My lover, my friend

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“WE HAVE WOVEN A WEB, YOU AND I, ATTACHED TO THIS WORLD BUT A SEPARATE WORLD OF OUR OWN INVENTION.”—JOHN KEATS

There is one place that to me is home. It is where I am safe, where I am loved. There are jokes and cuddles, romance, dead pot plants and the incredibly mundane. It is the place that knows the real me, the place where I can entirely be myself. Where my family laugh and cry at times, we support each other and bring each other back to earth. That home was formed when I married my best friend.

I can honestly say that my love story began with a friendship. My husband and I were both fresh out of school in our first jobs, and we found ourselves stacking dinner sets in a department store together. We became fast friends—we talked about everything, worked every shift together for two years, and moped whenever we were placed apart. After working together closely for two years, I had a friend casually slip into the conversation that our friendship may have had something underneath that. Something that explained the pining, the hours spent talking of everything and nothing, the way we would jealously guard our time together. For that matter, the way he cared for me when I injured my ankle at work, and accompanied me to the hospital and held me in his arms in a way that Workplace Health and Safety did not quite require …

As you can imagine, I found that the line between friendship and love is quite a blurry one. At some point one crossed over into the other, and I honestly don’t know when that happened for us. Lunches together that transitioned into dates, squabbles and shared jokes that prompted many to raise their eyebrows at us speculatively. And eventually, after many twists and turns, we had a shared understanding that together was the only place we belonged. We transitioned very naturally from workmates, to boyfriend and girlfriend, to husband and wife at the beginning of 1998. We were 21, endlessly optimistic and possibly a little naive!

Counting 19 years, three children and a dog later; and I am still married to my best friend. We have been together now for half of our lives. We have grown together, and in many ways have grown up together too. Family responsibilities, work and career changes, loss of parents and nervous breakdowns each changed us, and gave us the chance to become closer. We also had opportunities to grow apart, countless misunderstandings and lots of tears—underneath this however, has been the friendship we started out with.

“Friendship grows with common experiences—with shared laughter, and shared battles. With ridiculous stories, personal jokes and two people who relentlessly keep coming back together again.”

Sometimes it’s hard—sometimes the words “I love you” are spoken with gritted teeth, and sometimes we hurt each other. The friendship between us makes us keep coming back together in the harder seasons—it makes us laugh when things become tense, and helps us to work together to raise our family.

I have found that friendship of any kind involves choice. My husband is the love of my life; however, it remains my choice to place him in the role of best friend—to have him be the only one I open up to completely. It is a choice to keep granting access to the innermost parts of my heart—the broken, messy, and intensely vulnerable sides of myself. To trust myself to him, when I am afraid of ridicule, scorn or pain. It’s a choice to keep talking about dreams, to let him reside in my heart. It is also my choice to be his friend—to use encouragement, to love unconditionally; to make sure I can be the person he turns to when he is hurting. If I demand
perfection or performance I cannot be that safe place. I want to be the one who is in the core of his heart, and so I must prove myself trustworthy with the raw places in there.

“The core of the friendship, of the love we have is the fact that we are to be each other’s keeper—to have and to hold.”

In the back of my mind has always been the fact that one day our children will leave home, one day it will be just us again. Our relationship needs to stand the test of time, and even in turbulent seasons we need to stay close. We need friendship; we need to know each other through all the changes our family goes through. We need to remember why we fell in love; remember why we love to be together. As life goes on, we need both passion and friendship—both sides of our marriage need to be cultivated and nurtured.

It’s a choice to search for fun: through budgets, thousands of meals, the washing and school reports—it’s a privilege to laugh together, to talk about the things that we find interesting, and to tease each other as mercilessly as we do. We have always been terrible at making date nights, however we have found that togetherness can blossom anywhere: car trips, meal times, grocery shopping. Boring our children when we insist on a 1980s music marathon. Talking about and valuing our history, comparing our different perspectives.

When I first imagined what love looked like, I imagined heartstopping, constant nerves and swooning. To find myself falling in love with the guy who made me feel safe, who laughed with me, argued with me, taught me to drive and arm-wrestled me was such a surprise—to have my beloved be my best friend. There is no-one else on the planet I could spend every day with, and not grow tired of their company—no-one else I can picture growing old with. He is home for me, and always will be.

 

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