Saturday, 1 June 2013

Tales of the Unexpected

As readers of this blog will know - I have recently become a married man. The engagement leading up to the wedding had been for 10 months, but the planning had been going on for much longer than that. Suffice to say, I had a lot of time to think before tying the knot. I had a lot of time to build up my expectations about what marriage would actually be like. These expectations could not have been more wrong.

A question that everyone seems to be asking me now that I am a married man is "do I feel different?" The short answer is "yes", but a slightly longer answer may not quite be what people are expecting. You see, I used to think that Marriage was a very grown up thing to do. After taking a vow, you are not just in a serious relationship, but a committed one too. In getting wed, a couple promises to remain together no matter what.

I have lived with my now wife, Katie, for six and a half years. We have been a couple for six of those (don't worry, you did the math correctly. We are just an unusual couple.) Although, I have never not lived with my wife since I have known her, I do still realise that living together is a big step for many couples. You have to share everything. Not only the good parts, like the bed, but the boring stuff too, like bills and cleaning duties (unless you are a chauvinist or a writer - updating the blog is a brilliant excuse for getting out of doing the washing up!) Moving in together is a grown up and responsible thing to do. If it does not work out, it is also easy for both parties to go their separate ways without too much acrimony.

Marriage on the other hand is not so easy to get out of. A divorce can be very costly, time consuming and stressful. Given the high divorce rate (2 in 3, give or take) it hardly seems worth it. In fact, statistically speaking it is quite a risk. As we all know, anything that is risky is also usually fun. Who doesn't love being a bit reckless every now and then? The question is as to whether the "risk" of marriage also makes it fun. This may sound like a crazy idea, but allow me to explain.

As I stated earlier, I have lived with Katie for over 6 years. Getting married changes nothing to our lives (except Katie gets a new surname). Yet, when I looked at her for the first time after exchanging our vows, I did feel different. I did not feel more responsible, more grown up, but the exact opposite. I felt young and reckless. We had taken a very safe and stable relationship and traded it for one of the most uncertain institutions there is - marriage. All of a sudden, there were so many legal consequences to any possible breakdown of our relationship. In the spirit of Las Vegas - we are now all in. So confident are we in the strength of our relationship, that we have effectively bet everything we have on the fact that our love will last. We did not have to do this, yet we did. Why did we do it? The only possible answer that I can think of is pure, unmitigated romance.

A few years ago when the first of my friends got married, I did not envy them. I thought that they were becoming old before their time, but now I understand. They were not being responsible, they were being rash, reckless and romantic - just like Katie and I are now. So many times I hear arguments against marriage because it is "just a piece of paper". There was once a time when I might have agreed, but not now. Marriage is so much more than that. It is an ideal, it is an adventure and it is also a risk (although very few would admit this when they do it. Even those 2 in 3 who end up divorcees think that theirs will last). We do not do it because we are being responsible or because it is "the right thing to do". We do it for one simple reason - love. It is a lifetime commitment made without giving a thought to the future. We are not thinking that we want to be together tomorrow, but that we are together today and we want today to last forever.

I stated earlier that this is not how I expected to feel as a married man. I always thought that it would age me. That I would finally be a "grown up". The fact that I was wrong about this, not only pleases me, but it reminds me of the greatest tool that I possess as a writer. The unexpected. It is important for a book to not only exceed the reader's expectations, but the author's too. Yes, we need to plan a story, but we also need to allow it to take it's own course. Like all great musician's who perform live, sometimes a writer needs to improvise. We have to stop plotting our story and begin to feel it, to live it and let our hearts guide our fingers rather than our minds. The results may be surprising and unexpected and that is a good thing.

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  1. Congratulations! You have committed to the great adventure. I think one of the big differences between living together and being married is that you are, in effect, saying you will stay together through the good AND the bad times. No easy option of walking out. Instead, you are promising to try to work the problems out, love one another even when it's not so easy, be THERE for the hard times.
    We have been together for 50 years and married for 46 years. It has been the greatest adventure ever. We've had good times, great times and terrible times, but we're still together and we still love one another. Neither of us walked out in anger when we argued and neither of us turned away from the challenges we met.
    Our story is still being written and I hope it never ends.
    All I can wish you is love.
    Thoroughly enjoyed your post, David. Sorry for replying with another!

  2. Thanks, and congratulations on 50 years!