Dusk Masthead

What you don’t see on Facebook…

Bernie Ryan

24 years ago today, this beautiful man married me.

 

bernie and husband no 2-2

I was over the moon then, but could never have imagined just how grateful I would be 24 years on.

This is us today. And yes, we do love each other as much as it seems in this photo.

But what we feel is important – as we celebrate all that we are so grateful for in our marriage, our lives, our families, our friends and our children – is to share with you what you don’t see on Facebook.

24 years ago we were blessed to combine two amazing families and have subsequently shared in the joy of hundreds of birthdays, Christmases, weddings, engagements, Baptism’s, Easters, graduations and more.

We’ve also been there for each other in times of grief and despair and for each other’s families, in times of need. As they have been there for us.

We’ve shared our parenting quest, with the dearest friends in the world, from our small hometowns in the country, to the bigger city of Canberra. It remains a humbling yet gratifying work in progress, and our greatest source of joy.

We’ve learned what being someone’s best friend really is and how to bring out the best in each other. And just as importantly, how to be there and show up when we are far from our best.

We’ve had a million magical, happy moments, like the one you see in this photo.

And it is true that we are deeply happy to be together after 24 years, so the photos do not lie.

However…

We also live in an unprecedented era in which we and others seem to be comparing ourselves to ‘everyone else’ on a moment by moment basis…believing that ‘everyone else’ has it all. That ‘everyone else’ has their act together, and that ‘everyone else’ has and is what we don’t and aren’t.

And we are realising that we do ourselves and others such a dangerous and damaging disservice, by colluding with this Emperor’s nonsense…where we are too afraid to admit that we are actually all nakedly wandering around the planet, pretending a lot of the time…

So, we would like to do our bit for relationship reality.

It’s time to get honest:

In our 24 years, we have often not liked each other at all.

We have cried, yelled, and struggled.

While we have a lot in common, there are lots of things we DON’T share.

I still don’t know all the AFL rules, and Tony still can’t sing.

I am messy.

Tony isn’t.

Tony is a morning person.

I am not.

But there have been bigger divides than these.

Heartbreaking, soul-searching chasms, in which we became completely and temporarily lost.

We have talked about separating – more times than you might think.

Sometimes because it seemed like the most loving thing to do, which often it can be.

But sometimes because it felt like we just couldn’t stand each other another minute.

We have argued. We have doubted.

We have attended marriage counselling.

Which sometimes helped.

And sometimes didn’t.

We have at times lived from pay to pay, wondering where the next bill payment would come from.

We have been so tired, from years and years of working and raising the kids, that we barely recognised ourselves, let alone each other.

We’ve wanted to throw it all in, probably more times than not because the tunnel with that elusive light just seemed to get longer, not shorter.

We’ve struggled with babies, health issues, self-esteem, teenagers, jobs, trauma, sadness, fear and heartache.

In our 24 years, we’ve moved house 11 times. Six of those in the first nine years living in Canberra.

At times we have felt like terrible parents. At times we have acted like terrible parents.

But most of the time, we know we weren’t.

And all of the time, we did our best, with what we had.

At times we have felt like terrible partners and we have acted like terrible partners.

We have made mistakes.

And we have not liked ourselves, often at all.

And we have most definitely not looked like the people in this photo.

A lot. Of. Times.

So many things have not turned out how we planned. Or hoped. Or dreamed.

Yet, so many things have turned out better, and more wonderful than we could ever have imagined.

We have had to learn how to be brutally honest. Even when it hurts.

And we have learned to say sorry, which can hurt even more.

We’re still learning how to be real, and to listen to what is important to each other.

And to have the courage to put our egos, insecurities and selves, aside for the other.

And for our common good.

So we are celebrating today, not only what has been great, but all that has appeared to be wrong.

And because we have learned to keep searching for our own ‘right’.

A client, years ago told me that she and her husband overcame their issues, because they promised to be together forever, and realised that if they didn’t work out how to fix things, they would be unhappy, forever. Which was not an option.

I never forgot it, and I thank her still.

We are still here too because our parents showed us how to dig deeper no matter what, for new ways to be kind; new ways to see each other; new ways to reinvent ourselves; new ways to compromise; new ways to love.

And we are still here because every day, our children, give us four very good reasons, to want to do the same.

We have followed traditional paths, and then we have dared to create our own less conventional routes, because at the end of the day, it is we who have to live in our lives.

It’s not the rest of the world, who have to be happy in our home.

So, we feel that we owe it to ourselves, and to you, in case you are struggling to keep going or asking yourselves what is wrong with you…

To tell the truth.

There is nothing wrong with you.

Well, nothing that can’t be held up to the light and looked at.

We all have much more in common than we think.

If only we could be more honest.

And stop worrying about how ‘everyone else’ seems to be doing things.

And being so obsessed with appearances and what ‘everyone else’ thinks of us.

And what we have or don’t have.

Because ‘everyone else’ are people just like us.

Just like you.

All doing our best.

Marriage is no fairy tale. Nor should it be.

It is, though, an adventure and a blessing!

The ‘us’ you see in this photo, has been borne of the struggles and trials, as much as the joys and happiness.

So next time you see a ‘fantastic’ photo of us, feel free to like it, and be happy with us. We love to share our joy and love and happiness, because it is real.

But just know that there are always things you don’t see before, after and even during some of those photos.

And we should talk about and celebrate it all, because it makes us who we are and brings us closer together as comrades in this human race, rather than further apart because of the disconnect between what we see and what we live.

Happy 24th Anniversary my beautiful, handsome, darling husband.

What you have done for me, during my darkest, most terrifying moments…has been my lifeline.

And what you have given me, is the woman in this photo. Imperfect, flawed, but me.

You have been the best friend I could ever have hoped for.

And I do love watching the footy with you.

And I love that you love to listen to us sing.

There is a way through everything.

I love you xxx

user

Bernie Ryan

Bernie Ryan is a person, a wife and the mother of four young adults, who is doing her best to juggle life, make some sort of contribution, and not lose the plot on a daily basis! She moved to Canberra from the Riverina in 2006. She was a practicing clinical Social Worker for over 25 years specialising in Crisis and Trauma, and has since worked in theatre, entertainment, public relations, coaching and writing. She is also a professional singer, and is currently recording her own original EP!

More about the Author

  • Rachel Grace

    What a beautifully written piece. In a world where the beautiful and upbeat is socially sanctioned and the challenges of real relationships can easily become invisible on social media feeds – it’s so important we share our humanity and struggles in conscious and compassionate way. I love that this article does this. Thank you for putting yourself and this article out there.

    • Bernie Ryan

      Thank you Rachel. I do believe that the more we share honestly , the less we will feel alone during those times we most need suppprt . I dearly appreciate this lovely feedback xxx