x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Finding the key to a happy second year of marriage

Forty-eight hours before we were to fly to the one city in the world that has not a single car, I sprained my ankle. And that has taught one to suspend any expectations of the future.

Mr T and I have finally made it to the one-year mark. Although I will continue to be labelled a newlywed - in Arab society, you don't shake off that label until you produce your first child - I no longer feel like one.

To be honest, I never really did feel like a newlywed, save for those first, fleeting five minutes. Living in the UAE meant the social trappings that follow an Arab wedding did not have to be honoured in this temporary home of ours, one that centres around career, instead of playing host to extended family and friends.

Had we wed and lived in Jordan, for example, where my family resides, it would have been another matter entirely. Our first few months would have been filled with a flurry of social obligations. From elaborate family lunches thrown in our honour every weekend, to scheduled visits every afternoon and evening from people feeling obliged to come and offer their congratulations for the fourth or fifth time, our year would have been spent on display.

Instead, post-wedding and honeymoon, our days were filled with catching up with our jobs and advancing our careers, the norm in the UAE. A year passed with hardly a carefree moment. The to-do list never seemed to dwindle: finish decorating furnished apartment, find new apartment before lease on old one ends, buy furniture, move, book trips to visit family, make sure you are caught up on work before you go… It never ends.

The irony is that, before our wedding day even dawned, I was looking forward to our first anniversary. It became my self-imposed deadline. I knew that just because we'd be past the whirlwind of the wedding, our lives would still not calm down and I figured that if I gave myself a year, all would be well. That expectation proved to be my downfall.

A month before our anniversary we realised we absolutely had to move, if we were to be at all responsible and aware of how much we spent on rent. With the move came steep expenses; furniture is pricey. Plans to travel somewhere special for our anniversary began to feel like maybe they should be put on hold.

"We'll only experience our first anniversary once," insisted Mr T. "Let's just do it."

We picked Venice, known for its romance. It promised us a trip where we could wander down alleyways to our hearts' content, while experiencing the biting cold of a European winter.

I should have known better. Forty-eight hours before we were to fly to the one city in the world that has not a single car, I sprained my ankle. Unable to cancel without losing every fil we had spent on the booking, we set off for Venice, where we spent most of our time in the hotel room flicking through TV channels.

This first year of marriage has been the best of my life, but still not as magical as I had naïvely expected. That has, however, taught me to suspend expectations for this second year to come.