In this week's #TrueRomance column, Anna Whitehouse and Matt Farquharson are celebrating another year of marriage. Or are they?
Does every anniversary come with existential angst?
By Matt Farquharson
When we picked wedding rings, our (male) jeweller asked if I wanted the date etched on the inside of the band, ‘in case you forget’. Anna was by my side, and I gave an indignant huff. It was a huff that said, ‘forget? Forget the greatest day of my life? The day I became bonded in an ever-lasting union of souls? Impossible. And also: she’s right here, dude!’
But before I could form these words, he said, ‘most people forget. It’s normal’. And so he etched it on, and ever since, I haven’t been able to give a convincing answer to, ‘when did you get married?’ without removing it. I know it’s in ‘late August’, but official documents do not normally accept such vagueness.
Anna is no better, and were it not for the cartoonish cards my mum sends us every year, I think we’d usually get to mid autumn before realising we’d missed something.
We’re not alone, either. Four years ago, Norwegian University of Science and Technology released the results of a study of 48,000 people. In it, they found that, while men forget more than women, most of us are as forgetful at 30 as we are at 60. Names and dates tend to cause the biggest blank spots.
‘Every anniversary seems to mark time running away’
And I think I know the reason why. Past the age of about 21, every anniversary – be it wedding, birthday, or something else – seems to mark time running away, rather than an imagined peak that you’re running towards. I might be more content now, more certain of who I am, but I am much less carefree.
Our eight years of marriage has been good, but seeing that number laid bare forces a mental totting up of achievements, and they mostly seem to be grown-up things – mortgage re-payments, job moves, ownership of two children that don’t smell like old dishcloths. I’m happy to be married, but troubled by the marker of time, just like those Facebook reminders that pop up to clarify how much more fun you were having that time your face was a bit thinner and your eyebags less full.
By Anna Whitehouse
Our anniversary is usually marked by a Forever Friends card – complete with amorous poem – from my mother-in-law. This year there was a call from my mum, who said, ‘shall we take the kids for your anniversary weekend?’ I had to ask her what date that might be because it’s not something that has been etched in my mind (despite it having actually been quite fun). I simply said, ‘yes’ because being burden-free for two nights is worth pinning to anything – wedding anniversary or bunion removal.
But why are celebrations edging further down the list? Date of vaccinations for the kids? Done. Date of school term? In the diary. Anything relating to Matt or I seems to get a quick, ‘shall we leave it this year?’ Before ploughing on with the life admin and looking into each other’s slightly sunken eyes for any hint of the person we signed up for.
‘Do we have to career across the Mediterranean Sea in pursuit of celebration?’
And we’re happy. It’s not a case of simply having given up and resigned ourselves to trudging towards the bitter end like a knackered cart horse all too aware of its destination. It’s just, perhaps, we’re all or nothing. For our first anniversary I flew Matt to Milan (via Moscow because flights were so much cheaper) and made him a love cake with his face centre-stage. Anything after felt like he was getting short changed.
That’s possibly where our celebratory plans are scuppered – expectation versus reality. My happiest moments with Matt have not involved careering across the Mediterranean Sea in pursuit of celebration. As saccharine as it sounds, they’re in the small, everyday gestures of appreciation. His delivery of a cup of tea every morning even though it will most likely remain undrunk; offering up a cheeky bum squeeze in the glow of an open fridge. A deep hug when I’ve lost something, someone (possibly myself) and his willingness to sit next to me while I find that thing, person and sense of self again. That is something to be celebrated – and who would say no to a child-free weekend, anyhow?
Also in the True Romance series, why talking about your feelings with your other half is an ongoing challenge