Real Married – Five Things That Make Our Marriage Stronger

Readers, this is getting to be a problem.  ”What?” I hear you cry.  That we all want to be Esme and Tom.  Yes, this column is going to make you want to be them.  As if you didn’t already.  Scrabble and pancakes and pie.  Possibly three of my favourite words, all in one post.  In one marriage.  

What makes your marriage or relationship stronger?  Take it away, Esme:


In our family birthdays are special. We make a fuss of the birthday girl or boy, buy cute, meaningful presents, make cake for each other and generally show how much we care. This year we managed to get Tom’s birthday celebrations just right, so much so that we realised that we had made our marriage stronger by doing a few simple things. And lucky AOW readers, I’ve decided to share our list of five things (hey, why not have it in a list?) that make our marriage stronger. They might work for you, they might not, but hopefully you can all take something from them:

1. Turn off the TV

The week before this birthday weekend had been manic. One evening I came home from work, sat on the sofa, demanded a glass of wine and literally didn’t move until 10pm when I practically crawled to bed. So when it came to Friday evening, I knew we both needed to do something to signal the week had ended. I declared a no TV night and we got the Scrabble board down. Ok, ok, not the most exhilarating Friday night activity, but through the giggles of ‘RRRRR is a word, right?’ and the competitiveness (I won! By 4 points!) we realized that those two hours taken away from TV, the computer and life were just what we needed.

Not actually from that evening, but from an afternoon of Scrabble, wine and food at the lovely Potting Shed pub when we were on our pseudo-moon.

2. Sometimes you need to spend some of that rainy day money

For Tom’s birthday celebrations, we had already planned a night of cocktails and dinner with a few friends in a nearby city. On the Thursday before, I called Tom from work and suggested that we make a weekend of it. A £45 hotel room was found and booked within two hours and the night out turned into a little holiday. We’re not the kind of couple who regularly spends £150 on a weekend away, or even the kind who makes plans two days before the event (so maybe that’s more me – I’m working on being more spontaneous) and factor in that we had just bought our first car AND that we were going on an actual mini-break in two weeks’ time and you can see that this seemed a bit frivolous. But honestly? It was one of the best £50 we’ve ever spent. It meant that instead of planning an outfit that could take me from-home-to-train-to-bar-to-restaurant-to-train-to-walk-home, I could wear silly heels. It meant that instead of rushing for the last train, we could wander back to the hotel whenever we wanted to and most importantly, it meant that we could wake-up in a little bubble of ‘this is fun, we shouldn’t really be doing this but we’re enjoying ourselves too much to care about the piles of washing at home and the desk that needs painting’.

Sure, it means that we have a bit less in our Emergency Savings Account, but, for once, we DON’T CARE.

3. It’s important to dream

I’m one of those people who likes to ask BIG questions. I don’t know if it annoys Tom, but I always find it interesting to suddenly ask ‘If you could do any job in the world, what would it be?’, or ‘If we won £10,000 tomorrow, what would you spend it on?’. I find that invariably I learn something about my husband, but I also think it’s good to dream. So when I unsurprisingly, on this famous birthday ‘holiday’, asked ‘Where do you see us in five years’ time?’ I was pleasantly surprised that we got into a proper, non-abstract, discussion. We talked about childcare arrangements and what the house would look like. We talked about ambitions and what kind of job we need to feel fulfilled. It was eye-opening and comforting at the same time. It made me feel closer to this man who could also see that we would very firmly still be madly in love in five, ten, twenty years from now. It made me happy.

4. Cook his favourite food

This could also be titled ‘Make an effort’, but in our marriage love pretty much = food, so making an effort is synonymous with making the person’s favourite meals. I would also like to add that although I’ve written ‘his’ here, that’s only because I am married to a ‘him’ and that same ‘him’ also cooks my favourite things to eat on my birthday. So no sexism here, thanks!

