couples

"Be able to admit when you're wrong": 17 lessons I've learnt from 17 years of marriage.

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.


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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. 

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Since then, as other hard times have followed such as miscarriage and the death of close family members, we have been able to work through them, knowing that good times will return eventually. 

3. Counselling is awesome.

During the difficult couple of years, we both had regular couple and individual counselling. 

Later on, after my third miscarriage, I had some more too. It helped us deal with our own emotions and better understand each other’s feelings. 

There is no shame or stigma in seeking support for your relationship at any stage; I found it to be incredibly therapeutic and think that everyone benefits from professional help.  

4. Invest in a king-size bed and decent mattress.

Once we had kids, sleep became ultra-precious and good sleep can make the difference between me being a miserable arse or just a bit grumpy. 

I am all about making our married sleep-life as good as possible, so when we FINALLY invested in a king-size bed and fancy mattress, it was mind blowing. 

Jules now doesn’t notice my fidgeting and we both have so much of our own space to get comfy and sleep well. 

We can always meet in the middle when the mood takes us!

5. If you have kids, take turns at parenting.

We love hanging out with our two boys but at weekends we will often ‘tag team’ the parenting, in order to achieve things or do something for ourselves. Sometimes that means I take both boys for a few hours while Jules surfs or just little Leo while Jules takes Toby for a hit of tennis. 

I then swap later on for a workout or lunch with girlfriends. We mostly come together for meal times or important events, but as a family and for our own mental and physical health, the ‘tag team’ approach works better for us all. 

6. Be able to admit when you are wrong and say sorry.

I have definitely got better at admitting my mistakes over the years. I am very sensitive where Jules is more practical, meaning that over the years we have clashed and misunderstood each other’s responses to things.

Image: Supplied.

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These days we both have better insight into our own characters and have learnt to listen and apologise when we stuff up rather than get huffy. Although I might still get huffy first, then apologise.

7. Other people are still attractive when you are married.

It is not possible to not fancy other men or women while married. Sometimes we comment to each other about hot people we might have noticed, and sometimes we keep it to ourselves.

Admiring attractive humans is totally normal and a touch of mild flirting is also okay in my book. 

8. Get comfortable talking about sex.

Desire and limerence is fabulous in those heady early days, but it simply doesn’t last. We have had to talk about sex many times. Likes, dislikes, how often is too often or not often enough. Boundaries, fantasies. You name it, we’ve discussed it. Embarrassing sometimes, but also kind of fun and essential if you don’t want to just become flatmates that co-parent.

9. Sex toys are fun for everyone.

While we’re on the subject – invest in some decent pleasure products and lubricant to use alone and use together. I don’t always want full sex and there’s nothing like a couple of kids, a busy work schedule or stressful times to affect (mostly) my libido. I can usually muster up the energy for bit of sexy ‘play’ together which is just as fun and still totally counts as intimacy.  

10. Work out your strengths and play to them.

I hate cooking and am rubbish at it, whereas Jules likes it and is good at it. I do most of the washing and the buying of the kids’ birthday presents. We had to work out where our strengths lie in the logistics of running the household and discuss who does what to stop resentment creeping in and taking over. 

Image: Supplied.

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11. Make time for other important relationships in your life.

We both understand the importance of having good friendships outside of our own. Jules has a bunch of great mates he sees regularly and I have a bunch of friends here and back in the UK that I adore and try to see or FaceTime as often as possible. No one person should or can be someone’s everything and so over the years we have both taken time to nurture and give time to our other great relationships too. This means regular nights out or holidays away with friends old and new. 

12. Expect clashes with in-laws.

I have an awesome family in Australia and my own in the UK, but we have each had some stresses when dealing with the other’s family dynamic and unique traits. Mostly we all get on swimmingly and I actually love seeing Jules with his family and what his role has become within it. Equally when two families meet through marriage, it is normal to clash and when it happens, we get through it for each other.

13. Watching someone develop and change as a human is a privilege.

We have been together for so long now that we have witnessed a lot of change and growth in each other. From career to personal development; getting through the tough times or becoming a parent. It is truly a great privilege to see someone you love achieve their goals or just be an awesome dad and I am very grateful I have hung around Jules long enough to see it happen. 

14. Some habits will always drive you mad.

It drives me mad that Jules leaves his shoes in the middle of the lounge room floor and I’m sure the fact I bite my nails noisily when we watch Netflix winds him up too. Some habits will never change and while we get mad at each other about those little things, it blows over because we have learnt that some things are simply not worth worrying about. 

15.  Keep talking and laughing.

I always look forward to Jules coming home from a surf or work so we can have a chat about our respective days. He is absolutely the first person I want to tell any good or bad news to as I know we can talk through and laugh about anything. I value his opinion more than anyone else’s, but that doesn’t mean we always agree on everything. We share a sense of humour and fun that has been essential through the tough times.  

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Image: Supplied

16. Have couple goals to look forward to and plan together.

While our hobbies are vastly different, we still operate much like a team when it comes to planning the fun stuff such as travel, parties or social get-togethers. 

COVID-19 put a stop to a lot of this in 2020, but we still like to plan the odd date night, family barbeque or weekend away to give us things to look forward to on the shared Google calendar.

17. Be as kind and polite as you can be (most of the time).

It sounds pretty obvious, but a quick ‘thanks for dinner’ or saying something kind is decent human behaviour - which can be easily forgotten within our closest relationships. 

Sometimes kindness is not front of mind and I do frequently yell about putting the damn socks IN the laundry basket (why so hard?!). I do however try to be openly appreciative of the good stuff too – as does Jules to me.

We don’t always get it right, but I like to think that we respect each other enough that even when we get cranky or upset, our default position is one of mutual kindness.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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