Marco and I celebrated three years of marriage last week. I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone, in some ways, and in others, I can’t believe it’s only been three years. So much has happened to us and in our lives since that day that it sometimes feels like a lifetime that we’ve been together.
When we got married, I was 22. At the time, in Italy, and maybe even in Europe in general, that was unheard of. We were just too young. “What are you doing?” my friends would ask me. Another well-wisher felt it would be appropriate to share the old proverb: “Chi non vive prima, vive dopo“, he who doesn’t live before, lives afterward. Not a very promising start to a life together. The week before our wedding I was at the hairdresser’s and a lady told me: “it’s not too late, don’t do it.” Even though in my humble opinion, it was, in fact, too late, I still wouldn’t have backed out for anything in the world.
After a year together I was in England for a summer job and my colleagues asked me if I regretted our decision, and I remember saying “it was the best decision we ever made”. To be honest, that really sums it up for me. But before you get thinking that it’s all perfect and all romantic, let me explain that statement.
Recently, I’ve been studying an old Irish play called the Playboy of the Western World. One of the central themes of the play is real vs. idealistic, which has always been one of my favourite themes in literature. The main character is faced with a decision between two women: the idealist and the realist. In the end, he chooses neither because the idealist is unable to accept the reality of the messiness of human experience and the realist is unable to understand his wish to emerge the hero.
In an academic article I read, the author wrote: “Neither wins Christy [the protagonist] because neither can do both. Christy triumphs in the end because he can dream and do the ‘dirty deeds’ to make his dream come true.”
Now whilst I’m hesitant to compare marriage to a “dirty deed” I do believe that reconciling one’s romantic hopes of love and happiness with the reality of everyday life is the key to a good and happy marriage.
The idealist, when they see after a few weeks or months the work involved, the humanity involved, the messiness, and the difficulty, will become disappointed, bitter, and hurt. The realist, who believes maybe that marriage is simply a contract, misses out on the potential beauty and intimacy. The winners are the ones who can dream, who can hope for an inspiring love, but who are also willing to fight it out, persevere, love their partner even when they wake up every. single. day. without a single centimeter of duvet to cover them (!)
Jokes aside, marriage involves so much work. That’s why, when I see young couples rush into it with just idealistic hope, it does concern me. When I see couples only planning and dreaming about the wedding day itself, it really concerns me. Because there is so much more to it than that. Everyday life is hard, it can feel like the “dirty deeds” I mentioned from the play, it takes 100% commitment.
So while I am no expert, (I will probably never be an expert on such a subject), I can say that I am eternally grateful for my marriage, for a person who has chosen to love me unconditionally, for a person in my life to grow with and grow old with. I hope that we will continue to “triumph” because we are able to balance our hopes and dreams with the reality of life. Without growing bitter, cynical, and filled with disappointment.
So many people who start out their marriages full of hope and idealism end up cynical out of disappointment. I know some people who would even say that it’s better not to hope or have expectations at all, in order to avoid disappointment and hurt. I think that would be a terrible way to live. I think that the hope we have in our relationships is what propels them forward. The belief that life can be beautiful together. The most important thing is the willingness to work on it that goes hand-in-hand with this hope.
The world seems to see marriage so negatively, as a ball and chain or a cage; “settling down” makes us think of people giving up their dreams to start a family. As if marriage and any other sort of ambition are mutually exclusive. Other people think that marriage will solve their problems, that having somebody to love will make everything perfect. I think that both are incredibly distorted views of marriage.
I think that the beauty of it lies in the hardships and the work. If you’re willing to put your cynicism aside and temper your idealism with the reality of what it takes, it can be happy and it can bring fulfillment. Instead of holding you back from your dreams it can help you reach them a thousand times over.
So when I say marriage was the best decision I ever made, I mean everything that marriage involves, the fighting, the apologising, the compromising, the listening, the explaining (which can be hard), the loving, the laughing, the joking, the believing in one another. Marco and I are each other’s biggest fans. I couldn’t be prouder of the man he has become and I know, without a doubt, without having to ask him, that he feels the same about me.
p.s. Thanks to the amazingly talented and beautiful Jannah Whalley for photos that mean the absolute world to us!