Full disclosure here… Greg doesn’t actually know that I am posting this. I want to share it though as it sums up a lot of our first 20 years together so well. I don’t often give Mr Papa H-F credit for his writing but he has an ability to portray what he is feeling very gracefully (most the time). Love You Mr Greg H-F.
The Love Story
What are the key dates of your relationship? (First meeting, kiss, engagement, moving in together, travelling together etc)
23rd January, 1998 – First meeting, first kiss, had breakfast together then he moved in (technically by then it was the 24th January).
How and when did you meet?
I was at a bar for a friend's birthday and wasn't really feeling it, so I was spending a lot of time leaning on the bar, chatting to the bar staff (who were friends as I had previously worked in that bar). I was basically on my own, while my friends were busy trying to live up to the expectations of a birthday party. Matt walked over and said something like "Don’t I know you from somewhere?". I said "It's nice that we're still teaching you youngsters that line." (or something). He laughed, I laughed. I felt bad that I had been so negative and so I bought him a drink. We started to chat. When the bar closed, I suggested we go get breakfast at a 24-hour pancake place a short walk away. He had a lot of friends with him, but he quickly ditched them (gave them his car and his keys) and we went and had breakfast. At breakfast, the waiter had an outrageous lisp, and when we ordered Orange Juice, he asked us if we wanted it "with or without pith". He laughed, I laughed. Eventually we had to go as neither of us had slept the entire night and when I went to visit him at his workplace (he was managing an ice cream shop) later, we arranged to meet up when he got off work.
A few days later, he went back to his Dad's a short time later to get more clothes. I don't think he's done any laundry in the 20 years since. Actually, I'm pretty certain about that. See, he'll laugh about that. I'll laugh about it too, but it's more of a hysterical laugh than it used to be.
What was your first impression of each other?
That he was too young. That his smile was brighter than the spotlights behind him from the dance floor. That I wanted to run my hands through his daft floppy hair. That he was genuine. He wasn't hiding himself. What he was thinking was not just written all over his face, he was busily projecting it across the room with his charisma. His happiness was contagious, infectious, and it fed the crowd of people following him.
When did you start your relationship?
Yeah, the same day we met.
When did you realise you were in love with your partner?
We danced around the word for about 2 months I think. The first times started in notes and emails (yes, we had email in 1998). We'd use the word "love" but not with a capital "L". We were already living together, fitting our incompatible work lives together by just spending all the time we weren't working together. He was working night/evening shifts in the ice cream shop, but I was working 9-5 in the newly emerging internet industry. So we really had to make the most of his days off and he would come meet me for lunch, while I would hang around his ice-cream shop in the evenings.
I think that it was love was obvious to the people around us long before it was something we spoke about. Matt is a believer in absolutes. I'm pretty sure that once he decided it was "Love", something inside his head flicked a switch or ticked a checkbox and he never looked back. For him, the relationship was now the bedrock of his life.
For me, I have a more nuanced view, I think we are in constant change. For me there wasn't a singular point of realisation, it was incremental change that continues to this day.
What made you fall in love with them?
I don't feel that there was a single event, attribute or element of the relationship that this can be pinned on. Love is the combination of the chemistry and compatibility of worldview. Matt and I come from very similar backgrounds really, but we've evolved to develop very different strengths and weaknesses.
I'm more slow moving emotionally, and (I like to think) reliable and stable as a result of that. I tend to rationally examine my emotions (Matt will say 'too much') and then constantly review and update, correcting the course day by day. Thinking about the long term view is natural for me, and so I don't tend to be too impetuous (or spontaneous).
Matt is more fiery. He feels deeply and suddenly. He is quick to make huge decisions and doesn't ever really doubt his own judgement (I would say 'or think about it properly'). He will make quite important decisions on the flip of a coin and never look back.
These two seemingly incompatible world-views have oddly made life better for both of us. His impulsiveness has led me on life journeys that I would never have had the strength or creativity to do, and my anchoring has helped him not spin off into the chaos that unfiltered direction-changes would result in. Without his impulsiveness, we wouldn't have explored the world, had children or come to meet so many cool people. Without my stability, I like to think we wouldn't have managed to build a stable home for our adventures to be based from.
That's our love story. The incompatibility that turned out to just "work" somehow. He lights up the slow-moving parts of me (as I need them) and I anchor his more impulsive sides in reality.
From his side, falling in love was probably just one more impulsive decision.
From my side, it was a slow building and entirely rational evaluation of an emerging emotional state. Building week after week, month after month, year after year, and every day making sense.
Please share your proposal story – include any funny/romantic parts!
We don't really have one. This isn't a marriage in our 20's. This is a re-marriage. The "will you?" Question was never asked, not by him or by me. When civil partnerships were a thing in the UK, we sort of decided to look into one and said "well, shall we do that? Oh okay, then."
The same for this 20-year review. We regret that we didn't take it very seriously when we got married the first time, and the 20-year point seemed like an opportunity to get the family together, mark the passage of time, and provide us with the opportunity to reflect.
Much like our natures described above – to Matt it was an impulsive "Hey, let's have a wedding!!!" And for me it was more 'I think, on consideration, this is a good opportunity to mark the passage of time and spend some really good time with our very widely dispersed collection of friends and relatives."
What does marriage mean to you both?
I can't really answer for him. I hope he manages to put something on paper, but I don't really expect it to happen (just being honest).
A relationship is something where two people decide they're compatible and share their life journeys for a while. Some relationships last an entire life-time without becoming a marriage, obviously. Relationships are usually the happy meeting of equals. Both parties tend to put in the effort, they both contribute at all times, and while their lives are on similar trajectories, they share (probably) everything.
