PAULINE and I have been a couple for twenty years. As I write that I feel the need to add an emoji, the one with eyes wide, mouth agape and eyebrows raised to the hairline. No other partner ever managed to put up with me for anything like that long, so twenty years really is remarkable. So remarkable that I’m writing about it here in the Post.
This time we did break with routine and go out for dinner, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. But I laughed my head off when Pauline said she got through the whole day forgetting that it was our anniversary and that’s why we were going out!
So, not the grand wedding for us, even though, thankfully and finally, we could now have one that is legally recognised. Nor the expectation of an expensive outing or gifts reciprocated every anniversary (or birthday, or Christmas). Sure, a birthday kiss, and an extra hug if we manage to remember which specific date in that January we decided to throw our futures into a pot together and see what bubbled up.
Might this seem a little sad? We note that there are plenty of couples who seem to adhere to overt rituals, even to the point of being mightily aggrieved if one or other forgets an anniversary or is late with a birthday kiss. Maybe our attitude looks like disrespect or indicates a weak relationship, but instead we feel relieved of a burden.
We may also be a little unusual in that although we share a mortgage and both our names are on all our bills, we retain management of our own finances. We have our own friends, interests and activities and while we always share news about them we aren’t often engaged with any of them together. Going to social or interest-related events alone is the norm. But if it’s mutual friends or an interest we do share we’re happy to be a couple too. Road trips for our rare holidays are a delight. Usually we’re off to explore other landscapes because we do share a love of nature, and our road trips are highlights in our history.
So while we may not seem joined at the hip, we are united in our commitment. We may sometimes be a little hazy about the exact date we decided this was it, but both our memories of how the day passed are razor sharp, and the month or so leading up to it too.
We both also remember what a roller coaster the first year was. We broke up about four times, and nearly did several other times too. There’ve been times when I’ve been in jaw-dropped shock, and I know Pauline has likewise been in disbelief about something I’ve done or said. Angry words sometimes, simmering tension others. We occasionally feel inclined to refer to our “relationshit”.
Any couple goes through the same issues, I have no doubt at all. Being two women doesn’t make a jot of difference. Every couple has to sort out how they are going to maintain harmony, and sometimes their method looks unusual. For example, we have straight friends whose relationship is a little older than ours who can’t live in the same house together. They’ve tried, but decided that the relationship was more important than the social norm. Consequently they are still very much happily committed. And just last year we attended the wedding of another pair, who also have no intention of co-habiting. The tears of happiness on both faces that day were no less real for that.
Working through the ups and downs of any relationship is a challenge. One issue I think influenced ours for a number of years is that when we met we had both been living alone for some years, and neither of us had lived with a partner before. Not uncommon perhaps, except that we were into our 30s and 40s respectively when we moved in together. At that age not irrevocably cemented into our ways, but our edges certainly knocked into each other and felt pretty sharp for a while.
Twenty years on, many of the edges have smoothed out, though it still takes effort. However by now I’d say it’s more to do with both of us being independent people anyway. Which leads me to comment that an important view we share is that, overall, being independent and having our own ideas, interests and activities is a huge positive. It gives us plenty to talk about over meals and encourages mutual respect for our different knowledge and skills.
But there’s plenty we both enjoy and remark to each other often: the morning sun that streams into the living room and kitchen of the simple house we had built; our garden and the plants and trees we’ve planted over the years, now providing habitat for innumerable birds; and daydreaming about future road trips, maybe even an overseas excursion once we’ve chipped that mortgage down some more. Lots to look back on, so much to look forward to.
Ok, so this year’s anniversary was a bit special. Here’s to us, and the next two decades, or more.