Posted by: Admin | May 2, 2011

When the wedding is over

After the party, reality bites. You’ve done it now – time to get on with making a life together. Whatever you call sacred, family is part of it, and for those who choose to marry, that public ceremony marks the beginning of the creation of a new family.

I shot a wedding on Saturday where, unusually these days, the couple were 18 and 19. The parents were supportive, though apprehensive. The couple had eyes only for each other.

I don’t want to set myself up as some sort of expert on marriage, the ultimate in “smug marrieds”, but I have been faithfully married to the same man for almost 30 years, so a) I know a bit about it and b) I’m nothing if not tenacious! Watching Friday’s Royal Wedding took me back to 1981, watching Charles and Diana tie the knot with my then fiance, just three weeks before our own nuptials. Two years later, our family began to grow.

Naturally, we’ve had our ups and downs over the past 30 years. If you’re married for a long time, you’ll have good years when you feel in tune, and years where your mutual music hits an off beat. The trick to staying married is acceptance of this, and the willingness to ride out the discordant tune. My dad gave me this advice on my wedding day: “You’re always right, Jo. You know that, I know that. But if you want a happy marriage, sometimes you’ll pretend you’re wrong.”

I was just 20 when I tied the knot. Do I feel it was too young? Perhaps. But sharing your life with someone you love is a good way to live, so long as you’re prepared to keep putting the work in. Here, for what it’s worth, is a little of what I have learned:

  • Keep your own interests. You’re married, not welded together
  • As you move through life, encourage your partner to grow, to try new things, new careers, etc
  • Keep seeking the good in each other  – especially when you’re irritated
  • Never lose your sense of humour. If you lose the ability to laugh together, you’re sunk
  • Keep talking. Silence heralds a death knell to any relationship
  • Never, ever belittle your partner – contempt is the Grim Reaper of marriage
  • Develop your empathy muscle. If you can see the other’s point of view, it will give you the insight to enable the next bullet point:
  • Be kind. Kindness is, in my opinion, the most underrated virtue
  • Strive to honour all the vows you made to each other
  • When the going gets tough, fall back on old fashioned duty for as long as it takes
  • Remember: it’s never too late to try
  • Love each other. Sorry to state the bleedin’ obvious, but in the hurly burly of life, sometimes the simplicity of putting the other person first gets lost

If all else fails and you’re still unhappy, give yourself a time frame. Promise yourself, if I’m still this unhappy in 6 months/this time next year I will ask for a separation. Then spend that time doing everything you can to make it work. That way you can look your children in the eye and yourself in the mirror and know in your heart of hearts you did everything you could. Chances are that , if you’ve put the effort in, you’ll find that the orchestra has re-tuned and you move into a new, more harmonious cycle. If not, you can move on with a clear conscience.

I’ve posted this poem before, but it contains good advice and sums up what marriage means to me, so it bears repeating.

“A good marriage must be created.
In marriage the little things are the big things…
It is never being too old to hold hands,
It is remembering to say “I love you” at least once a day,
It is never going to sleep angry,
It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives,
It is standing together and facing the world,
It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family,
It is speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways,
It is having the capacity to forgive and forget,
It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow,
It is a common search for the good and the beautiful,
It is not only marrying the right person, it is being the right partner.”

Wilferd Arlan Peterson



  1. What a lovely post and a lovely poem to go with it…nice to meet you and so pleased I came across your blog this morning..ELiza Keating

  2. Thank you, Eliza – and welcome to project50! I just stopped quickly by your blog. Congratulations on the publication of your children’s book. I hope it does really well for you and that you’re now working on the next one ;0)
    All best, Jo

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