Love and marriage.

I’d like to tell you how we met. I just love a good love story, and it seems like the perfect place to start.

Andy and I met in New York City – in a bar. I was waitressing, he was visiting a friend who was bartending. We flirted the whole night and ended up barely leaving each other’s side for the better part of a week. Our first official date was at Gobo, what used to be one of the best vegetarian restaurants in the city. He wound up mis-ordering and ate a plate of mushrooms (yes, only mushrooms + an organic beer) for dinner which – now that I know him better – is without doubt my favourite part of this story. He’s definitely a very British meat-and-potatoes sort of guy.

If you asked Andy he might give you a different answer, but I knew pretty early on that he was “the one”. Not immediately, but within a month or two.  At the risk of sounding totally unstable, I had a bit of an emotional episode one evening (pre-baby I used to get the worst hormonal – pms related – mood swings) and while crying had asked for Andy’s t-shirt because I was convinced that it would make me feel better. Without a second’s hesitation he took the shirt off of his back and then wrapped me in a hug.

Before we got married and moved to England, we used to live in Brooklyn – in Bed Stuy, near the G train – in a neighbourhood that was rough around the edges and newly gentrified. With it’s grittiness and looming brownstones it was Brooklyn at it’s finest. We used to go out for dinner every night, and I can still taste the homemade mozzarella from Speedy Romeos – our local. Whenever I think back to our time together in the city this is it; with us eating, drinking, and talking into the early hours – and then quietly wandering the streets as we walked home.

Writing this has sent a wave of nostalgia over me. Like all relationships, ours has changed and matured in the years that we’ve been together. This June we will have been married for six years, and together eight! One thing that hasn’t changed though, is that he is still my best friend and the person who knows me best.

Teamwork makes the dream work.

We have our moments, like any couple. We fight, and we drive each other crazy. Sometimes we say things that we regret. But we also work really hard to figure out our issues.

I have an immense amount of respect for single parents. I’m in awe of them and their ability to be present all the time. My reality is that I’m part of a team, one that is made up of a husband and wife. Others may have a team that looks a bit different. Whether it’s two women (or men), grandparents who pitch in, or a few single mothers who help each other out – we all need someone that we can lean on.

Parenting together.

Every family dynamic is different, and we were lucky in that everything fell into place quite easily after Poppy was born (she was an incredibly easy baby). But after Tallulah arrived, man, did that shake us. This has undoubtedly been the parenting stage which truly begun to call into question the strength of our partnership.

Anyone with more than one child will know that the leap from one tiny human to two is pretty spectacular. It doesn’t seem logical, at least it didn’t to me. What I’m talking about here is workload. Emotionally I was much better prepared for Tallulah’s arrival than I was for Poppy’s,  but the new level of exhaustion is unreal, and often it feels relentless. Unsurprisingly, we both feel drained, quite a lot of the time.

We got to a point where we were bickering constantly, and didn’t enjoy each other’s company. It felt pretty shitty, and it led to a conversation that scared sense into both of us. Basically, we had to stop just “holding on” and start working together with some intention. So we opened the lines of communication and thought of a few ways that we could give ourselves some direction. Here they are:

  1. 10 ways we want to parent. This was our chance to each highlight five things that really mattered to us as parents, and to get each other on board.
  2. Disagreements, and the way we disagree. We have created a code word for the moments when we disagree, when we’re driving each other crazy, or when we think one of us is doing/saying something that may not be appropriate for little ears. I had Andy pick the word, and he chose “blomange” which is a french dessert (not that I’d ever heard of it before) and it sounds so ridiculous that we just burst out laughing whenever either of us says it. So, basically, a total mood changer, and a huge success.
  3. Keeping the spark alive. For us at the moment, this translates to grabbing any time we can. Sometimes we even go grocery shopping together just to have some “us time” (oh how times have changed, hey?). When Tallulah is older we will be able to go out for the evening or for a weekend getaway, but for now this is how we’re balancing parenthood and marriage.

Totally unsurprisingly, life feels happier and calmer when we’re working together as a team. As I’ve said before, we aren’t perfect – our marriage isn’t perfect – but then again, whose is? We’ve found that the key to our success is open communication and a mutual effort to understand what the other person is going through. 

My husband has had relatively little exposure to mental illness in his life, and my anxiety (and then later on, my return to study mental health nursing) has been an eye opening experience for him. He’s handled it with a great deal of grace and love, but I also know it has been hard for him. His support is something that I often reflect on, in that many people aren’t fortunate enough to have a person to lean on when they become unwell. It’s a sad reality, and this space can’t even come close to providing the level of support that many need, but I hope that anyone who is feeling down, anxious, or sad (or anything at all, really) can take some solace in the fact that they aren’t alone and it is ok not to be ok.