rigidly focusing on 'the perfect picture' is fruitless as life simply doesn't work that way. Things change, life happens and if something isn't right you have the power to change direction. Our married life has been one big giant adventure, filled with all kinds of trials and tribulations that have come together to make up ten years of our lives. There is no end destination in sight and who knows what is around the corner?! We have to have faith that things are unfolding exactly as they should, that we are creating our own destiny and that we make our own luck. It is the journey that is worth living and enjoying... And love simply makes the ride worthwhile!
Love Holly x
QUESTION: What lessons has married life taught you? What advice can you share for living happily after 'Happily Ever After'?