Enter Mr and Mrs

Surviving the early years of marriage

With the August issue now out and with it holding our extensive wedding feature we thought we would share a piece written a year ago by Cathy Black on surving the early years of married life:

…So, more than a year’s worth of planning has culminated in a fabulous ceremony and a day that saw you experience the whole spectrum of emotions. This was followed by an amazing honeymoon, your first holiday as Mr and Mrs. You have now landed back in sunny Britain (if you chose to Honeymoon abroad) and the hard work is about to start writes Cathy Black.

Nobody can ever really prepare you for being married.

In many respects nothing really changes. Yes, you have a new name and have a commitment from your soulmate, but in reality; you will still be living together in the same house, going to the same jobs and enjoying the same things you did before you walked down the aisle together. It is important to remember that you were happy doing this before you got married so there is no reason why this shouldn’t be the same now. It is easy to get stuck with the mind-set that everything will and should change once you are married.

This simply isn’t true.

Before I married my husband Crian, we had been together for five years, so I thought that there was very little I didn’t know about him. He was loving, caring and a self-confessed geek, enjoying war gaming in his spare time. He was also much more sporty then I, practicing tai-chi daily. I was completely prepared to become a martial art and war-game widow!

For the most part I was right, but that doesn’t mean that life hasn’t thrown a few curved balls our way. Struggling to find a job that suited his character had started to become a noticeable struggle before we got married, but this came to a head in the first few months after we said our vows.

After almost nine months of appointments he was finally diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome – a high functioning autism spectrum disorder. This diagnosis suddenly made a lot of things make sense: his lack of empathy, seemingly taking forever to get to the point when having a conversation, the struggles he had working with lots of people and the fact that we had never had an argument (it just isn’t logical to him!).

Even though Crian had always had this condition it didn’t make the diagnoses any easier, particularly as I was pregnant at this time with our first child! The hardest part was hearing my new husband say that it would be easier if he lived on his own in a shed! This is most definitely not what you want to hear less than a year into your marriage! All sorts ran through my mind at this point; was it me? Had I done something wrong? Was I really that difficult to live with? It was a very difficult point during the first tentative year of marriage.

Whilst it would have been easy to bury my head in the sand and pretend it was not happening, this would have been selfish and it would not have been good for either me or for the future of our relationship. Instead I armed myself with research; I read books, internet articles and watched documentaries on the subject.

What I did find, and how I respond to the question: ‘How can you live with a man who does not have the capacity to feel emotions as you do and who cannot love you in the same way as you do? is simple, he chose me. It sounds a little clichéd perhaps, and many can say that their partner chose them, but when you realise that your husband has never chosen to have anyone in his life, and would prefer not to, then that makes you feel very special. He makes exceptional sacrifices every single day to simply have me in his life. He is constantly forcing back that sometimes not so little voice that tells him to run, and that it would all be so much easier to not be with me at all.

This is not to say that I haven’t also had to make sacrifices to accommodate Crian’s condition. I work, whilst my husband looks after the house and the children, we now have two! I have been the one that has missed out on some of their firsts and they both much prefer daddy when they hurt themselves! But at the end of the day, it is what works best for our family and considering the everyday struggle Crian has to go through just to survive; I consider it an honour and privilege to be in the position where I can work to support the four of us. It is silly to go into a marriage without thinking that sacrifices won’t have to be made by both parties in order to keep it successful.

Although this is just one of the struggles we have come up against, we have solidly made it to five years of marriage and ten years together. We have survived a house move, an Asperger’s diagnosis, two children and countless people thinking we couldn’t do it. Although I do not have the experience of my parents, who have almost 40 years of marriage under their belt, I fully believe that it is the work that you put in at the early stage of a marriage that will ensure that you do reach this milestone and more.

You may be thinking what does this anecdote have to do with our marriage?

Ok, maybe nothing specifically, but every marriage is unique and will come up against struggles you wouldn’t have imagined, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t work through them and be stronger because of them.

Even though in the big scheme of things, I am only at the start of my marriage there are a few things that have kept our marriage and relationship strong;

  • Talking – it seems obvious, I suppose, but a little niggle you have that you don’t talk about may drive a massive wedge in between your relationship. It is not imperative to have the same opinion on something, but you do have to recognise and acknowledge that it is ok not to agree on everything all the time.
  • Think before you argue – Is whatever you’re upset about really worth hurting the one you love over? Would talking about your problem not work better?
  • Don’t forget who you are – Never lose what makes you, you. I have not, and would never ask my husband to give up wargaming or tai chi, just as he would never ask me to give up ‘Hollyoaks’ and photography! It is these little differences that made you fall for each other in the first place.
  • Have a date night – Still make the effort to have a date night every so often. Even though we now have children we still make sure that Friday night is date night. Although this may not be going out to all the places we used to go, we do always pick a film to watch and have a meal together after the children are in bed.
  • Notice the little things – Make the most of the little things; notice the loving smile that your partner throws your way daily or the fact that they make you a cup of tea (this did take Crian a number of years to do for me, as it never occurred to him to make me a cup as he didn’t drink it himself!). These are the things that so often go underappreciated and un-noticed once you have been with someone for a while but it is these things that show your partner cares.
  • Never forget how your romance started – Crian and I still reminisce about how our relationship started and about how he was late for our first date (although he believes that he wasn’t – we agree to disagree on this point!) He also had remnants of fake blood in his beard from a film he was acting in at University! This all made for a very memorable first date. This is your history; these are the moments that got you to the point you find yourself at now as Mr and Mrs.

It is not a lie to say that marriage is hard, but then no one ever said it was going to be easy and what’s more, nothing that’s worth having ever is.