Marriage was a concept that I fell in and out of love with growing up. When I was too young to actually get married, I thought that marriage was a beautiful union of two wandering souls who decided that from that moment on, their notion of this very thing we call “life” would only make sense should their spirits intertwine and-…you get the picture. When I entered my twenties, I considered that it might not actually be my cup of tea and that I was a-ok with that. I would buy a smallholding for myself and my 15 dogs, and set up a small animal sanctuary with goats and chickens, and maybe a resident alpaca. I would go on single gal cruises and take up feminist slam poetry. It would all work out fine.
But, I guess, life had other plans…
So I married my husband this summer. On Monday 31st July 2017 in Fullerton, California, we stood under a wrought-iron alter adorned with bougainvillea in the presence of the officiator, my soon-to-be-in-laws and my parents watching on Facetime from the back of the hall and said a series of words that have now legally bound us to one another for all of eternity. Unless Antonio Banderas comes to claim me, in which case, it’s adios amigo.
1. Did you date much before you met your husband?
Not compared to most people, I wouldn’t say. I’d had a few petty relationships before I met him – dalliances with guys from university and my time abroad, but nothing serious enough to consider marriage or anything like that. I now realise that I had very high and mature standards when I was dating and I knew that if I didn’t meet a guy who could rise to those standards, then I’d rather be alone. I saw so many women just trudging along in unsatisfying relationships because they’d over-compromised and let certain things slide, and I was convicted that that wasn’t going to be the path for me. However, I knew from pretty early on in our relationship that Eric was a catch, and that if I had an ounce of good sense about me, I wouldn’t let this one escape.
2. Did online dating exist and would you have used it?
Yes it did and after a fleeting yet moderately traumatic experience on Tinder, I decided that it wasn’t for me and packed it in within the first day. I wanted an organic meetcute – two gazes meeting over a hot chocolate in a café, us both reaching for the last bottle of elderflower cordial on a late night dash to Sainsbury’s Local, not some creep with an opening line of “Hi sexy wuu2?”
I think we are advancing rapidly into a predominantly online dating culture. It seems that meeting someone spontaneously is a dying trend, and that people are orchestrating introductions more than ever before. Gone are the days of waiting until the date to get to know the person, you can find out the date of his smallpox jab with a bit of light Facebook detective work…
3. Where do you think is a great place to meet a guy?
I think somewhere substantially populated, such as at university or a commuter train at peak time. My best piece of advice is to meet someone where you feel comfortable and confident – if you’re not into clubbing, don’t force yourself to get dolled up and go out looking for a man. Allow him to see you in an environment in which you’re in your element. Some girls like meeting men at the gym because they feel sexiest when they’re throwing weights around the place, whereas some girls (myself included) would rather die than run into an attractive man when they look like they’ve just given birth during a marathon. Different strokes for different folks. But above all, make sure that you’re frequenting locations with actual men in them. Sounds obvious, but there are so many women (like myself) who barely leave the house and then complain that nobody notices them! So the first step is to actually go out.
4. What qualities would you tell single ladies to look for?
In a world of absolute buffoonery, I would say hold steadfast to your morals now more than ever. From watching my nearest and dearest (who are all stellar women, by the way) get screwed over by guileless nitwits who think they’re Mr. Big-Shot because their senseless and grammatically-incorrect satire got retweeted 100 times, I would advise single ladies to resist putting up with anything less than true gentlemanliness. Find a man that treats you like a lady. Not a woman, a lady. There’s a difference. If he uses excessive profanity in front of you, makes crude or sexist jokes, or compliments your physical appearance too soon, make like a banana and SPLIT. Wait for someone whose aim is to make you feel beautiful, intelligent and worthy. And know this, if he ever leaves you wondering about how he feels about you, he’s not that into you. When a man is truly interested, girl, you’ll know.
5. What dating advice would you give to your daughter?
Ooft, at this point, I’d tell her not to bother! Only joking…but not really. As far as dating, I would tell her to look for someone who treats her like her father treats me. I’m not just talking about opening doors and making me cups of tea, I’m talking about a man who makes an effort to stimulate her mind before her body, a man who respects that she is a strong individual with the potential to be more successful than him, a man that supports her and doesn’t treat her well for his own personal gain. I’d tell her to get a man who treats her like the most precious creature on earth. Like she’s something he could lose. Like merely knowing her is a privilege.
6. How did you meet and how old were you?
We met at a vegan restaurant in Madrid, when we were both 24. I had arrived the day before and saw that the vegetarian Facebook group I was a member of was having a meet-up the following day. Being tired from travelling and feeling generally anti-social, I almost talked myself out of going. Thankfully I sucked it up and went, and my husband was there. There were just 7 of us, and he and I were at opposite ends of the table so we didn’t speak at all through the lunch. But he was definitely looking, nahm sayin’. Anyway, at the end of the meal when everyone went to pay, he wrote a thank you note in the guestbook and I complimented his handwriting. The rest, as they say, is history.
