Love + Marriage

After "I Do"


Jacqui Henderson explores what happens after your big day.

I have a confession to make. Sometimes, when I’m curled up on the lounge with a book and I’m sure no one is watching, I sneak a peek at the last page. I know; it’s totally shameful. But what can I say? I like to know there’s a happy ending waiting there for me. And most of the time I’m not disappointed: boy meets girl, they fall in love and get married. But what comes next?
Post-wedding day—after my perfect honeymoon tan had faded back to its usual vampire white—I happily discovered that marriage was even better than I had hoped. A kiss as I walked in the door after work, my best friend to cook dinner with every night, new wedding presents to play with and a new word in my vocabulary: ours. Our home. Our finances. Our family. But though it felt like the most natural thing in the world to be officially joined together in life and last name, learning how to continue loving and growing together, especially through difficult times, was a little trickier.
Like most couples, what attracted me to my husband in the beginning were the exact things that now spark our most fiery arguments. He’s practical, I’m fanciful; he prefers winter, I adore summer; he’s a man of few words and I’m a woman of millions. Turns out, after opposites attract, they start asking questions like: “Why won’t he tell me what he’s thinking?” “Why can’t she see my side of things?” “How can we be so very different?!”

While I’m all for a healthy debate every now and then, the realisation that I would be spending forever with the yin of my yang left me feeling ill-prepared. So much so, that I decided to seek relationship advice from those who had gone before: friends, parents, grandparents. And the one piece of advice I heard over and over again was this: quality time, not only with your hubby, but also with yourself.

I don’t know about you, but the idea of investing in time to myself really hit home. I truly believe that a happy marriage starts with one. I might not be able to change or understand my husband at times, but I can learn to be honest with myself about my own needs, fears and, yes, faults, and learn how to lovingly and patiently communicate these to my husband. And by understanding what is truly important to me, I can also learn to pick my battles. The rare pile of washing up? Probably not worth it. But not feeling like my opinion is being considered? Definitely. And after putting this pearl of wisdom to the test, I actually found that I spent more time feeling grateful for my husband’s attributes, like his patience when I leave my shoes scattered about the house, than dwelling on his faults.

The next step, according to my wise and clever sources, was to book a night or afternoon to hang out as a couple. Then book it in for the following week, and the next, and so on and so forth. Having heard this piece of advice a million times before I was feeling pretty smug that, finally, this was something I had an easy formula for. Romantic dinner. Tick. Candles. Tick. Conversation. Go. But though I love a nice romantic dinner out every now and then, I soon realised that it wasn’t the only—or often the best—way for us to really connect with each other and grow together. Rather, some of our most romantic moments seemed to occur against more everyday backdrops. Spending time together cooking, going for long drives and redecorating our home were activities we both really enjoyed and always left me feeling more loved, appreciated and supported than ever. And not only did spending more time together doing what we love help us grow closer, it also resulted in a pretty swanky looking lounge room!

After adding these words of wisdom to my marriage survival toolbox, nothing and everything has changed in our relationship. We are still different from one another and he still has faults. But that’s okay, because I’m beginning to suspect I do too. What has changed is the way we deal with our disagreements and differences. I started to remember how much I love his practical nature, because it means he always knows what to do in a crisis, and how much of a great listener he is. And though life after the perfect wedding may not always be perfect, it really is so much fun learning and growing together through it all.

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