Papa Syder and I have never had a lot of money. In our younger days we were a bit obsessed with 'keeping up with the Jones's' although we didn't actually realise that we were, our lifestyle just expected us to. We both worked around the clock to provide the family with not only a living, but with possessions that we thought were important to our family and to our happiness.
When our four kids were small Papa and I worked our shifts around each others to ensure that one of us was always available to take care of the kids. It worked out well for the first few years, the money was rolling in, we could afford lots of nice material things and as a married couple, we thought we were happy. The reality was, we had become like passing ships in the night and with every year that passed our marriage was being stretched further and further apart, until one day, it couldn't be stretched anymore and it just snapped. The closeness we had once shared dwindled away with every long shift we worked. Every extra hour we spent at work was taking us away from each other and our marriage.
It took the death of my Mum in 2006 to open our eyes. That year I fell apart. I realised that my life had become unhappy, I didn't know why and as I grieved for the loss of my Mum, I become really angry with the World, and in particular my Husband. I asked him to leave. I pushed him away. Far, far away. It was the first time that I had ever felt 'real' grief and I was confused by the way it made me feel. I thought I was angry with my husband, but in reality I was angry because my Mum had died.
Hubby moved away, but we spoke almost every day on the phone. Sometimes we argued and sometimes we asked each other where it all went wrong. He had been my best Friend since I was 17 and I missed him. I missed having someone beside me who knew me better than I knew myself. I missed the small things like having him there to eat with, to shop with, to walk with...to be with.
Twelve months later, he came to visit me. As soon as I saw him I knew I still loved him. We got back together and moved house for a fresh start. We knew things would only work out if we could identify where our marriage went wrong and why it wasn't strong enough to cope with the loss of my Mum.
We moved away to a rural retreat. A cottage beside the sea in North Devon. For the first time in our marriage (and lives) we had no distractions. Life suddenly became very simple and the sea our therapy. We walked and we talked. We made the decision that to be happy we didn't need much money, in fact we were happier with less.
We fell in love all over again, except this time it was different because we were older and wiser. We knew what would work and what wouldn't. I read about families who had changed their lives by downshifting and I instantly knew that we needed to do the same.
We relocated back to Essex as changed people. We were refreshed, invigorated, inspired and full of optimism for the future of our marriage and our lives together. This year we celebrate 24 years of marriage and we now know that money really does not buy us happiness.
Togetherness is the key to our happiness. The main thing I have learnt is that no marriage is perfect. It is not a fairytale. Things go wrong. S**t happens. Trust is lost. People make mistakes. But it can be fixed, and when you fix it, it can be stronger and happier than ever.
These days we do things very differently. 'Stuff' still happens and stress still exists but we now tackle any problems head on. We have no room for negativity or for people who cause it. We work less hours so we can be together more. We earn enough to live, and to afford extras like holidays and day trips we cut back in other areas. I no longer smoke, or do I drink alcohol on a regular basis. We are frugal. We grow our own vegetables and keep chickens. I sew, crochet and write. I am always busy, but it is a very different busy than before. It is a contented busy.
I strive to make my Husband happy and he does the same for me. We no longer take each other for granted or expect too much. We are not perfect. We still bicker sometimes, but we know that our relationship is important to us and always needs to be cared for and polished. We appreciate what we have and no longer think the grass is greener on the other side. We realise we are lucky to have what we have. I feel truly Thankful for the love we share.