This year, Tom requested ‘a pie with some interesting meat in it’. Last year I had triumphed with my first Beef Wellington, but this year I was still really busy at work and had to concede that I couldn’t make both a pie and a treacle tart. And although on the actual birthday day in question even the simple pheasant and leek pie with bought puff pastry seemed too much for tired ol’ me, I still rolled my sleeves up and made the darn thing. Tom could see that all I wanted to do was let him cook or order a takeaway, but I didn’t. And that, my friends, is love in pie form.

Me cooking Tom’s birthday cake. See *I* can make yummy cakes too! And yes I have an apron with my name on it. Tom has one too – they were a wedding present. And we LOVE them!

5. Have breakfast together

Having breakfast together on a Saturday morning is one of favourite parts of the week. When we have friends over and Tom produces his amazing American pancakes, they proclaim how they must be special to get such treatment. Most won’t believe that I get them most Saturdays. For us, taking an hour to enjoy some pancakes, nice coffee and sometimes the papers is a luxury that we won’t give up. Tom leaves the house when I’m in the shower every weekday, so we never have breakfast together during the week so this is our time. I hate it when we’ve been away from home for the whole weekend, for weeks at a time because I don’t get to slob around in my pajamas and get the chocolate spread out, but it’s mainly because when I get downstairs to find the table already laden with fruit and golden syrup it makes me feel loved.

Even though we have this ritual, you may be surprised to hear that one of our top-five treats is to go out for breakfast. And that was one of the reasons we wanted to stay over night for Tom’s birthday – to have a special breakfast somewhere new. It doesn’t have to cost much, but it’s something you don’t do every day (well maybe you do?) and it feels great to be out and about early-ish at the weekend. For us, it feels like holiday.


So, there you go, five things that we will be remembering to make our marriage stronger. What are yours?

Categories: Marriage, Real Married
34 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted March 21, 2012 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    I love this list! It’s so cute! You do realise how wholesome it makes you guys sound, right?

    I see your “make an effort” and raise you a “show off to each other”. S and I are show-offs, so the fact that we still try to impress each other (generally by playing the fool) is like reaffirming that we have a connection, that we “get” each other, every day.


    • Esme
      Posted March 21, 2012 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      I like it Penny! I imagine you have some good stories from this…

  2. Ginny
    Posted March 21, 2012 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Please don’t tell me you put golden syrup on your pancakes!?!

    That’s positively sacrilegious!

    • Posted March 21, 2012 at 8:11 am | Permalink

      Golden syrup on pancakes is the true path, Ginny.


    • Jeanie
      Posted March 21, 2012 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      Goodness me – a pancake without Golden Syrup is a sad sight to behold!

      • Ginny
        Posted March 21, 2012 at 9:17 am | Permalink

        Ladies, ladies, as a tried and true pancake afficianado I can tell you hand on heart that MAPLE syrup is what you want on your cakes of the pan (tapped straight from the tree if possible!). Barring that whipped honey butter is also acceptable.

        I don’t know about English pancakes but for the good ol’ ‘Merican variety, there is nothing better.

        • Posted March 21, 2012 at 9:32 am | Permalink

          Maple syrup is the only way!!!!

        • Posted March 21, 2012 at 10:27 am | Permalink

          WHIPPED HONEY BUTTER? What is this artery-clogging voodoo deliciousness you speak of?? *dribbled down self*


          • Posted March 21, 2012 at 11:02 am | Permalink

            Holy mother of all that is good, I need to try whipped honey butter. This instant, if possible.

            K x

    • Esme
      Posted March 21, 2012 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      I’m afraid that Tom does sometimes put golden syrup on his pancakes. I’m sorry, Ginny, so sorry.

      • Ginny
        Posted March 21, 2012 at 9:54 am | Permalink

        Oh, Esme! Stop this destructive behaviour as soon as possible!
        If you can’t find proper maple syrup here convert him to the honey butter option…it’s the only way to stop the kittens crying their adorable, salty tears.

        • Esme
          Posted March 21, 2012 at 11:09 am | Permalink

          I don’t think I will have trouble getting Tom to try anything with butter in it.