But the difference between a relationship and a marriage is that a marriage, for me, is a promise to share the life journey, even if it gets a bit shitty.
It's a promise from me to him "I'll look after you, even when it doesn't make sense and I probably shouldn't". It's about the commitment expanding it's horizon from the near future to the far future.
It's saying 'I might be a feeble, grumpy old bastard one day and I will need you to spoon-feed me soup while I am emotional abusive to you and the nurses." And in exchange for his commitment to look after me when I'm far from ideal, then I promise I'll hang around when it's far from ideal for me, when he's studying instead of working, we're broke and his late nights are making the distribution of labour grossly unfair.
It's saying "I will do this. I will put you first, and I will do it because I know you would do it for me."
That's marriage to me.
Anyone can stay in a relationship when you want the same things, you're young, you're full of energy and you have the free time to commit a significant amount of attention to each other. You can give each other space and still have time for each other.
But life doesn't stay like that, especially as we age, we get little miniature versions of ourselves to look after, and if the relationship is going to work (if it's a marriage), you have to be prepared to see the longer view and get through the shitty bits (which might take years).
Describe a favourite memory of your partner?
I struggle to think of one that stands out from 20 years of them. In the first year, he used to talk in his sleep and complain about "8 million mozzies" biting his legs. My sleep pattern was always slightly different to his, so I used to get to watch him sleep at night a lot. That stills brings a smile to my face. That and the one time he washed my car at the back of our house in Carrington Street.
After we moved to London, 18 months into our relationship, I still remember sitting on the park bench outside our flat, while he told me he was homesick and wanted to go back home. I genuinely wasn't sure if that was the end of our relationship. We'd made this big leap and I was busy making the foundation of our new life, and he was starting to regret his impetuousness and miss his friends network. But ten days later he was back in London. I remember that bench because it was when I realised what losing him would mean.
In Edinburgh, we lived across the road from one of those private parks for a while. A nice green area with a few benches and nice grass. Coming home from the pub late one night, he decided to call Australia to tell them that it was snowing in Edinburgh. He let himself into the park, but either dropped his key or couldn't find it. Anyway, an hour of drunk conversation to Australia later, he was locked, inside the park and had to call for me to get out of bed, get dressed and come down and rescue him. He was covered in snow but still very cheery.
We walked the Camino Santiago together in 2005. 1000km on Spanish hiking trails will give you a lot of memories, but I think the high point for me was the day we climbed the highest peak of the trail. We set off the day before intending to get to the base of the climb, but we just kept walking. We were fitter than we had ever been, and we had found a pace that we both liked. It was 10 hours of hiking that day without even really talking to anyone else. I've never felt more "in tune" with him than I did that day.
Moving to France we entered a new phase. Lots of pleasant memories as we built a home and (several) businesses together. Working together brings a new dimension, as does working for ourselves. But we were also pretty isolated as well, not speaking French well enough to make friends. I remember the side of Matt that came out – the business owner – a new mature, leader. I remember being really proud of the person he became – he mastered French finance, law and business management in a matter of months, despite the language barrier, the cultural barrier and having no background.
The fondest memories I have of our current situation in Zurich revolve around the kids. Learning to be parents together. Learning how to cope with these miniature squishy versions of ourselves, miniature people who look a little bit like us and have all our flaws in toddler format.
What do you enjoy doing together?
We have kids. We don't do things together anymore.
What does your partner do that makes you laugh?
He's still a bit hopeless. I quite often laugh to the point of crying hysterically when he tries to do the laundry.
List a few reasons you love your partner.
I feel like I've covered this in my other answers, to be honest.
I love his impulsiveness (even as I hate it). I love his roller-coaster (even as I hate it). I love the fact that he has absolutes and lives in a world with no "grey" zones. Everything is either black or white, there is none of the ambiguity or overlap that wracks my world with paralysis sometimes.
But mostly, I love the fire that propels us into a more interesting life. The impulsiveness that means that every year we have something cool and interesting to look forward to. Something I would never have thought to do, something I would never have wanted, but which, as a passenger on his craziness, I get to live through (even as I sometimes hate it!).
I know, with Matt, I will never be bored, I will never find life dull.
Was there a special reason for deciding the location of your wedding?
He impulse decided. I've never even seen the place.
Has there been any major moments of your lives that you got through together?
Hiking 1000km in 23 walking days.
The usual catalogue of mortality that you would expect from 20 years together – losing grandparents on both sides. Losing uncles and friends over the years.
Moving country (4 times so far). It certainly keeps things fresh, that's for sure. Each time we did that, we largely pressed a reset button on our social network. With each move, we increased our reliance on each other and added a few more people to the list of forever friends who we kept even after we moved.
But probably the most epic journey we went on together would have been the roller-coaster of surrogacy. The stakes can't be higher than when you're making children. Actual, human, people. And then add the distance factor and the way everything felt entirely outside of our direct control. That any relationship survives that sort of pressure, risk and emotion is a bit of a surprise to me. All's well that ends well, of course, but it was something no-one else will ever understand.
What do you envision for your future together?
I think part of the fun is the fact that I really don't know. My career anchors us here for a while, it's a tipping point into things I've aspired to for a long time, so I don't imagine us moving country again in the near future. Which means the girls will grow up here, as Swiss girls, tri-lingual and immersed in European culture. Does that anchor us here forever? No, I've learned not to say the word "forever". My husband says it too often and he never really means it.
We are probably not finished with our career choices – he's drifting from topic to topic, and I hope he finds a calling sometime soon. As the girls emerge from childhood into setting their own course, I think we'll probably follow their lead for a while.
If you could describe your partner in 3 words, what would they be?
Mercurial, intense & loyal.