This year my husband Jules and I celebrated 17 years of marriage and 19 years as a couple.
Rewind to 2001 when I was a 22-year-old backpacker working as a waitress at Customs House in Sydney and I told my mate Carrie that I fancied the cheeky blonde Aussie barman.
After a drunken post-work pash with said barman, our first official date was at a budget Indian restaurant in Surry Hills. Jules picked me up in his beat-up car with a surf board and guitar slung in the back and a six-pack of cold beer on the dash. I was smitten from the very start.
Side note: Things people never say at weddings. Post continues below.
In the nearly two decades since that first date, we have had some devastatingly hard times but also a lot of fun and laughter. While we have no secrets when it comes to our (mostly) happy marriage, here are the 17 most important things I have learnt over the years.
1. Book in time together – no kids allowed.
Date nights within long term relationships often cop criticism for being cheesy or just too much like hard work, but regular ‘grown-up only’ fun has been important to us, especially since the kids arrived.
It isn’t often glitzy or even that long, but getting out for a walk, a brunch or quick dinner, gives us time to catch up away from our noisy and often messy house. We have always paid a much loved and trusted babysitter, but occasionally family members and friends get called in when we are desperate for some one-on-one time.
There have been times like with new babies or ill health where dates were not possible, but mostly they are non-negotiable.
2. Know there will be hard weeks, months, even years.
We went through some very difficult times when we moved to the UK in 2011. I was struggling with new-mum life and Jules was missing his family desperately. We had six months apart while Jules returned home to deal with some mental health issues.
We fought, we cried and yet we kept talking. I also tried to look after myself with supportive family and friends and get through the days, weeks, months and then years while he recovered.