Five years after the world watched their fairy-tale wedding at Windsor Castle, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have had one of the most well-documented romances in the world. Every public appearance, every photograph and every sideways glance has spawned column inches and feverish copy.
So it was surprising to many when the pair did not publicly acknowledge their recent five year anniversary with a statement or post on their Archewell website.
Some commentators, unsurprisingly, have leapt on their silence as some sort of tell towards trouble in paradise: royal commentator Angela Levin declared Meghan ‘is absolutely separating’ for Harry, with a touch more hawkish glee than strictly necessary.
Like most rationally-minded people, I am indifferent to whether Harry and Meghan do go their separate ways. Especially as such dwindling displays of affection on a public platform may just be symptomatic of longer term-relationships in general.
Forget the seven year itch, it’s the half-decade dwindle that couples should be wary of, with numerous studies reporting that divorce rates peak at around five years of marriage.
It’s easy to understand why – my own relationship is steadily crawling towards the five year mark, and my partnership looks hugely different compared to the early, hazy days of dating.
When I first met my boyfriend, Peter, I remember those initial few months by just how much fun they were. Both younger and more carefree, our semi-regular rendezvous saw us meeting in bars and drinking far too much before crawling back to his flat, where we’d sit on his balcony and chain-smoked cigarettes.
I realised I loved him, really and truly loved him, in deeply unromantic settings.
He came to my friend’s karaoke themed birthday, gamely diving head first despite being the only man invited – giving the same chaotic energy as a male stripper at a raucous hen do – and crooned the Pina Colada song to a baying mob of women. His willingness to put himself in uncomfortable situations, just to make me smile, was what clinched it. When we caught the train home that night, our fingers knitted together and I fell asleep on his shoulder, feeling safe and content.
That karaoke night was a long time ago now, and our partnership is no longer defined by drunkenness. We’ve endured turbulent times, as long-term relationships always do; I held his hand at his grandmother’s funeral, he’s physically scraped me off the floor and walked me to doctor’s appointments when a mental breakdown meant my brain was effectively dribbling out my ears.
We were already living together when Covid reared its ugly head, but lockdown pushed us so tightly together we barely had breathing space. The close quarters we lived in meant seeing each other up close constantly and unbearably. Intimacy dwindled as we swapped drunken nights out for the comfort blanket of mundanity, cuddling up on the sofa and washing each other’s underwear. I sometimes worry we know each other a little too well, for a couple; the man has seen me wipe my arse, for God’s sake. It’s of little surprise that the pandemic caused even the hardiest couples to crash and burn, with a spike of break-up and divorces produced by the crisis.
At the same time, it’s also natural for love to be less ostentatious after such a long time. Huge romantic gestures, soppy Instagram posts and singing 70s soft rock at karaoke nights are no longer at the heart of our relationship, these flashier elements of our partnership exchanged for firmer foundations of mutual trust and respect.
Suffering from the five year fizzle? Here's how to spice things up...
Moraya Seeger DeGeare, relationship expert at dating wellness app Paired, has these tips for couples in long term relationships who find themselves stuck in a rut.
Be authentically curious about each other. Often we feel like we know our partners so well that there’s no point in staying curious. But couples who continue growing deep intimacy over the years embrace that we’re always evolving. So trust that both
you and your partner have learned new things that you want to share with each other like you did when you first met. Asking your partner questions about what they’re excited about and what they’re looking forward to keeps the curiosity in the
present, and keeps you from longing for something of the past.
- Find space for things you both enjoy – Create your time wish list and brainstorm the activities you would like to do together if you had more time. Planning ahead is key. At the end of each week, look at your calendars for the upcoming week and plan your time together with a fulfilling activity you both enjoy, to foster a sense of fun and connection.
- Be attentive to each other – This doesn’t mean making a special effort to go out to dinner every night, it simply means talking and really listening to each other. It might sound a little cliché, but putting away your phones when you’re having a meal or a conversation can really help stay present and connected whenever you’re together.
There are times where I feel so deeply annoyed at my boyfriend I want to hide in the bedroom and scream into a pillow. The time where he (inexplicably) put a bright red towel in a white wash and everything ended up a peculiar shade of pink, for example. Or the occasion when he turned up drunk after a night out and repeatedly shook my shoulder as I slept, asking me to heat up some garlic bread. When I look at some of my friends splitting up with their long-term boyfriends (or in some cases, husbands) I ponder what my life would be like on my own, imagining Sex and the City-style scenarios of dates with rich men and brunches with my other single friends in a constant cycle.
But then I remember the smaller, quieter gestures of love that now punctuate my relationship: the notes he leaves in my work bag wishing me a good day when he makes me lunch to take in, the ‘bonus cheese’ he buys me every week to try. I think about how I wake up every morning, and watch him while he sleeps, running my finger down his small snub nose. His eyes part and he folds me in for a deep, warm hug, and we hold each other for just a few minutes before his alarm rings for work.
Whatever is going on between Harry and Meghan in their Montecito mansion is something we’re ever unlikely to know the truth about. But maybe, for a couple this well established and hardy in the face of very public criticism, they no longer feel the need to push forward a narrative that they’re endlessly strong and happy.
Perhaps there’s no need to portray an Insta-perfect picture of coupledom. Perhaps, after such stormy times, they’re embracing the quiet, delicious mundanity that long-term relationships demand.
Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing Kimberley.Bond@metro.co.uk
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