7. Did you play hard to get?
Hell yes, girl. Well alright, yes and no. Thankfully Eric didn’t try and get fresh too soon, so we’d established a level of comfort around each other and mutual respect before romantic interest crept in. But I definitely didn’t fawn over him or anything like that. I played it cool. I was certainly interested in him, but only let him know enough to deduce that I was interested in him and not obsessed with him.
8. Did you know he was the one right away? Did he know?
Oh I knew. We both knew, for sure. And the reason why I knew is because prior to meeting him I was a cynical pain in the arse. He made me rethink love, he made me rethink men and shake off that stubborn side of me that was convinced that all men will let you down in one way or another. From pretty early on I knew that if I wasn’t going to spend my life with him then I wasn’t going to spend it with anyone.
Eric: Pretty much. I knew that I wanted to get to know her and that I was curious about where things would go in the long-term, and that I was in it for the long haul. I liked that there was no game playing or beating around the bush. As we started dating and properly getting to know each other, it affirmed to me that she definitely had all the attributes of my ideal partner.
9. What qualities did your husband love about you when you were first dating?
Eric: Well, from the beginning Natalie was very easy to talk to and fun to hang out with. We had an interesting exchange from the get-go, especially since we didn’t even talk during the lunch. She was down-to-earth and never tried to dominate the conversation or command everybody’s attention. Although I didn’t really know her prior to when we first started dating, I felt like I’d known her for a very long time and it felt like we started our relationship on the foundation of a friendship that had developed over many years. I felt that she was very ladylike and traditional and that was attractive to me. She was well-mannered and just an all-round respectable and responsible woman. It just felt right from the beginning.
10. Did you have a timeline for marriage in your mind before you got married?
I did up until I actually started seriously dating men and then realised that they were so grim that I probably wouldn’t ever get married! I just couldn’t picture marrying any of my exes and forging out a lifetime with him. I wanted a little bit of what the movies were like, but couldn’t align that to the kind of men who were interested in me – they were either immature, selfish, emotionally unavailable or overbearing and jealous.
11. Did you have to nudge your husband toward marriage or did it happen on its own?
Heck no, we got married the day after he proposed!
12. Did your parents influence the kind of marriage you wanted?
For sure. I analysed my parents’ marriage to determine what I did and didn’t want to my own to be like. I think that if you have parental figures in your life, it’s a wise idea. My parents have been through a lot in their marriage. They don’t always agree and they don’t always get on, but they’ve worked as a team to bring myself and my brothers up and are still married after 36 years. I think my parents’ marriage has taught me not to bolt as soon as things get a bit shaky – something I think my indulged millennial self has sort of conditioned herself to do.
13. What did you love most about your wedding?
I love that we ran off and did it without too many people knowing. It sounds bonkers, especially since I used to be a wedding magazine editor, but I didn’t want a big hoo-haa surrounding my big day. There was no stress leading up to it, we sailed through the ceremony and then afterwards we went to a lovely Greek restaurant, grabbed an ice cream and played Jenga as a family. It was honestly a pivotal point of my adult life and such a wonderful experience. I love that my mother-in-law was our witness because she has supported our relationship since the beginning and she treated me like her own daughter.
14. What elements of your wedding didn’t matter as much as you thought they would?
It didn’t matter to me that we didn’t have a cake or a first dance, or any of those traditional formalities. We just did the vows, kissed and signed the papers. Bish bash bosh.
15. Is the first year of marriage really the hardest?
I would say that the period of our relationship before getting married was the hardest. Marriage, for us, has been a walk in the park. But the bit before…oooft. We used to fall out all the time. As we were learning each other’s ways of communicating and each other’s love languages, there were infinite teething troubles during the initial stages of our relationship. I wasn’t used to spending so much time with one guy, yet I pined for him when he wasn’t there. I learned that the silent treatment, my default method of expressing disapproval, isn’t conducive to a pleasant marital experience. He learnt that I like to talk about how I feel, and that I appreciate small gestures over grandiose ones. As we were serious pretty much from the get-go, we wanted to iron out any creases as soon as we could so that we could have a long-lasting and healthy relationship for as long as possible.
16. What advice when you give newlywed couples?
My advice is don’t buy into the newlywed myths that float about. Being married doesn’t change a whole lot, especially if you already lived together before tying the knot. It’s a beautiful and unifying time, where your relationship feels strong and successful, but you will still argue, you will still piss each other off and there will be times when you rue the day you walked down the aisle. I say don’t get complacent in marriage; actively pursue your husband/wife, give them reasons to still be in love with you and give them new ones to fall in love with you all over again. Know that you’re a team and that you’re on the same side. Try and make their life easier and more pleasant. And take it one day at a time.
17. If you’re religious how has your faith influenced your marriage?
Neither of us pertain to any particular belief/religion.
N.B. No husbands were blackmailed, bullied or threatened in any way during the formation of this blogpost
What are your thoughts on dating nowadays? Is it something you’re actively involved in or are you officially off the market? Let me know below!