I wanted to share one of my favourite and most popular blog posts ever. I wrote it at the very start of this year and the response was overwhelming. It seemed many of you could completely relate to what was on my mind and what I had to say. It's something that's not often spoken about, but it was a topic that had been on my mind for years - about those silent pressures women face to get engaged and married and how women's achievements are often dismissed or shunned. It was a piece that I really enjoyed writing - possibly my favourite - and about the only one that I like to reread from time to time.
It was on this very date last year (December 18th) that Julian proposed. I tell you all about it and the way I'd been feeling prior to getting engaged. I'd been thinking that there was something amiss - with me; Getting engaged and married was never my main aspiration in life and I felt that I was in the minority. I'm not normally the lovey-dovey type when it comes to my personal relationship, but I open up a little here.
Here's what I wrote in January 2017:
Firstly, thank you all so much for your kindness and warm wishes. I tried to get back to everyone individually. I couldn’t believe the response. I suppose it is a big deal and it truly is an exciting time, but there are other milestones and accomplishments that women work hard to attain that I would regard higher than getting engaged or married. I read and shared an article recently that really rang true for me. The crux of the article was that in 2016 being popped the question is or was still more celebrated than academic and professional pursuits of women. Natalie Brooke wrote: ‘You don’t have to have a brain, drive or special skill set to get married.‘ I’ll share the link below. Getting married isn’t the end goal for me.
This has been on my mind for years, but only now is it appropriate for me to write my thoughts on the matter, without sounding bitter – now that I’ve joined the club. It’s for individuals who value other achievements above getting engaged or who have been made feel like they’re the last one on the shelf.
We are not ‘leftover women’.
We were taught to achieve, not to be subservient.
MY THOUGHTS ON MARRIAGE
Marriage was never a priority of mine; It was never that clichéd something I dreamed about as a little girl; never something I aspired to. I often wondered if there was something wrong with me. Why does everyone around me melt at the sound of ‘wedding’. I’d question if marriage was for me. I’d attend weddings and it would upset me sometimes as I’d be genuinely so happy for the couples in question, but couldn’t picture myself celebrating such a commitment. I’d wonder how are they ready? Do they know what they’re in for? How can you be so sure?
People who are so sure of everything and make longterm plans scare and unsettle me a little. I take each day as it comes and don’t like to make rigid plans. Maybe I wish I was more like them – more trusting. Everyone has different priorities. Marriage and kids just weren’t top of my list.
I wasn’t ready for a long time.
I always take the scenic route – in everything I do: study, career, relationships. I don’t rush in or settle for one thing. I’m always a little unsure or curious and have to explore options. When it comes to matters of the heart – I’m very cautious. But what was I waiting for? Something better to come along? Someone to sweep me off my feet?
Maybe I’d forgotten: Julian did sweep me off my feet. It was just a long time ago. Very early into our relationship I remember thinking: This is what a relationship should be like. He gives me plenty of space, yet he’s keen; he is in no way possessive or jealous; he encourages me to do what I want and doesn’t stand in the way; he’s incredibly content in himself and he trusts me.
We’ve been together several years. I can’t tell you how many specifically as we don’t actually have an anniversary as such. We were never counting. I’d just returned from travelling South America when we first met at a toga party, he took my number and 2 months later he asked me on a date! I agreed thinking ‘I’ll have nothing in common with this guy from Sligo, but sure I’m moving to Bath in 2 days so I’ve nothing to lose.’ I was due to start my MA in Interpreting and Translating at The University of Bath, UK.
I kept it casual and wore jeans and a T-shirt.
Our first date was in a cubby in Hargadon’s pub and to my surprise, we really hit it off.
How typical? I moved to the UK 2 days later and assumed that was the end of it.
Later that week, I got a call. It was Julian. I was really surprised to hear from him and it lifted my spirits and my heart. Our weekly phone calls became nightly chats and it was nice to have a link to home. I’m not big on phone calls, but I hated hanging up on him. See, a masters can be a very solitary experience and moving country alone can be lonely.
2008/2009 – I just had to check my CV there. That’s how long we’re together – at some point in that academic year we became an item. We have well and truly wintered and summered together.
The truth is I was crazy about Julian when we first got together. Our honeymoon period lasted years. Then, being together so long, things can become very normal and you wonder where the excitement has gone. We never do anything. We never go anywhere. I think we can all feel this way sometimes, but it’s up to both of you to keep that spark going.
Although we have lived together for almost 6 years, what has brought us closer together over the past year was buying a house together and building a home – seeing it all come together amidst the financial strains. I’m excited for the next project. No relationship is without its flaws or hiccups so I’m not going to pretend that there haven’t been moments of temptation in the past. I’m human. In your mid-late 20s you may start to question longterm relationships: I’m too young, I’m not ready, but now I think that there would be something wrong if I didn’t question. It’s OK to question.
Sometimes you may feel that everyone is moving forward and you’re at a standstill – and that may be your own doing.
When it comes to choosing a dish on menu I can be indecisive – I just want everything on the menu! But, this was an easy decision really.
I’ve made my decision now.
Julian never lets me down. He doesn’t let anybody down. He’s the type of person you can really rely on. Just a really decent skin. Day-to-day we are very very content and that is what counts, I think.