    • Posted March 21, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

      We had golden syrup on our pancakes only last night! I thought it was wrong at first too but now I’m a convert. :-/

  3. Posted March 21, 2012 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    I take it this post is an open invitation for us all to come round for Saturday breakfast? See you all there!
    In the mean time I’m about to depart on a birthday mini-break, see you all in a couple of days.

    • Esme
      Posted March 21, 2012 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      Have a great time Amy!

    • Posted March 21, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

      Happy birthday mini-break! Have some pancakes while you’re away.

  4. Posted March 21, 2012 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    I might just pass the Tom & Esme test! It was my husband’s 30th birthday on Monday. I made him a cake and his favourite dinner and have treated us to a weekend in Dublin as a surprise late birthday present. But no Scrabble… sorry

  5. Zan
    Posted March 21, 2012 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    This: “love pretty much = food” – that’s a pretty sounds assessment of me and my other half! He does most of the cooking (as I do the commuting while he works from home) so on special occasions/birthdays I like to make an effort to cook instead. The commuting also means that we only have breakfast together at the weekends too, so that’s something I really treasure too.

    And just to wade into the pancake debate…have never had them with golden syrup… so will have to try that ;)

    • Esme
      Posted March 21, 2012 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      See, breakfast is the most important meal of the day for more than one reason!

  6. Posted March 21, 2012 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    I love this post, Esme. I don’t think Mr K and I have any tips and tricks like this. Mine are just 1) pick your battles, 2) back him up in public, 3) it’s an oldie but a goodie – never go to bed on a fight, and 4) always make five minutes to hug on the sofa, even when you can’t be arsed or it’ll make you late, because it makes him happy. Oh look, I just re-hased my Vows post.

    And to add my tuppence to the pancakes debate – it’s pancakes, people! They taste good with anything.

    • Clare
      Posted March 21, 2012 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      What Anna said.

    • Esme
      Posted March 21, 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      Definitely agree with you on the ‘never go to bed on a fight’ – it can be hard but it’s such a good piece of advice. However, Tom never backs me up in public if he thinks I’ve got something wrong – it’s the scientist in him. Maybe he’ll disagree…? It’s not an issue for us really, but I make sure I stand firm if I know I’m right :o )

  7. Posted March 21, 2012 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Great advice (I do love lists!) and it’s true that these simple little things make a huge difference. It’s amazing how a simple gesture can make you feel so loved! And remembering the things that don’t even cost anything like those cosy nights in with scrabble or those kind of chats! Also we specifically don’t have a TV in the bedroom and this is where we often end up having those kind of comforting chats (or even just random nonsense chatter which like Penny says reminds us that we ‘get’ each other!) while lying in bed, I love it!

    I love that you have matching aprons with your names on!!

    One of our favourite things to do is go for Sunday lunch (no dishes after and it’s so much more relaxing wandering into town and enjoying a lazy afternoon)! We haven’t actually done that for a while though – think I might need to book that into the diary soon!! Thanks for the reminder ;)


    • Esme
      Posted March 21, 2012 at 11:20 am | Permalink

      You’re welcome Bex. Going out for lunch is my favourite thing, but we’ve really cut back on luxuries recently (hence why the weekend away was such a treat). I think you have to weigh up whether spending a bit is worth it or it’s going to cause trouble later – £30 on a roast and 2 glasses of wine is a great way to reconnect when you’ve both been busy.

  8. Posted March 21, 2012 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Love this post. We LOVE birthdays too. Birthdays are so important – its a celebration to say thank goodness you were Born and thank goodness you’re still here!!!!

    Anyway… All these tips are perfect. We love a bit of Scrabble.

    In fact if we’re arguing it’s probably because something on this list is being neglected.

