Marriage is a funny thing. I've spent the past 19 years married to my first husband. I adopted this term of endearment a few years ago after encountering one too many women referring to their second husband, first husband and even their third husband.
I was envious. Why should only the serial brides among us get to number their husbands as if they were books in the Famous Five series or dishes at a Thai restaurant? It just wasn't fair.
So Kevin became my "first husband" and I've subsequently confused many people when referring to him or introducing him to others. The natural reaction is to assume I have a second husband. "Not yet. Still looking," I say. Ha-de-ha.
There's a lack of sentimentality to our relationship that would probably not suit a lot of people. He'll never write me a love poem, I'll never bake him a heart-shaped cake and we're certainly not the sort to renew our vows every year as did Heidi Klum and Seal. I must confess to finding such effusive and public displays of affection suspicious. Why the need to ritualistically proclaim undying love for each other? Do they protest too much? Judging by the recent announcement of their split, it would seem so.
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From my perspective, our marriage just seems to quietly work and I've never been inclined to try to figure out exactly why it does. I think sheer luck plays a part and I think the other things that make it successful are elusive, perhaps not easily expressed. Sometimes I superstitiously wonder if it would be tempting fate to try to identify the ingredients. Maybe some things - like rainbows, bubbles and marriages of (fairly) long duration - are just best left unexamined.
When we first got married, I decided that in order to keep our relationship current and valid we ought to keep actively choosing to remain together on an ongoing basis. I found the open-ended and passive nature of the marriage contract somewhat claustrophobic and feared that in failing to undergo regular assessments we could end up decades later joined only by dull habit and lack of imagination rather than genuine feeling for each other.
Yet now - older and hurtling towards our china wedding anniversary - I've discovered that being able to take a marriage for granted is a true luxury. To know that - despite the petty disputes and occasional, um, robust discussion - there's someone always in your corner, always willing to unquestioningly defend you, is priceless.
From the time my friend introduced us in Wellington's Rose & Crown, Kevin and I never looked back. Neither of us asked the other to "go steady" just as neither of us ever contemplated not being together from that moment on.
The following year I shifted to Auckland and moved in with him "just until I found a flat of my own." Twenty-one years and one daughter later, he still occasionally asks when exactly I'm going to find myself that flat. "Give me time, First Husband, give me time," I reply.