We both had surgery last year and a stint in hospital – another experience that really brings people closer together. He does little things for me like filling my windshield wiper when I’ve put it on the long finger, he hoovers and brings my car to be washed if we’re going on a journey, before Christmas he cleared out one of our attic rooms so I’d have a studio space to make jewellery, he bought a table with raised edges – so the beads wouldn’t roll off – he thinks of things that would never cross my mind. He converted the spare room into a walk-in wardrobe so I’d keep my mess confined (I can’t say it worked). I asked for none of this. This is just Julian.
We’ve all experienced heartache, but trust that there is something better for you around the corner and it will happen when you least expect it. In relationships, we all need people who will add to our lives. You may be a very positive force is someone else’s life, but ask yourself: are they good for me?
A poem I loved learning and analysing in school was Twice Shy by Seamus Heaney. It’s one I often revisited and funnily enough read it Friday night before we got engaged.
Her scarf à la Bardot,
In suedes for the walk,
She came with me one evening
For air and friendly talk.
Had taught us both to wait,
Not to publish feeling
And regret it all too late –
Above are some of my favourite lyrics, but you can read the full poem here.
In my 20s I would shudder at the thought of getting engaged, mainly because it was what others thought we should do. Living your life the way others want you to live is a terrible way to live. All those expectations others layer upon you. You can end up feeling deflated when everyone preps you He’s definitely going to ask you this time – deflated for something you didn’t even wish for – it’s just the expectations of others. Thankfully, Julian knew that I wasn’t ready in my 20s.
Was it a surprise? Yes.
Obviously, being together so long I presumed it would happen eventually, I just didn’t know when. Had he asked me on my 30th birthday, I would have said yes. If he’d asked me last summer, I would have said yes. I’m ready now.
I imagined we’d be on holidays somewhere and I’d be wearing a beautiful outfit or we’d be visiting Bath to do the Bath Half Marathon again, but as it turned out: I was windswept, wearing flats and had my Christmas party the night before – so let’s just say I’ve probably looked better. It didn’t take from the special moment, however.
It was all very normal – which I suppose added to the surprise – a Sunday in Strandhill. We got hot chocolates as normal and went for a stroll to the right of the cannon in the direction of Killaspugbrone. It was a particularly beautiful day. There was no one around, except a lone surfer in the distance. It’s a bit of a daze. I remember what we were talking about, Knocknarea was Julian’s backdrop, I glanced at the promise ring, I heard him out, but I had to be reminded if he actually got down on one knee! He did.
Did he ask my Dad? Yes.
Ok, this isn’t an Instagram-worthy snap, but here it is in all its filter-free rawness.
I love that he proposed at a special place, close to home with family and friends close-by so we could share the news in person straight away and witness their reactions. I also love being able to walk to the spot whenever we want.
The timing was all right. I truly think it’s all about timing. I’m very happy at work at the moment and love our home and lifestyle together.
These past 3 weeks have been a little cocoon of content. I just want to stay here for another while before I hear another have you set a date yet?
Does anything change? I really think something does. You look at the person differently. You become even closer in every way.
THE REAL ACCOMPLISHMENT
I know the real accomplishment of marriage begins long after you say ‘I do’ when you’re able to weather what life throws at you and blesses you with. My parents celebrated 38 years of marriage at the weekend – rearing 6 kids – think of all the storms, successes, laughter, sickness, loss, heartbreak, tears, financial strains, disappointment and joy that they have weathered together. More solid now than ever.
As for Julian’s parents, his Dad still brings his mum breakfast in bed every morning.
Now, if we can achieve half of what our parents have together, I think we’ll be OK.
Although I still have my own dreams and goals, I am excited to embark on this new journey with Julian by my side. We are a team now and it’s reassuring to know that this 1 person actually really loves you and always has your best interests at heart.
Here’s to achieving your own personal goals, waiting until you’re ready and not giving in to those silent pressures.
The article I referred to earlier can be read here.
18th December 2017:
So, it's one year on now and to be honest, it's only in the past 2 months or so that we've had the chance to think about our own wedding and get excited. We were invited to 10 weddings between March and September of this year so our energies and thoughts were elsewhere, I think.
For the first time ever, we've had an actual date to celebrate, so we spent a couple of days in Galway with friends. Jules booked a hotel out of the blue a few weeks ago, but really it was to go to the Connacht game as opposed to whisking me off for a romantic getaway! The dates just happened to coincide. The lads went to the Sportsground, while we did some Christmas shopping. It was such a laugh with our best buds and we're hoping to make it an annual escape before Christmas. We discovered a real gem of a restaurant called Il Vicolo - you should check it out if you're looking for a nice place in Galway. We'll definitely be back. We finished the weekend off with some mulled wine at the markets.
As regards wedding planning, we're slowing ticking things off our list - at our own pace anyway. We've had a pretty laid-back approach, but we've had time on our side. I haven't over-shared or revealed too much in terms of our plans, but maybe I'll save that 'til another day when I've a bit more time off over the Christmas break to write. I'll tell you what I struggled with and what I've really enjoyed along the way - so hopefully that will help some of you who are planning / those of you who are about to get engaged and may not be expecting it!
In terms of my own goals, I'm pursuing them daily - with my online shop and jewellery design. Thank you so so much to all of you who have purchased my designs, have expressed an interest or have taken the time to wish me well. I'm so happy!
Thanks for reading,