    I would also say, as parents, it would be really beneficial to have these routines established so well that you honour them when babies arrive and keep it as your time and eventually family time like breakfast in Saturdays

    Lovely list Esme. I never doubted your cake making ability!! X x

  9. Fee
    Posted March 21, 2012 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    I have 2 thoughts:

    1) I shall take heed of all of the above advice (especially the bits involving scrabble and cheeky nights away)

    2) I want a pancake

  10. Posted March 21, 2012 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Anyone else now having EPIC pancake cravings? Genuinely just researching where in the vicinity of Russell Square I might get me a pancake this lunchtime. Even though I have lunch in my bag.

    Anyways, I love this. I completely 100% agree with turn off the TV sometimes, and talk. We try to have one evening a week (when Gareth isn’t away, which he is a lot lately), where we eat at the table, not on the sofa, and actually talk. About stuff. And things. And other stuff.

    And love = food in our household too. When I’m sad he makes me cheesy mash. When he’s had a bad day I make him stew and dumplings.

    The only thing I’d add is similar to what Anna said about picking your battles, which is remember to realise that sometimes you will both be struggling, because life isn’t nice enough to only give shitty times to one of you so that the other can be your support. Hang onto each other, don’t get leave each other fighting your own battles alone. Even if all you can do for each other is collapse together at the end of each day and call it one more day survived.

    K x

    • Zan
      Posted March 21, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      Cheesy mash rocks ;)

  11. Posted March 21, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    What a lovely list :) I so agree with all of these (we pretty much only watch TV on catch-up or boxsets as then it’s an activity (sort of) as opposed to just watching what’s on)… and yes to weekend breakfasts being special, we tend to have blueberry pancakes at the weekend. (Ok, all this just makes me want it to be the weekend now!!)

  12. Peridot
    Posted March 21, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Yum! I’m on a no-carb diet so this was an exquisite form of torture for me! And I love that, essentially love to a man, is bound up in pastry – so true… They go a bit wibbly for pie, I find, whereas pastry leaves me cold. PANCAKES on the other hand… dribble.

  13. Jenny
    Posted March 21, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    Love this list, Esme! Reminds me of all the fun things we can do together now that we don’t have wedding stuff getting in the way of relaxing weekends! We did a belated weekend away for my birthday this year, which we don’t usually do, and it was so lovely to be away for long enough to relax and not stress about getting home again. I think birthdays so should be something special; our celebrations have gotten less significant over the last couple of years and that makes me realise we’re adults, and that makes me sad!

    Saturday breakfasts are so the best! I’m very impressed with the pancakes. We just usually have special weekend cereals!


  14. Posted March 22, 2012 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Lovely post. I want to make an effort to have breakfast together on Saturday now. I can’t remember the last time we had breakfast together actually. We very occasionally go out for breakfast at the weekend, and you’re right, it does feel like a treat.

    Oh, and definitely *maple* syrup on American/Canadian style pancakes!

  15. Katy
    Posted March 22, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Hmmmm pancakes. I have to say that if you havent tried pancakes and dulce de leche you havent lived.
    And WHAT in the name of all that is great is whipped honey butter???

    I love breakfasts with the boyo too. Actually we always try and make time to eat at least one meal together as we both work crazy hours.

    Also, something that we do is to enjoy each others pastimes. If he wants to go fishing on his one day off a week, I dont winge and moan and make him feel bad about it. I go with him and sit and fish and read and enjoy just spending time with him. If I want to go to the theatre or horse riding or something he comes with me or at least doesnt make me feel bad about going.

    I try to make birthdays special! But, its pretty tricky. Going to make a really big effort this year for his 28th.

  16. Posted March 27, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    I love this post Esme. I’m also sitting here thinking about what I would add to the list. I thin time pretty much sums it up. Spend time on each other – whether that be lunch or breakfast together, time tidying or helping the other one with jobs, or most importantly just listening.IN my case it’s being considerate enough to give up the time I would have spent blogging later on so Pete can get a good nights sleep rather than being disturbed by me tapping and coming to bed late.


    And also pancakes… I agree Ginny. No syrup unless it’s off the maple variety and I prefer the American type with bacon. Streaky please. Porridge is a different matter all together where golden syrup reigns supreme.

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