10 tips on marriage

Yesterday my husband and I celebrated ten months married. When you read that you might be laughing at the fact that I’m dishing out advice like a seasoned married person – don’t worry, I’m laughing with you.

Last month I had the honour of being asked to speak at my uncle’s wedding. He asked me to write something from the heart for him and his future husband, and so I put my mind to the past few months of my own life and tried to be honest about what I had learned. Disclaimer – this could all be wrong. Except for the bit about the psychic.

First – here is a picture of the happy couple ❤

Brayden and Andy (Mr and Mr Slezak)

1: Your partner is not, except on rare lucky occasions, a psychic

This means you need to learn to explain what you need, rather than assume that your partner knows just because they love you. (Thanks Alain de Botton for this bit of advice, by the way).

2: Love is a second chance

Love is a chance to be the very best version of yourself. To amplify the goodness and kindness in you, and share that with another person. Marriage allows you to do this for the rest of your life. That being said…

3: Nobody is perfect

At our wedding, Sam’s cousin Kevin gave us some very valuable advice. He said

“You choose your partner not because they are perfect, but because they are perfect for you. There is a big difference. They have what life wants and needs to teach you. Some lessons are hard, especially the ones that deal with your ego and insecurities…Marriage will bring out the best in you, it will also bring out the worst. No one will make you happier, and no one will be as proficient at pressing the wrong buttons as your partner.”

4: You must own up

See 3 (above) – nobody is perfect. At a friend’s wedding a few years ago the pastor said there are two phrases that are essential to make a marriage work. The first – I love you. The second – I’m sorry, I was wrong, please forgive me. Hopefully, you get to say the first more than the second, but just in case I’d suggest practising in the mirror.

5: Be honest – to yourself and to your partner

Love and marriage require you to be incredibly vulnerable – to acknowledge that there are parts of you that sometimes feel unlovable and to ask another to love them. This is an act of radical bravery.

6: Don’t worry about how anyone else does ‘being married’

Love is not a competition. There are no marriage Olympics. Your marriage doesn’t have to look a certain way to be good. It has to meet your specific needs as a couple. Love is not in grand gestures – though they can be very nice – it’s in the little things that only the two of you notice. Treasure those.

7: You are not alone

Though the wedding day is a day about just you two, if you look around you’ll notice that everyone at your ceremony is there because they love you, both separately and in your togetherness. This is your support system, and they are not only there for the wedding day.

8: Marriage is not just the wedding

I know that at the wedding you feel like your hearts might explode with love, but amazingly there is still room for more. More love and more happiness. Put as much effort and thought into each day of your marriage as you have into today.

9: Write down your vows

Keep them somewhere special so that you can look at them often. Remember what you’ve promised, and keep your promises.

10: Marriage is magic

Always feel grateful that in the world of billions of people, you found each other and chose each other. Enjoy the adventure and never forget how lucky and wonderful it is to love and be loved.

Total babes ❤

Short Story 4: Ken Liu – The Paper Menagerie

In September last year, I saw Ken Liu talk at the Open Book Festival in Cape Town. He was serious, dressed in an overcoat (I might be projecting this), and his responses to the host were always long and detailed, but fascinating.

It was clear that this was a writer who thought a lot about a lot of things. It wasn’t just that he thought, it was that you could feel the emotion connected to the story he was telling, and to his writing. I can’t remember if he read a section from the Paper Menagerie, or just described it, but the imagery was vivid. It seemed like he was a writer who felt deeply, and someone who would definitely be worth reading.

After hearing his talk I went out to buy the collection, but on that day it had been sold out at the Fugard. A month later, I got a book voucher for my favourite bookstore, The Book Lounge, as part of my bachelorette gifts, and I knew exactly what I was going to buy.

The collection of short stories is called The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories. It has a beautiful cover, and the list of accolades that Liu has accrued and achieved is detailed on the back and is extremely impressive, and when I searched for some podcasts featuring him I learned that he also writes Star Wars stories. He is a busy man, and he is extremely talented.

I picked up the collection one evening during the holidays while my husband was ill, and read him The Paper Menagerie. Filled with feeling and depth it is a truly magical story, one that will leave you thinking about it for weeks to come. You can read the whole story here, but I’d really recommend going and buying the collection because the other stories in it are incredible too.

First Line: One of my earliest memories starts with me sobbing.

The story describes a child’s relationship with his parents as he grows up in America in a multiracial family. He struggles to make friends, and so his mom crafts him a menagerie made of origami and breathes life into it. The creatures come alive and are his companions in a world that is not always easy to live in. His father is American, and his mom is Chinese. He describes her being picked by his dad from a catalogue, but the real story is far more complicated.

As he grows older, his relationship with his mother grows fraught, as he longs for a ‘normal’ American mother who speaks with him in English. He wants more than anything to fit in, and this comes at a high cost. His father tries to heal the relationship but is not successful. One day in an argument his mother responds that when she says love in English, she feels it in her mouth, but when she says it in Chinese she feels it in her heart. I think we all know the difference between saying and feeling love, and this just puts it so beautifully.

The story is so beautiful, vivid, and full of emotion. He uses images to connect times and spaces so skillfully. I had to pause at some points in order to be able to carry on because I was overwhelmed by the emotion of the character. It is a story that gets to the heart of love and the way we treat those closest to us, the easiest people to bully and belittle, but also the people who give us the most love, even when it seems we don’t deserve it.

I have been slowly reading through the rest of the collection, not because the stories are dense or difficult, but because the sheer force of feelings of each story means you need to sit a while between them. Sometimes days.

But you will want to pick them up again. Because they are powerful stories, and powerful stories feed you, even when they are sad. Perhaps especially so.