Sam and I have been on a mini-break celebrating our 23rd wedding anniversary. It’s been great having time together – just the two of us. (Can you hear a Bill Withers song going round your head?!) We’ve been in Hornsea for two days and have appreciated space to talk as a couple with few plans and lovely warm weather.

As we’ve been married now for a good number of years there’s much that we know about each other. I find it fascinating that Sam can often anticipate what I’m going to say or do. She knows me well – better than anyone else. And she still loves me – which I find amazing! Such is grace. I reckon I know her pretty well too – but not so well that I always get it right. So the other day I saw a lovely pair of leather boots in her size that I knew she’d like as an anniversary gift. They looked comfortable, practical and stylish and I could see her looking good in them. I was about to pick them up, and then a thought came to me, ‘what if she doesn’t like them?’ After 23 years of marriage I have a pretty good idea what she likes, but the thought still wouldn’t go away. I had a dilemma. It was probably wise to check but if I got her to see them first, the element of surprise would be gone. What should I do? In the end, I didn’t buy them. Instead I got her to the shop later that day, showed her the boots and asked her what she thought. She took one look at them and replied, ‘disgusting!’ and moved on. Mmm. So I still have much to learn about women, shoes and my wife’s personal taste…

I wanted to take Sam somewhere nice to eat yesterday. We’d got up slowly and had a late breakfast and so by the time we were ready to eat it was mid-afternoon. Wrygarth Inn in Great Hatfield has a good name and we’d never been so I suggested that we try there but when we arrived it was closed. It only opens at lunchtime and evenings. So we drove on to a pub we’ve been to a few times before. Not quite so novel, but we knew the food is always good – and we weren’t disappointed. The cuisine was great. In fact it could have been a lovely, lazy summer’s afternoon, eating in an East Riding village – if it hadn’t been for the flies. They were annoying. And they wouldn’t go away. Even after politely complaining to the staff and moving tables they didn’t go away. In fact they seemed to get worse. Somehow we managed to keep them off the food but at one stage Sam wafted them away so vigorously that she hit herself in the face! So in the end we just ate up quickly and got out. Mmm. Sometimes you make plans and things don’t quite work out as you hoped…

Whilst in Hornsea we’ve watched the movie Hope Springs – about a pre-retired couple whose marriage has gone stale and who go to see a couples therapist. It has a great cast with Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carrell. We assumed it was a comedy, but it was much more than that. It hads many comic moments but it actually deals with some serious relationship themes in a very touching way. It was a surprisingly good choice for a mini-break like this, as it helped us chat about our marriage and how we’re doing. It’s definitely not family viewing with open conversation about their sex lives, and reflects many values of 21st Century middle-class America, but it’s nevertheless a thoughtful film and we’d recommend it to any couple who’ve been married for a while. It reminded us that we’re doing ok.

Sam and I always say that one of the good things about marriage is that there’s always a next time. By that we mean that if things don’t quite work out as hoped, we can try again. Because we’re in this for life. Neither of us is leaving. We’re committed to each other and so we expect there’ll be a next time! That’s not an excuse to be boringly predictable or to intentionally under-perform, but it does mean that if my gift choice or restaurant selection or even my sexual performance is poor, it’s not the end of the world. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect. Thankfully.

This mini-break has been good and has reminded me of a number of things. It’s reminded me that I’m grateful that God brought Sam into my life and that she is my wife. She is fantastic. It’s reminded me that we don’t have the perfect marriage. Nobody does. It’s reminded me that we have a good marriage. Maybe even a great marriage. And it’s reminded me that there’s always room for improvement. So we’re still working on things. Till death do us part.