A most unusual way to say I love you

For many years after we got married, I was ambivalent about the act of having got married. This was, in part, a reflection of my father’s ambivalence. He had no ambivalence towards Adrian (he loved him deeply) or the relationship and he got into the spirit of the wedding for sure, but I’ve always felt that he would have preferred if it I’d been more radical in my politics (which is personal), and less conforming.

I sometimes do still feel that I should have stayed not married as a political act. Even while I write to Malcolm Turnbull about marriage equality I feel deeply uncomfortable about the many people whose varied and various relationships are increasingly excluded as we further entrench this idea that long-term, monogamous relationship is valued above all others. Spending seven years in a country where I couldn’t have lived with Adrian without being married to him have made this even trickier to resolve in my mind.

For a while, I tried to convince Adrian that we should get divorced. Not that we should abandon our relationship, but simply that we should no longer be married. Obviously, he never thought that was a good idea. And as time went on, I stopped talking about it because it started to seem like a flippant thing to do, disrespectful to the people who had celebrated our marriage with us, and entirely disrespectful to the increasing number of people I knew who had experienced the deep pain of divorce – kind of the exact opposite of what I wanted to do.

Most recently, in a few random conversations this anniversary has come up for one reason or another and people have said, ‘You don’t hear about that so much these days, do you?’ in that kind of nostalgic tone loaded with moralising. It’s made me feel kind of icky. Relationships begin and end for as many reasons as there are relationships. Some are short, some are long, some begin and end many times over, some end abruptly, some are sparked again years after they ended. Some people live alone because they want to, some because it’s forced on them, some because it’s just where things ended up. Life is messy and unpredictable. When I got married I was 23 (or maybe a few days older than 24). I didn’t even know that 25 years was a thing. Getting here has been a bit of luck, a bit of work, a bit of acting bad, a bit of acting good. All sorts of other things could have happened, but didn’t so this is where we are.

So, ambivalent about getting married, ambivalent about celebrating my marriage’s longevity.

Where’s this going? It’s the weirdest wedding anniversary thing you’ve ever read, isn’t it? (And let me say, it’s not at all what I imagined it would be when I started to write.) Let’s go wherever I’m eventually going via my mother.

The last conversation I had with Mum was about the plans she had for her 25th wedding anniversary in a couple of weeks. That part of the conversation took me by surprise. My parents were not at all into ritual and they eschewed any glorification of family (see above). But her words from that conversation have always stayed with me.

‘Some things are worth celebrating.’

She died a few days after that conversation, meaning that after my wedding, the next time my family was all together was 18 months later, at my mother’s funeral.

Because of reasons, I don’t wear a wedding ring. What I do wear every day and every night is the ring Adrian gave me for my 40th birthday. When I was 23 (or possibly 24) I had lived a simple, uncomplicated life, but when I was 40, life was messy and unpredictable. I wasn’t easy to love. I was in a deep, dark place and I could not see a time when life would ever be light again.

‘What if this is it?’ I said to him one day. ‘What if this is how I am?’

‘It’s okay,’ he said. ‘This is how you are for now. But I’ve known you for a long time. It’s going to be okay.’

It was the first glimmer of light I had seen in a long time.

So this is where we are: He knows the worst of me and loves me still.

It is worth celebrating.