I have a shameful collection of magazines under my bed. It’s got so big that I’m afraid I’m going to topple our entire block of flats under the weight of them. Either that or my housemates are going to find them.
It’s wedding porn.
Until I got engaged I was blissfully unaware that this world even existed. A world where you learn a new ‘vintage-city-retro-festival-homemade-chic’ inspired language, and where you are advised to spray paint stencils onto 3,000 lavender-filled jam jars because you want your wedding to have that personal touch.
I’ve fallen for it all hook, veil and garter of course. In six weeks I’ve gone from rolling my eyes at the ludicrousness of weddings, to hiding under my bedcovers with a torch reading features about napkins.
It feels harmless, but I’m sure it’s bad for me. Aside from all the ‘how to get your friends and family involved by getting them to make you several thousand yards of bunting’ nonsense, these magazines are in rom-com territory when it comes to how realistic they are about long-term love.
Let me show you what I mean. In magazine speak, here’s what I’d tell people about my fiancé and my relationship:
‘I prayed to the Lord for a Christian man. He provided a spectacular one – good looking, holy, deep, with a real heart for service. Our eyes met across a crowded church and we both just knew. I cannot wait to be married, mortgaged and expecting our first child, after months of incredibly interesting (but very pure and lovely) sex.’
Here’s the version that’s closer to the truth:
Steve and I first went out because the only other person on the scene at that moment was an agnostic divorcee who lived an hour away. Even then I turned him down a few times because I didn’t fancy him and I thought he was too old. Our first kiss was an awkward mess of beards and cycle helmets and teeth.
We started arguing approximately one week into our relationship and carried on like that for the best part of four years. While I ranted and emoted and cried and sulked and talked about my feelings and then talked about talking about my feelings, he retreated into his repressed, northern Irish, Presbyterian, under-no-circumstances-must-you-show-any-emotion scientist’s shell.
It was trench warfare.
One of the big, underlying problems was that I was disappointed. The big romance I’d dreamed of having was not unfolding. Going out with someone in real life was really bloody hard work. I realise a lot of this is my own sinful fault, but I do partly blame magazines and films, and I do also blame aspects of Christian culture for my unrealistic expectations.
More than anywhere else, we revere marriage in the Church, and rightly so. But somewhere along the line, we’ve managed to get confused about what real love is like. We hold up examples of ‘perfect Christian couples’ – the ones who are amazingly good looking, probably have a few perfect children, and seem to have a hotline to God. And subconsciously, the rest of us think that that is what our relationships should be like, and then we’re disappointed when they’re not.
We need to stop this hankering after the perfect everything, and embrace imperfect reality. If you haven’t already, read the terrible story about Oscar Pistorious which broke this morning. I hope it inspires you, whether you’re single or in a couple, to stop and give thanks for all the people that you love.
The reality of any relationship is always less sexy than the fiction, but people are precious and they are temporary, so cherish them, warts and all.