My girlfriend, fiancée, partner, whatever... and I have been together since January 2002 and in June 2014, finally take the plunge and get married. As Chris Farley would say: "Whoopty-freakin'-do!"
We haven't done the whole 'relationship by numbers' thing very well, really. A lot of couples you can set your watch by: They meet - Six months in they get engaged - Married within 18 months - Kids after 2-3 years - Divorced by... Just kidding, although I know a few people who have.
My girlfriend and I have done it a little differently. We met at work while both of us were still at college, which meant the 'courting' phase lasted a little longer than usual. Then we moved in together after 18 months and that was fun for 2 and a half years, until I turned around to her and said: "Let's have a year in Australia."
Being the kind of girl who is easy going yet eager to have fun rather than watch the four soaps, read 50 Shades of Grey and be in bed for 10pm, she replied: "Let's do it" to the Australia question and we set off to that far off land to explore all of its beauties.
We had a fantastic time and made a pact not to sit on the East Coast like a lot of the idiots (sorry, the English) do and sit getting drunk in one area of Sydney that's full of Brits then go home and say "I've done Australia!" to their mates. We explored the country, and spent more time on the Lonesome West (called so because it's huge but there's hardly any people there compared to anywhere else) than anywhere else.
It was truly life changing, and our relationship became stronger as a result.
So this is where you get married, right? I hear all five of the readers of this post who haven't bounced back to Google yet say. You guessed wrong!
We came back to the UK just at the beginning of the recession, and finding a job and any form of stability was like a Big Brother Contestant trying to find their dignity: Hard, I tell you. Hard. But we pushed on and struggled through it, but it took time and a toll on the adventure spirit that we'd gained from being in Australia. I love this country as much as anyone, but we're a negative bunch. I soon became the cynical man I was before I left for Oz, and the one I remain to this day.
Just when we started to get a little financially comfortable in our lives, I dropped a bombshell. "Y'know, I'm 29, it's time I took the plunge..." Drum-rolls for the big romantic gesture, please... "... And go to university." Oh.
"Oh" is also essentially the response I got from my long suffering girlfriend, too. We'd been together for nearly eight years at this point and although neither of us ever talked about marriage or was that interested in it, it was becoming expected of us. My sudden turn into the academic arena was unexpected by 99.9% of the people we knew.
After three years of studying Creative Writing and Journalism at De Montfort University, I finally had the confidence and the skills to pursue a career in writing; something I'd wanted to do since I was a kid but never had the nerve to do. But I did now, so I went for it.
But before any of that, I decided that, at 31 and without any more excuses to stay at the maturity level of a small child, I asked my girlfriend to marry me on her birthday. She said no. Just kidding. She said yes. Then she said: "Does this mean we're serious now?"
We'd been together 11 years by this point.
The run up to the wedding has been pretty stress free, but within almost 18 months to go, I'm sure I'll probably look like Christian Bale in The Machinist by the time I walk down the altar. We've been on wedding directories and I've found more than one wedding magazine next to my Boxing News and Empire collections. The 20 year old me would have run away by this point. These days, I'm quite enjoying all the wedding bliss.
I'd say the moral of this story is: Don't be pressured into the traditional route of weddings and babies. Do what makes you happy. At the end of the day, chances are you'll come round to all the traditional things eventually. In our case, road bumps and Australia aside, we've done it our way and it's worked out fine. We've got some pretty good stories to tell our kids and the only regrets we'll have when we're old is that we didn't "accidentally" lose our Visas and live in Australia illegally when we had the chance.