The One Thing that has Surprised Me Most About Marriage

My husband and I been together for nearly 21 years (yes, we were practically babes in arms when we met), married for (almost) 9 of those – and the one thing that has surprised me most about marriage is…

How different we are (and how that’s absolutely fine).

I do wonder if – had we not met ye olde fashioned way – we would have been matched by an online dating agency. On paper, we are – in many ways – remarkably different.

From the tiny, virtually insignificant things (e.g. I like to tidy all the kids’ paraphernalia away at the end of the day so the house feels like a grown-up space; he (reasonably) thinks this is pointless as they’ll only be getting it all out again in under 12 hours) to the big ones (e.g. My heart is most firmly on my sleeve and think the expression and sharing of emotions is, by and large, a good and healthy thing. He subscribes to the ‘actions speak louder than words’ philosophy and shies away from emotional chit chat.

He loves esoteric jazz. Wakes up (mostly) bright and breezy. Has a gym habit. Doesn’t mind the rain. Isn’t a fan of small talk. Prefers to go to bed early (but hardly ever does because he works so hard) and loathes noise (and pillow talk) at night.

I fear I have the music tastes of a teenage girl (ahem, possibly a child as I pretty much always love the children’s choice of music for a post-dinner disco). Take ages to wake properly and am an utter grump until coffee has penetrated the grogginess. Only run after the kids and for buses. Strenuously avoid being out in the rain. Will talk to anyone. Perk up after 9pm and love a cosy bit of chat after lights out.

And yet – it simply doesn’t matter.

It helps that we agree on the Big Stuff (how to raise our children; we have shared values and beliefs; we both believe a marriage (or the equivalent) needs time, attention and you definitely don’t give the best of yourself (and your behaviour) to others and save the crosspatch, worst version of you for your partner.

But these differences – they keep things…interesting. Make us laugh. Roll our eyes affectionately. Make us ‘us’. When I was young and starry-eyed and so naively informed by the books I devoured, I thought that The One and I would have so much in common. That he would share my love of reading in bed and theatre (just for starters). Now I know none of this really matters. That love is deeper, more complicated, rooted in who you both are – rather than superficial similarities. And that love – as a certain W. Shakespeare (I’m a fan; husband is not) said – is not love which alters when it alteration finds. (Although if he does want to catch my obsession with tidiness, that’s absolutely fine by me….)

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