To my future husband,
As we take the first step into the next chapter of our life together, I just wanted to clear one thing up. You’re not the only man for me. This may come as a shock but I want to be honest with you. We’ve been through a lot together and there is truly no one else that I would rather marry. In that regard, I am yours – wholly and completely.
But there are others that came before you. Others that made me the girl I am. All of the good parts of our relationship, and all of our ‘friction points,’ have been influenced by these men of mine.
You’ve met them; you like them. They’re my dad and my three younger brothers.
My mum and I can attest to the fact that it’s not easy growing up in a house full of boys. I had to fight (often literally) for what I wanted, to protect my patch (or plate), and for entry to the boys’ clubhouse, mid-afternoon gaming marathon or the pirate radio station they started in the loft. It didn’t help that almost all of our cousins and childhood friends were boys too. I was seriously outnumbered.
We locked each other out of the house, and took the batteries out of the doorbell so there would be no parental rescue. We helped the younger one ‘run away’ when he was about five. We threw each other down the stairs in suitcases. We punched and bit and pulled hair. I would fall asleep with one eye open, waiting for the next Chinese burn or dead leg.
There were moments of accord too of course. There’s only 18 months between me and the oldest of the male portion of the siblings and for a long time, he was too shy to go anywhere without me. Our mum was put in the rather awkward position of asking if he could have a plus one to all of the birthday party and Friday-night tea invites he received. When our parents had a rare fight that we overheard (as an adult, I’m sure there were many more hissed through gritted teeth), it was my self-appointed job to cover the boys’ ears. And when we were on the annual road trip to the south of France, I inevitably found myself in the middle of the back seats, one heavy head sleeping on each shoulder.
I am a proud Daddy’s girl and my dad has always been my champion. This often led to outcries of favouritism, but as the only girl, this alliance was of utmost importance to me. There was never a lift that he wouldn’t give me, no fact that he didn’t know to help with my history homework, no problem he couldn’t solve by making me laugh. I have often tried to emulate his peacekeeping nature and gentleness as I’ve gotten older, and continue to look to find it in others.
My brothers and I called a truce when we hit our late teenage years. We each had the key to a code the other was frantically trying to decipher. My brother Matt has been helping me read between the lines of texts from potential love interests since 1998, and whisks me out on nights out — once we made it all the way to Copenhagen — after the most brutal breakups. These boys of mine still call me at odd times of the night, asking for advice about their girlfriends — what to buy for an anniversary present, why does she still speak to her ex, should he wear shorts to a wedding. I know that men cry. I know that they overthink and worry and have the same insecurities that all girls do. I know that I can ask any one of them for anything, and they will do it for me.
I recognise the effect that being surrounded by boys has had on me. I have a strong sense of independence and am not afraid to try. I am comfortable in my own skin and appreciate genuineness in others. I grew up in a big family who love me for who I am — every mood, every quirk, every misplaced joke — they were there for it all. I’ve never been allowed to take myself too seriously, or think that it was ‘all about me’. That nurturing, patient side that you say will make me a great mother one day, is thanks largely to the youngest – now a lanky 17 year old, currently squatting behind the sofa.
New wives do not want to be told they are like their mother in laws, but marrying a man like my dad was something I strived towards. And while you will argue that you’re very different, I see the same quiet strength, humour and practical nature that he has, in you. If the car breaks down or we get lost or I need some wallpapering done, I’m always going to want to call my dad. But I know that these are things you can handle too, and I love that you can.
When we met, we became friends over the first six months that we knew each other. I remember realising that you would be more when I noticed how good you were with me, how safe I felt in your company. Fast forward four years and I still trust you to look after me; I feel like I’ve come home.
I understand that having my own male cheering squad can put a lot of pressure on you. They’ve set the bar pretty high, and they’ll always be a big part of our lives. But I know that you adore me in your own way. And if you don’t want to carry my girly gym bag for me or go to yet another boring networking event, don’t worry; I’ll get one of the others to do it.
With all (okay, most) of my love,
Your future wife,