How To Make A Marriage Work (When You've Only Known Each Other For A Few Months)

Photo: courtesy of the author
how to make a marriage work
Love

We'd only known each other for 10 weeks, but it felt right.

The year 1999 was going to be mine. I was 27, living and working in Switzerland, and had recently split with a long-term boyfriend. I planned to spend the year focused on my career and go on a dream adventure holiday in Costa Rica. A relationship wasn’t even on the agenda.

On January 21, 1999, three weeks into “my” year, a friend installed the Internet at my home. He offered to show me a chat site called ICQ.

“What’s a chat site?” I said, which is laughable now, but this was the 90s, the era of dial-up modems, photos downloading in sections, and choosing between being on the phone, or online (how did we survive?).


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That evening, I created an ICQ profile and chatted with a few people. My last random search that night returned “Razor,” a 28-year-old Canadian who stated “I live life to the fullest, because you never know when it’ll end.” There were no profile photos on ICQ at that time, so, intrigued, I typed up a message.

“Hi Razor,” I wrote, amused by my infallible wit, “You sound pretty sharp!” And that cheesy line changed our lives forever.

We chatted for hours that night, first online, and on the phone. Within a week I’d bought a flight to Canada with a departure date eleven weeks out to allow time to get to know each other, and send more photos in the mail. Three weeks later, Razor (aka Rob) had a ticket to Switzerland; he’d come back with me and stay for a month. All of this and we hadn’t yet met face-to-face.

When I arrived in Canada on April 9, 1999, there were zero doubts in our minds. We’d already said “I love you”, discussed marriage (as quickly as possible), kids (at some point), and where we’d live (Switzerland). I’ve never, ever, not before or since, been so sure of anything in my life. Everybody thought we were nuts. We insisted we weren’t.

At the end of my Canadian holiday, Rob came to Switzerland with me. Two weeks later, he told his family and boss he was staying for good. We married ten weeks after meeting face-to-face, five months after our ICQ encounter. On June 21, 2018 it’ll be 19 years.

Like most, our marriage is far from perfect, but we’re happy and still in love. Sometimes people ask why we think it’s worked, particularly given the crazy circumstances of how we met. Here's how to make a marriage work, even if you haven't been together very long.

1. Don't pretend to be something you're not.

We were on separate continents so at the very (very) beginning we didn’t think we’d ever meet. There was no pressure to impress; we could be ourselves completely (although, I did say I was 20 pounds lighter and then went on a diet).

We spent upwards of two hours on the phone every day (our phone bills were insane). By the end, I knew Rob better than I’d known my ex, with whom I’d spent four years.

2. Make sure you're compatible but still independent.

We have the same tastes in music and film (except for horror, which Rob loves and I loathe). Neither of us likes watching sports, but we enjoy playing them. We love to travel and try new things. But we also have our own sets of friends and different interests.

I devour novels, Rob has yet to read either of the books I’ve written. He’s passionate about cars and motorbikes, I need a vehicle to get me from A to B. He’s handy, I can’t put up a shelf. This all gives us room to breathe, and means we have stories to share.


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3. Work as a team.

When we had our first son in 2004, I had a high-flying career neither of us wanted me to give up, so Rob became a stay-at-home-dad. The twins arrived sixteen months later, and Rob was at home with the boys until we came to Canada in 2010. Once here, he started an electrical company, and I began writing from home.

We both cook (me during the week, him on weekends) and share the household tasks. He takes care of all of the maintenance, I handle our insurance and finances. We have strengths in different areas, and let each other lead.

4. Know what you want (and don't want).

We’d both had bad relationships before we met, but those experiences taught us what we wanted from a future partner, and, more importantly, what we didn’t.

5. Believe in your relationship.

There have been two “dark periods” in our marriage. The first was after the twins were born. Having three kids in sixteen months was tough and our relationship took a hit. We were tired and frustrated, and when you have kids, you see a new side of your partner you don’t necessarily like.

The second was after we moved to Canada. I lost my identity when I gave up my earlier career, was homesick, grumpy and withdrawn. During both of these times Rob insisted “it’s not us, it’s the situation,” and he was right.

As the kids got older and things became easier, we worked hard at finding each other again. And later, as I became happier in Canada, forging my writing career, we learned how to make a marriage work and got our relationship back on track. More of these “dark periods” will no doubt happen, but I’m confident we’ll get through them.

Relationships aren’t easy; in fact, I think they’re like houses: in need of regular upkeep and maintenance. But once you’ve found one you truly love and settle in, when you’re comfortable and warm, and keep working at it, there’s no other place you’d rather be. 


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Hannah Mary McKinnon was born in the UK, grew up in Switzerland and moved to Canada in 2010. After a successful career in recruitment, she quit the corporate world in favor of writing. The Neighbors is Hannah Mary’s second novel. She lives in Oakville, Ontario, with her husband and three sons, and is delighted by her twenty-second commute.