Last week Matt and I had a couple of nights away. It was the first stretch of time since our anniversary that we’d both had completely available; without meetings or training or trips away. So we grabbed all 72 hours, drove half an hour around the coast and booked ourselves into Chapel House in Penzance (room number 4 to be exact).
On our first night, after a meal out at The Cornish Barn (which I would really highly recommend) we sat out in an unseasonably warm garden, drinking red wine and watching the sea; the boats in the harbour, the moonlight on the water, the stars slowly appearing. We talked about things I don’t remember now and revelled in the feeling of being outdoors on a Sunday, as dusk fell; pleasantly warm, on an October’s eve and with a Monday morning off.
Breakfast was served in the basement. We’re talking thick homemade smoothies, freshly baked granola, bright rainbow fruit salad, warm pastries and a side menu of cooked breakfast that I shouldn’t have indulged in, but definitely did. It was also a pleasure to share breakfast with the other guests around a big wooden dining table; getting to know a little about everyone and what had brought them to Chapel House.
On the subject of food, I feel like I should also say there was a very cheesy takeaway pizza, eaten in our car, in torrential rain with the radio playing loud. There was also mushroom gnocchi and mac and cheese and skinny fries (all the beige foods) and a wonderfully smooth espresso martini. There was a variety of heavily iced cupcakes that got eaten before bed and salted nuts we munched on the side of a cliff, watching waves send huge clouds of spray up into the air as they crashed upon rocks.
Being based in Penzance, gave us easy access to the West of Cornwall. Places that would typically take us an hour to get to, were just 20 minutes away. (In a county as big as Cornwall that’s kind of a big deal). So on Monday, we put on our wellies and walked the rugged coasts of Penwith a.k.a Poldark country. From Pendeen Lighthouse to Portheras and then Porthmeor, all the while imagining I’m dressed as Demelza or better yet that I’m on a horse.
After nights out and long windswept walks in the day, we’d retreat to our room. Sumptuous and comforting, yet also light, airy and refreshing; with perhaps the softest bed and biggest bath I’m yet to encounter. We literally sank into it all. High up in our attic room. It was during these few days away, that I realised, they were turning out to be some of the best days I’d had, in one of the best years I’ve had. A year that has been joyful and charming, in the quietest and most contented way.
I’m not certain quite what I expected from our first year of marriage. I’d not heard many people speak on the topic. But I’d certainly heard a lot about how marriage was hard work. How half of marriages end in divorce these days. And how that statistic increases significantly if you get married under the age of 25. I was familiar with the idiom of “the old ball and chain” and knew what it meant to fight like an “old married couple”. Culturally speaking, whilst marriage seems to be something most expect to do, I’m not sure it’s something great expectation is placed upon. I’m not sure what expectations I held as I entered it, but this past year has probably been one of the best I’ve lived.
Before getting married Matt and I had been together for five years. And both of us being tremendously analytical, cautious people, we’d discussed marriage at length. And during this time of talking, we read (among other things) Gary Chapman’s ‘Things I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married’. (On a side note he’s the same guy who came up with the Five Love Languages – if you don’t know what they are go check them out). And I think it was in this book that he states, that the well-known honeymoon phase typically lasts anywhere between a few months to two years. Looking back I’m not sure I can pinpoint when our honeymoon phase was, but with five years under our belts (coming up to six) you’d think we’d have past it right? That the cold dawn of relationship reality would have set upon us?
I don’t know what to tell you. I’m almost reluctant to write this because I question if it’s gratuitous or self-indulgent or is a somewhat eye-rolling read for those who are further down the line. And don’t get me wrong it isn’t always easy. We’re both stubborn and sensitive and prone to stroppy-silent bouts. We hold differing tastes and opinions and fewer interests in common than is probably recommended. We are both strong-minded independent people, who handle criticism poorly and too often do their own thing without telling the other. We are not perfect people, but we might be as close to perfect for each other as this world has to offer.
Before Matt, all my previous relationships had started with fireworks and furious passion. With Matt, it was different in a way that even made me somewhat anxious at the start of it all. Our love was quiet, climbing in through an attic window, left open in the night. Unannounced and unadorned. Our love was ochre-coloured embers, that over time blew into flame. Blew into the biggest bonfire I’d ever seen. And brought with it a warmth that wrapped itself around me and a light that lit everything up like dawn.
Getting married gave us a sense of legitimacy. We’re now a part of each others families and we feel like more of a team or a unit. Our relationship is taken more seriously – even if our ages raise eyebrows on occasion. But overall we feel closer, having publicly declared our intentions and promises to one another. I’m not sure a piece of paperwork changed much for us, but going through the day, the lead-up and that process, it tied us together in a way I struggle to explain. And as I said before, it’s not always easy. There’s sacrifice and surrender and compromise. But there’s also yet to be a day where things aren’t better; where I don’t love Matt more than I did the day before.