Recently, there’s been a wedding in the family and it truly was a joyous occasion. I love weddings. I love the optimism they bring. The happiness in everyone’s eyes. The good wishes that everyone automatically feels. Two people – out of all the billions of humans on planet Earth – find each other – and decide that they don’t want to be with anyone else in the world – they have found the person that has inspired them to feel, ‘I don’t want to be with anyone else – I want to spend the rest of my life with you.’
For lots of women and some men, the most exciting part of the wedding is the glitz and the glamour, ‘What’s the bride going to wear?’ ‘What’s the venue like?’ ‘What are the wedding favours going to be?’ ‘Is the food any good?’
I’m not bothered by any of that.
My favourite part of every single wedding, that I’ve ever attended – are the speeches. I remember the day that I got married, my brother’s best friend’s father came up to me and said, ‘Normally, I don’t enjoy weddings, but I loved the speeches that I’ve just heard. They really helped me to get to know you better.’
I suppose it was after hearing that, I paid attention to speeches more at other people’s weddings.
One of the recurring themes that men often talk about, is how marriage is hard! Oh cautionary tales of experienced men, talking about their wives, and explaining to the groom that they’ve got all this to look forward to! Marriage isn’t easy. Several times now I’ve heard men advise the poor, unsuspecting groom, that if a woman says she’s fine – she really isn’t and all hell is about to break loose. This gets the same response each time, the knowing laughs from both sexes – everyone knowing that this is absolutely true.
Those of you who know me, know what I’m like – sometimes I hear things – and I start thinking. I don’t find that advice funny anymore. I actually don’t think it’s fair on men. I used to do that a lot, at the beginning of my own marriage. I’d be seething about something – my husband would ask me, ‘What’s the matter?’ and I would freeze him out, with a steely response of, ‘Nothing! I’m fine!’ And he wouldn’t know what had actually happened, why I was boiling up like an angry volcano…..but most importantly – he didn’t know how to fix things for me. He didn’t know how to make the situation better.
Now, I’m making my husband sound like a saint, aren’t I? I was the angry, ice-maiden wife, and he was the poor, innocent husband, just trying to make me feel better. Well, neither of those caricatures are accurate. If I was angry or hurt – there was a reason for it. What would happen was, both he and I would have to wait until I could talk about things, and then the fallout would happen. By this point, both of us were angry, both of us felt hurt, both of us felt like the other person didn’t understand us – and it would be really sad and unpleasant.
The thing to bear in mind though – is something that I referred to earlier, when you choose to marry someone, you have decided that you want to be with this person for the rest of your life – and the next – and the next – and the next….
So, even when we were furious with each other – that didn’t mean that we didn’t want things to work out. We did. These were teething issues. Neither of us had ever lived with anyone before. It’s actually a really big deal! To go from having your own space, doing things in your own time, only having to think about yourself – to having to think about the other person and having to create a new routine, a new rhythm to which you both need to dance to. Compromises have to be made. Both of you – not just one. Sometimes you don’t want to have to make those compromises – and then what happens? Resentment builds. Resentment turns to anger. Anger makes you vicious. Then?
We always remembered that we never ever wanted to be with anyone else. We always remembered that we loved each other more than words could ever explain. We always remembered that despite everything – we’d never met anyone else that made us feel as happy.
One day, I felt a bubble of anxiety about something brewing up in my chest. I recognised it instantly. I knew what was going to happen. This bubble inside me, was going to grow larger and larger. It was going to transform from a bubble and change into a rock. This rock was going to grow heavy on my heart, and the more I thought about it, I would be feeding and it would grow and grow – my husband would ask me, ‘What’s wrong?’ and I would say, ‘Nothing!’ and the rock would become a boulder and increase in size until I couldn’t breathe or function anymore – and I would explode…
I recognised it. And I did something revolutionary.
Before that bubble could grow and try to engulf me, I spoke to my husband about what was bothering me. I was calm. I was able to explain rationally what was wrong, how I was feeling and could he help?
I think that was the day that I became a true adult. In fact, both of us did.
It was incredible to be able to talk about something that was bothering me, without that build up of resentment or anxiety or anger. I just needed to talk through it when it was small. Not allowing it to consume me. And not having to pretend that nothing was wrong. And my husband? Well, he was able to help me feel better, or fix whatever was worrying me at the time…and you know what is so brilliant? I don’t even remember what I was upset about! I don’t even remember – because it wasn’t allowed to grow.
I was blessed. My husband had asked me to do that so many times before. He had asked me to speak to him as soon as I was feeling, whatever I was feeling, and then he could make things better. I was fortunate that he meant what he said and kept his side of the bargain.
He was also blessed. I stopped being that wife from everybody’s speeches. I spoke to him when problems were small. That way, nothing had to escalate, nothing had to become a drama, and now, whenever he asks me, ‘What’s the matter?’ I absolutely take the time to tell him. Without anger directed at anyone. So we have a peaceful life.
My message to brides – and women of all ages – you are allowed to not be fine! When your husband or boyfriend or partner asks you, ‘What’s wrong?’ Do the guy a favour and tell him. Tell him! Learn to recognise triggers in your own body, when something is bothering you, how do you feel? Speak to him before it grows bigger. Speak to him without anger…And if he doesn’t listen, or tells you you’re irrational, or tells you that you’re just imagining things! Or responds to you with rolling eyes and sighs of, ‘Here we go again?’ You have to start thinking – is this person good for you? Is he really the one for you?
And men – be patient with the one you love. Women are trained to tell you that everything is fine, when you know and they know that nothing is ‘fine’. Explain that you can take honesty – and you will listen and help when you can – and expect the same standard of behaviour in return!
Hopefully, if men and women work together – then we won’t need words of cautionary advice during wedding speeches, warning men of the complicated, double speaking beings that women are. Instead – people can advise each other that marriage and relationships are not easy – but life is a lot easier if you tackle all your problems through talking about things when they are small.
And everyone? Start teaching your children that they don’t need to bottle their feelings up. They don’t need to ‘Keep calm and carry on!’ It is ok to be sad or angry or anxious or worried – let those emotions out of your body by talking about them and getting help. It’s perfectly fine, to not be fine!