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Happy Anniversary.

Thirty-two years ago today, we said "I do."

Thirty-two years - just let that sink in. My husband started the day by commenting upon the time frame - that it was almost as long as a couple of his work colleagues have been alive for. It is longer than some of my friends have been alive for too. When I think back to our wedding day - it seems like a lifetime ago. Fashions, music, culture, aspirations - all have changed so much since, that to step back into that day would seem strange in many ways.

I put together a video montage with 'our tune' playing in the background. Mentioning the tune will instantly transport those 'in the know' back to a different time, a retro era. We took our 'first dance' at our wedding reception to 'Under the Boardwalk' by Bruce Willis. My bridesmaids wore the customary peach and cream outfits of the time, my dress was very much in the style of Lady Diana's - a vision of ivory satin and lace, and every guest took home a tulle bag of sugared almonds that had been lovingly tied up in peach and cream ribbon by a friend of ours. I'm sure many who married at a similar time will recognise such features in their own events.

August 4th 1990 - Nonsuch Manor

So much has changed since those days for us, as you would expect. Happy and sad, exciting and mundane - too much to mention here. Instead, I'd like to mark today by sharing a chapter from my book 'Finding My Way,' which was first published in 2019. I dedicate what follows to my husband for all he has supported me with over the years - thank

you, Stuart.

Who Said Romance is Dead?

I am not generally the romantic type, not given to outwardly flamboyant gestures of love. Often not saying how I feel, perhaps a trait I learnt as a child? I don't actually know. This year I have worked on this, with benefits beyond the bedroom. I can probably attribute my increasing confidence in expressing my feelings and worries to the writing of my blog. More precisely, at the time I chose to share the first few pieces with my husband, it was like taking a cloth to a dusty window and making a little circle for the light to shine through. He commented that he had not fully realised how difficult I had been finding things and from that point on, we began to talk to each other more frequently, more openly than we had in a while. I think the circle in the window allowed us both to see more clearly and to appreciate that whilst we have grown familiar with each other, as you would expect in a long term relationship, you still have to make an effort to look out for one another, to try something new from time to time and to keep on loving each other.

We had let the everyday and the reactionary measures we had to take, coping with the challenges of supporting our daughter, managing both of our stressful working environments, managing the financial and far reaching implications on daily life that hit you through months of building work on your house - all of that had got on top of us. We were unable to see each other amongst all of that clutter.

I am unsure what spark is responsible but during the last year it feels like we have rekindled the flames of passion that had eluded us for a while. What you have together as a couple who know each other intimately, is real love. It may not look like the stuff of a movie reel where you run naked into the woods or surrender to each other on a sun kissed beach whilst the waves lap your entwined bodies. But you have reality - where you sometimes bump noses as you kiss, one of you gets cramp at an awkward moment, but you can hold each other, you can giggle with each other and still, after being together for years, you can make each other happy.


Love and Marriage -

What is love? This is a topic that's long been explored in poetry, music, art, religious sermon even - there are many places you could look for definitions, creative responses to the subject matter or even research papers on the subject.

Well of course there are many different forms of love: from the lusty, magnetic attraction of two people forming a relationship, to the love for a family member, friend or even a pet. Perhaps 'love' also incorporates feelings towards our possessions or pastimes - when you say you love a new dress or you love the sport or hobby that you have taken up? One small word that can mean so many things - shades of meaning, perhaps different grades of love?

But let's not overthink it. We all recognise the feeling of caring deeply about a person, a place, or an object but we all need to feel that we too are loved. That, I think, is the essence of what it is to be human - for to be loved is to be accepted and validated and to know that you are supported through whatever life may have in store for you.

Now sometimes there are grand gestures of love. Gifts given and sometimes sacrifices made to put the one you love first, even if you are worse off for having done so. Thinking about it though, I have come to believe that it is not the grand overstated gestures that really matter - it's the little, everyday, often seemingly unnoticed measures that make us feel loved. It can be a shared glance of understanding, a touch of reassurance, or a message on the way home from work to check if anything is needed. It can be when someone drops everything to listen, offer advice or a simple hug, even though they had a lot to do at the time but they knew you needed support right there and then. The love between two people can often lead to marriage, when those two people have found the courage to declare to the world that they have found happiness in each other and that they want to be together for the rest of their lives. A truly big commitment.

There is a lot of publicity about who has rights to marry or even spend time with each other, depending on what country you happen to reside in. I am guessing anyone reading this may have their own very clear ideas about their response to the question of whether marriage should be heterosexual or should be open to any couples wishing to make that commitment to each other. For my part, when you can see the love two people have for each other, day in day out, then who has a right to deny them from making their commitment to each other in the formal expression of marriage, whoever they may be? For love knows no boundaries and sees no obstacles of race, gender, age or class.

I am in a fortunate position of having been married for a long time and to quote a certain rock anthem, 'it's been no bed of roses.' Well, not if you are expecting a life of purely rose petals but that only happens in the movies doesn't it? Roses come with thorns, that's part of the package and so it is with marriage. There are times when you need space from each other and you can hurt each other with words or deeds that prick like a thorn. But that is where the love truly shows its worth, for that is where forgiveness and compassion bloom. I read somewhere that marriage is about being an effective tag team so that each partner can take a turn in the ring, showing their strength when the other needs time outside the ropes, gathering the energy they need to struggle with their current demon. Certainly the love you have for each other finds new and sometimes surprising depths when life throws obstacles or tragedy your way.

I have also seen at close hand how the love in a long marriage has sustained when the 'in sickness' part of marriage vows came into focus, when my Mum sacrificed so much to look after my Dad through his last difficult years and the courage she showed during his last days, being there for him, to hold his hand and reassure as he passed. So love it seems, gives you strength, courage and a will to carry on through the grief to a place where you can reminisce about all the times you shared together through your marriage.

I did not intend when I started writing this, to look at the end of a marriage but more at the start, for I was inspired to write this after having the privilege of being part of a wedding of two dear friends. The day was made all the more special by seeing their joy and love for each other and how evident their love for family and friends was.

Standing at the start of a marriage they, like all couples, have an eagerness and excitement to participate. They are in those heady early days of being in love and may that long continue. Marriage is not a sprint it is a long distance race and, as my Dad would say about his athletics, save some energy for later in the race and keep your stamina. It is also a team event and so you have to be prepared to pick each other up when you fall and keep going, whether that is a walk, jog or a sudden sprint. With that said, and a picture in my mind of my Dad at a track event with his stopwatch in hand, I wish happiness and unending love to any couple beginning their married life together and say 'on your marks, get set, go!'

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