In the Middle of a Marriage

We had one of those terrible wedding videos, we’re talking pre digital. Our VHS cassette tape arrived a few weeks after the wedding and was played as a source of entertainment for the first couple of years until it was packed away in the back of a cupboard rarely to be seen again. I can’t really remember the fine details now but if I had to recall the general tone I’d say our camera man seemed to perpetually find himself at the back of the room. Everything was shot from a distance with the sound of muffled voices and the wind rattling into the microphone. In amongst the giggles of the bad camera work and the  zoom in, zoom out, focus in, focus out, there is one true moment of honesty and beauty. It’s Uncle Bill.

It’s post wedding, pre reception, on a 46 degree summer’s day. For those in the northern part of the world doing celsius calculations it comes out somewhere between the soles of my shoes are melting, and I don’t think hell is as hot as this on your temperature gauge. And while G and I were off having the most expensive photos we’d ever have in our life the wedding guests were having drinks on the front lawn (the reception was at my parent’s house in the country). Unbeknown to us the videographer was making his way through the crowd asking people if they wanted to send us a message. You can imagine how delighted people were to have the camera thrust in their face while they tried desperately to rehydrate and down a couple of canapés. This was also pre-selfie  before we were all comfortable with putting ourselves in the picture. Everyone looks mildly annoyed and/or slightly inebriated as the camera approaches, everyone except Uncle Bill.

Uncle Bill is standing on the front lawn of my parents house, he’s travelled all the way from his cattle property in Northern Queensland (we’re talking days in the car). He’s happily holding a canape in one hand and the cool change is just starting to make an appearance, there’s a breeze blowing into his hair and he’s having a giggle. Uncle Bill has watched my husband grow up and his advice is gentle in nature, honest in intention, and beautiful when you realise his wife is standing close by. “Hi Greg, make sure you look after your wife, you only get one!”

He’s deadly serious, because in the world of Uncle Bill there is only one.

Now, we all know this isn’t always the case. Marriages fail for a multitudinous of reasons, I have watched friends destroy themselves and others in the most toxic of marriages that just had to end.  This isn’t the case for G’s uncles and aunts – they have all remained married, in fact G and I are surrounded by the eternally betrothed. Earlier this year, before G’s father passed away, my mother and father in law celebrated fifty years of marriage. My parents have also been married for over fifty years, sometimes begrudgingly, but more often beautifully. What does author Peter Fitzsimmons say about his own marriage of 24 years to Lisa Wilkinson? “We don’t have 365 blissful days a year. I say we have 50 blissful days a year, 300 pretty good days and 15 shockers.”

Fifty blissful days.

The beginning of a marriage is blissful, mine was. The beginning of my marriage was exciting and full of sweeping change and circumstance. It was loaded with romance, assurance and excitement. Our life together took off in a whirlwind, we were engaged three weeks after getting together, married 12 weeks later, and on a plane bound for our first move together a month later. We went through the excitement of our first baby, another move, another baby, another move….and while there was chaos and sleeplessness there were major celebrations. Another  christening, first birthdays, another first day of school, first words, first, first, first. So much newness, so much to discover, so much to tackle together. I wince when I think back to how I often openly bragged about our marriage, our lack of conflict, our moments of beauty. That was the beginning.

We are now nearing the middle of our marriage, and like most things the middle has its issues. Speak to any author about the middle of a novel, or a marathon runner about the middle of the race. We are now middle-aged, we have children in middle school, we are working on our middle age spreads while being labelled for our mid-life decisions: cycling, dinner parties, share portfolios and no coffee after eight  “I’ll never get to sleep”.

And where is our marriage? Our blissful 50 days? We have reached middle ground, in the middle of the road. We are excruciatingly honest in our language and we try harder than ever before to meet somewhere in the middle.

A few weeks ago I watched my beautiful husband deliver the eulogy of his father. As he stood at the pulpit I felt immense sadness and pride as I watched him walk through the paragraphs of his father’s life. Tales were told with a giggle, he stopped here and there for a deep breath, and then at the end a gentle sob. He told the story of a man, his career, and most importantly his marriage, for that was certainly one of his biggest accomplishments from beginning, middle and end.

I sent G a text today. “It would have been your Dad’s birthday today, yes?” I thought of G’s Mum, the significance, the first un-celebrated day. It made me want to celebrate every birthday harder, it’s a bloody cliché but they are a gift.

