One tree and not two


I’ve been flying solo this week. That is, being home without my husband and taking sole charge of our girls. He has gone back to his native country, South Africa, for his 25 year school reunion.

Having his own business and working a lot from home we get to spend more time together than the average family do. Whilst his work schedule is more punishing than most, he manages to wrap it around our family life quite nicely so he can be there for breakfast, sometimes pop in for lunch and more often than not bath and bed time during the working week.

To some this may seem an extravagant luxury, to others an unhealthy suffocating schedule. After all not every one suits living in each others pockets and there are times when I definitely agree complacency does breed contempt, which we have occasionally fallen victim to.

Since he left for South Africa on Tuesday lunchtime, with the girls running alongside his car blowing kisses, I can now see how much he helps me being home with the girls, where before I was in denial. The small things really do add up and make my day easier. To illustrate my point I haven’t made 9pm once since he has been gone, so exhausted am I from the demands of running our home, alone. I most certainly wouldn’t put my hand up to be a single parent and my admiration is wholly magnified for those that are. There are just no breaks from the demands of looking after young children until they are in bed and no one adult to sound off with once they are.

Why is it only after something has gone do you really appreciate it? It’s not until he isn’t here, sitting across me in ‘his’ chair, flicking through endless channels looking for something to watch until he settles on some depressing War or Serial Killer documentary before I yell ‘is that the best you can find ? do I see how easily we are now settled into our roles with each other and how we could possibly be taking one another for granted. With the long weekend stretching out before me to fill, do i realise just how much we need each other and how much we rely on each other to enjoy our lives.

After 6 years of marriage and two children, that’s probably a good thing, right? At least I’m lead to believe it is by the Minister who married us.

Just before we were married in Cape Town back in 2009 we had to undergo ‘Marriage Lessons’ a form of couples counselling. The Minister joked that he had a 95% hit ratio with successful Marriage statistics and wanted to ensure he kept it that way.

We went along for three, one hour sessions. We sat in a tiny room with three chairs placed in a triangle shape. He asked questions about us as individuals, as a couple and our thoughts on various subjects; religion, politics, life goals. He interspersed these questions with anecdotes from his own marriage and family life.

At the start of the sessions I rolled my eyes as we went in, thinking it was a lesson to endure. I just wanted him to marry us. After the first session I changed my mind, because talking openly and honestly with our Minister was an incredibly worthwhile and inspiring experiment.

Our Minister was quick to pick up on us being very different, strong-minded individuals. The important thing he noted whilst talking to us was our shared belief of the same overall goals. There was nothing we couldn’t overcome if we showed a willingness to compromise and show respectful kindness to each other. At that point in our lives, a week before we were married, we had that in abundance.

He told us a story of a difficult time from his own marriage. They had a family pet, a dog who was so loved and treasured by him and his wife and their young children. This dog died and the family were bereft and a dog sized hole was missing in their lives which never dried up for his wife. She begged to get another dog, even got the children in on the begging but he refused to be moved and give his blessing. He just didn’t want another dog. He said it acted as a catalyst and began to cause major problems in his marriage. They built a wall of resentment between each other and recriminations were thrown like hand grenades. He admitted that he even considered leaving his family home so big their problems had become, until one day he came to the realisation that his life was never about what he truly wanted, but only the happiness of what his family wanted. That was his true joy, that’s all that really mattered to him, deep down. So he apologised to his wife for the pain he caused her during their arguments and reluctantly agreed to get another dog. The point was he said that he loved his wife more than not wanting another dog and her happiness was his happiness. Of course in time he loved and looked after their new pet, and actually in time this dog became more his dog than his wife’s, where it would sit at his feet in the evening. He says looking back, he doesn’t understand how it came to be a big deal. How easily things could have fallen apart, until he put the needs of his wives before his own. We will not go far wrong in our marriage he said if we remember that, to put one another’s needs before our own, if we can. Advice I often forget but am reminded of in his absence.

On our Wedding Day we had the reading from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres. When I were looking for a poetic interlude during our service I fell in love with the message this verse simply gave and 6 years down the line, home alone as I write this do I realise now more than ever how meaningful these words are for me and how absence has made me appreciate what I have all the more.

Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your root was so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is.

Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being in love, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.

Those that truly love have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two.


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