I have always been terrified of marriage. That may sound ridiculous: a good marriage is an enviable thing. And I have seen many successful marriages – those of my grandparents, aunts and uncle, an amazing second marriage for my mother after my father’s death. In my family there has never been a divorce; all the more reason to fear that I would be the first to fail. I always thought myself constitutionally incapable of the sacrifice, the compromise, the commitment, that makes for a lasting marriage.
My husband and I first fell in love when I was 22 and he was 27. Marcus asked me to marry him very quickly and, as I didn’t feel in the least ready to settle down, I broke up with him. A couple of years later, my mother and I agreed to invest in his start-up bakery. I found myself working the first 363 nights with him to make it work; and once again we were a couple. He asked me again to marry him – and once more I wasn’t ready to commit. For eight years we confronted each other across a boardroom table, with my mother moderating (the happiest eight years of his life, Marcus is always telling our friends), and – to cut a long story short – we ended up getting married in February 2008. Our daughter Olga was born the following year.
I don’t think even then that I really wanted to get married. I was 36 and hard-working and selfish. Marcus was 40 and even more hard-working and even more spoilt. I did, though, want children in the stable environment that I associate with marriage, and I knew that Marcus – beyond the love that I felt for him – was a man whom I could count on, whom I found immensely attractive, whom I both admired and trusted.
The first few years of our marriage were quite difficult. I was trying to maintain a career that involved being away all week and returning exhausted on a Friday night. I felt that Marcus wasn’t supportive. He, meanwhile, was building a business and had an absent wife, a baby and nanny to manage. He felt unsupported too.
Marcus’s parents have been together for over 50 years. They did not have much money but they brought up three wonderful boys and stayed united on all fronts. Marcus says that his parents never disagreed, whereas I come from a family that debates all the time. The minute I argue with him, he tells me not to shout. I tell him that he has been disabled by his upbringing because he has unrealistic expectations of marriage.
Many things have changed over the 10 years of our marriage. We have had the pleasure of our children and the sadness of a baby that died. We are each very fond of each other’s families. We have a few friends in common and are tolerant of the time we spend with friends we don’t have in common.
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