The middle of marriage (for us) is sometimes a slog, I’ll admit it. It’s school pick up at 3 and again at 4 in time for rugby which coincides with softball and car swapping in carparks as dinners are left in the oven. It’s parent teacher interviews where you’ll have to go to that meeting because I have to be at this meeting, and there’s a bill for the school, an emotional teenager, and where is the freaking remote again! It’s hurry up and get in the car but I can’t find my mouth guard and he’s an idiot and she’s so mean and it’s your fault that my life sucks and I hate school. It’s staying up late to pick up kids from the dance and getting up early to get to the field. It’s money, so much talk about money: should we, could we, didn’t we, have you paid the…? Oh, and would you like to have sex now? In amongst the noise?

The middle of a marriage is a magnificent mess, a marathon I wish to keep running through to pretty good, shockers and blissful end.

  • Lisa Ferland

    brilliant perspective!

    • http://shamozal.blogspot.com Kirsty Rice 4kids20suitcases

      thanks Lisa xx

  • Penny

    This post is so incredibly timely.

    A few years ago you wrote about how you met G and your whirlwind engagement.

    At the time I commented about how much hope your story gave me that eventually I would find my Prince Charming. This year I met him. We’ve been together for just over 9 months, lived together for 6 months and have just got engaged. He is funny, thoughtful, caring and without doubt the person I am meant to be with.

    A few of my friends have raised skeptical eyebrows about the whole situation but, reading your post has confirmed to me that it might not be easy and we still have a lot to learn about each other but, we’ll do it.

    Thanks for continuing the hope.

    Penny

    • http://shamozal.blogspot.com Kirsty Rice 4kids20suitcases

      YES! I remember your comment!!! I have the biggest grin on my face thinking about you and your bloke – fantastic news!!!

  • Chris Gerakiteys

    Nice post Kirsty. I’ve just read Alain de Botton’s ‘The course of love’, a book about the real romance of long term love, beyond the heady first whirlwind months. It is a wonderful, real look at this phase of our lives.

  • SaltyBug

    So very true. I remind myself daily sometimes, that it is a hard slog and if we can just get through this day tomorrow brings endless potential for a blissful day.

  • mary_j_j

    Oh Kirsty, once again its 4 kids and a tissue. We’re 10 years in, and well and truly middle aged with one kid whose about to turn into a 10 year old – those ever important double digits, and a the other about to change schools next year. So many other milestones have been passed, some so much sooner than we’d have wished. Peter F nailed it really – I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

  • http://www.lifethroughthehaze.com Cat @ lifethroughthehaze

    We are most definitely firmly in the middle years of our marriage. This is a really lovely description of marriage. I had not hear Peter’s description of a year of marriage before but I do think that about nails it and if we get that then we are really doing very well. xoxo

  • http://www.maidinaustralia.com Bronnie – Maid In Australia

    A wonderful piece. Despite being twice-divorced, I believe in love and I believe in hanging in there. The benefits and the brilliant days far outweigh the shockers. Good on you both for honouring your vows and making it this far. May there be many more anniversaries.

  • mrshanksy

    Love this – we are middle marriage too! And that last paragraph pretty much sums up our life. I’m working full-time at the moment. Leave home at 5:30am and quite often work though lunch so I can leave early to get home at 5pm and get kids to wherever they need to be (sometimes they have to get the bus!) One is on their L’s and needs to drive everywhere so we can get the friggin 120hrs up! 3 kids at 3 different schools…. but we are still having mostly pretty good days! With Wednesday being one of the shockers, I slammed door on my way out (again!) to pick up one child (husband and other children were sitting on lounge doing nothing, whilst I was filling out notes, finding money, doing dinner and laundry) and when I came back the washing was folded! Don’t want to advocate door slamming but by jeesus did that work! Ha!

  • JEANNE GUNSOLUS

    I shared this with my husband and his response – “that sums it up – doesn’t it” ! We have twin 14 year old daughters (so I know about the hour shower you mentioned on the podcast) and have been married 24 years. When friends comment on our “great” marriage – I always reply that it works 80% of the time – my husband had been a bit offended by a B minus grade and now your 50 blissful days/300 pretty good days makes him feel a bit better about me giving us an 80% – which puts us right there with you 🙂 No longer expats – but always open to be expats again. So enjoy your writing – thank you for all your sharing. Jeanne

  • Anahi Brown

    I read this and all I could think was: wow – I can’t wait to read her book!

  • anintrovertedblogger

    Loved reading this! We are in the middle years too!

  • anintrovertedblogger

    Great read! We are in the middle years too!

  • Martha

    Love your blog! please keep writing!