Skip to main content

What I've learnt from 30 years of marriage 


J and me, in New York City Hall, 2 April 1993

Thank you for subscribing to The Shift. If you're already a paying member, thank you. Your support makes this newsletter and The Shift podcast possible. Paying members get weekly newsletters, culture round-ups, access to the community and the full archive, and more. All for less than the price of a (large) coffee a month. Prices will be going up at the end of April so, if you're interested, upgrade to paid now!

This weekend, we’ll have been married thirty years. Now I’ve written that down I need to pause and take a moment.

Thirty blimmin years. 3-0.

Firstly, how did I get to live that long?

Secondly, how did anyone put up with me that long?

Thirdly, how?!

They’re such weird things, wedding anniversaries. Something and nothing. And not something we usually bother with at all TBH. They don’t change anything, after all. They’re nothing more than the passage of time. Landmarks acknowledged without much fuss. Our wedding anniversary, on April 2nd (we picked the date mainly because it would have been a source of far too much amusement for our friends and family if we’d married on April 1st). Our “getting together anniversary” on July 4th. Those dates never pass unnoticed, but there’s limited fanfare, fuss – or flowers (as you’ll know if you read last week's newsletter (Opens in a new window)!) – in either direction. Occasionally one of us will buy the other a present but we rarely manage to do it both at the same time. Awkward!

Thirty, though. It’s a lot. Comfortably more than half my life. Five homes. Nine jobs (me). 19 novels (Jon). Six books (me). Two cats. One step/son. One step/grand-daughter. 30 Christmases, 60 birthdays, countless illnesses, crises, bills, holidays. Takeaway curries must be well into five figures. I'm well aware there's more luck in that list than many people have in a lifetime.

Standing here now, as 56-year-old me, looking back at the 26-year-old who, the night before our wedding, dreamt I was marrying someone else, all the while walking up the aisle saying “but I can still live with Jon, right?!”, it’s a vast expanse of time. Whether you think time is linear, a flat road stretching into the distance in either direction, or a twisty coil, all piled up on itself, with each you happening simultaneously in parallel. (A daunting thought, all those fuck ups landing at the same time!) The days when we met, got together, decided it was a real thing, rearranged our lives, budged up to make room for each other, moved in, started to merge our few possessions and build a new life together seem as distant as watching Twin Peaks on an old black and white portable TV in Tottenham in that first flat (and not feeling like a weirdo). Yes, kids, that was really a thing.

To read this post you'll need to become a member. Members help us fund our work to ensure we can stick around long-term.

See our plans (Opens in a new window)

Topic long reads