My best mate’s dad might fairly be described as “old school”. You may know the type: owns a haulage company he started with a single truck; prepares a list of “jobs” for us whenever we go round the house; stubbornly refuses to eat anything containing chloroplasts. He gave me some advice once: “Save up and buy land. It’s the only thing they’re not making more of.”
A few years of reality later and me and my girlfriend realised that another thing they’re not making more of is time. We decided not to wait for things while time passed us by (within reason – we don’t do debt). And so, as soon as we thought about getting married, we did.
In England they tell me I married young. (In Poland, where I now live, it doesn’t raise eyebrows.) I should say from the outset that this wasn’t some Hollywood-style, “Nice hair, let’s get married” decision. We met when I was a month shy of my 20th birthday, went out (people still say that, right?) until I proposed at 24, and married at 25.
Though difficult to admit when I was the most gangsta schoolkid in rural North Yorkshire, I’ve always liked the idea of marriage. Of course, people can have happy, committed relationships without signing a formalised contract, and the main function of marriage, in my opinion, is to provide a sense of stability for children. But there’s also an undeniable romance to it; a noble allure to finding one person and offering it all up to them. And I’m glad we didn’t wait.
(Note: Starting to feel a bit like a Louisianan preacher espousing the wholesome virtues of monogamy, but I shall press on nonetheless.)
The first reason it was the right decision is because I was certain I had the right girl. I knew I would love her forever. Now, here’s where (after finishing vomiting) you might say, “Hang on, how can you ever really know?” and that’s a fair point, so let me break it down into three elements that made me as certain as it’s possible to be. First: I felt as if I knew myself, and was at a settled stage in my development. Second: I’d never stumbled across a single feature of her which made me doubt that we were right for each other. Even if I had, that may not have proved terminal, as we’re told that doubts are natural and can just as easily be proved wrong as they are right. Third: I sensed that my feelings for her were so strong that, even if it all somehow went wrong and disintegrated, the shadow of her would continue to fall across every future relationship I attempted to have, blighting them. In that sense, she felt like “The One” and, even if she should later prove not to be, she stood a better chance of being it than anyone else who might come along subsequently.
Reading that back, it seems like a ton of analysis went into the decision, when in fact what’s perhaps important is that I barely analysed at all. It just felt like a completely natural step. The question simply became: Why wait?
If we’d felt the urge at 24 but elected to wait the mandatory period, what would be to gain from those in-between years?
Like many of our generation, we’d heard the “Wait until you’re 30” mantra. But adhering to that would have meant applying the standards of others to our own, personal relationship – surely a recipe for disaster. Besides, if we’d felt the urge at 24 but elected to wait the mandatory period, what would be to gain from those in-between years? What kind of faith would we be putting in each other – in us – if we both said, “Hmm, this person has done absolutely everything right – now to spend a few years waiting for them to slip up/it to “fizzle out”/someone “better” to come along”?
Reactions were generally positive. My parents seemed chilled but then they are about most things. My older sisters said I was making them feel old. My younger brother forgot to text back. My little sister declared herself ready to be a cool auntie. The prospect of a stag do distracted my close mates from passing judgement. Naturally, there were a few virgins who duly spouted the old “Mate, are you crazy, shagging one bird for the rest of your life?!” line, but I got the sense that was less an opinion and more a “deploy default masculine response” reaction, a confused, half-forgotten instinct derived from the teachings of Snoop Dogg and Stifler from American Pie.
I’m a romantic person. Maybe that’s not cool anymore, but how sad to live any other way. I wanted to get swept to the altar on a tide of passion and romance, wrapped up in the throes of love; not for it to be some sensible, calculated decision arrived at following probation and a comprehensive box-ticking exercise. On the day I married my wife she was to me, without a smidgeon of doubt, the most mind-bogglingly bodacious babe I’d ever seen in all my life. For the record (darling, calm down, keep reading) she still is, but we’re told that may fade with time, and that couples become more like devoted friends. When I look back on my wedding day, I’m glad that it’s those youthful, heady emotions I’ll remember.
So, progress report, three and a bit years on: I think it’s brought us closer. (NB: Please don’t get married in the hope it’ll make your relationship closer.) The knowledge that we did our own thing, together, has given us the sense of being united in our own unique team. Many people, particularly “men” (note the inverted commas), seem to view marriage as toxic to their liberty. It’s been the opposite for us.
Understanding that we have each other there as a foundation has given us a curious freedom, a sense of stability which, for example, allowed me to chuck in being a lawyer so I could spend more time writing novels and her to quit the City to start her own business.
So far, I’ve never had to work at marriage a single day in my life, but if challenging times are to come, I get the feeling they won’t defeat us. I think we’d work harder than anyone to preserve the memory of that young love and everything shared that went into it. And if the unthinkable happens and it does all go wrong, will it have been because we got married after five years rather than 10? Nope. Will it have been a bad decision? Not necessarily. Will it have been worth it? Yes.