“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” If, like me, you always felt vaguely challenged by that expression - take heart, there is one day when it rings true, even for procrastinators like me. The one day that would strike me like a 10 tonne barbell sent down from the heavens to finally wake me up: the day we got married. From the moment Ralph and I locked eyes and said “I do”, our lives together became fuelled by a new kind of energy; an alien life force that took this 24 year old fresh faced feminist totally by surprise.
You see, we got married in the 80s. And back then it was fashionable to bag the great conservative institution. As those of you born 50 years ago may recall, this was in the days post Germaine Greer and women’s liberation when marriage was derided as “just a piece of paper.” Or worse, a form of entrapment. So I approached our day with midget sized expectations. In a sense, it felt like nothing more than the next logical step to take in our relationship. After all, back then, when you wanted to have kids, you had to get the ring on your finger first.
So it was to my total astonishment that no sooner had we scrawled our signatures on the marriage certificate, than I was overcome by a tsunami-like wave of relief. Any little mozzie of doubt, fear or hesitation was instantly Aeroguarded out of existence. The colour of our future intensified, all our dreams became vibrant 3D renditions of their former pastel selves. Suddenly the prospect of children, creating our castle in the sun, not to mention a serious income, seemed all the more do-able. As a couple we became greater than the sum of our parts, empowered by this feeling that nothing would or could tear us apart.
Of course, in the decades that were to follow, our relationship would be tested by the estrangement that can come when children demand the attention of one parent over the other. When sheer fatigue transforms the bedroom from lover’s den to the place you plonk yourself to snatch a few hours of precious sleep. Financial problems are the most oft quoted reason for divorce. Losing $3 million in the Global Financial Crisis certainly took us to the brink. But throughout all this, a little thread of love stopped all the pieces of our shared experience from falling apart.
In December last year, Ralph and I walked down the aisle again, this time hand in hand. It was our 30th wedding anniversary and just like the months leading up to our marriage, I was pretty relaxed about it. Little did I anticipate the ocean of emotion that would surge in my stomach as all our closest friends faced us smiling as we took those unforgettable steps all over again. Nor did I imagine how moved I would be by Ralph’s powerful professing of love, all these years later. And how totally unprepared I was, as it turned out, for the sheer enormity of seeing our 3 beautiful girls in their shiny radiance, the fabulous legacy of our married life. We didn’t feel it necessary to say I do a second time. But we did stand there, hands and eyes locked again once more, at 65 and 54, feeling more alive than ever.
Such is the power of commitment.