A Carefree Life With a Few Bumps Along the Way
Posted May 4, 2018 3:25 p.m. EDT
Because marriage is an ever-evolving experience, we constantly shift, change and, in some cases, start over. In It’s No Secret, couples share thoughts about commitment and tell us what they have learned along the way.
Who: Laura Bird, 39, and Gareth Hall, 41
Occupations: She is a senior director for marketing research at Heineken in New York; he is the director of NestedNY, an online customizable furniture design company the couple founded in New York.
Their Marriage: 10 years 3 months and counting.
Laura Bird and Gareth Hall, who were born and raised in South Africa, married Dec. 14, 2007, at Nooitgedacht, a garden in the wine region just outside Cape Town. They moved to New York in 2015. Today they live in Irvington, New York, with their three children, Amelia, 8, Lola, 7, and Zack, 2.
In 2002, Hall, then 24, met Bird, then 22, at a party in London, where both were living at the time. Hall, who grew up in Johannesburg, went to college with Bird’s brother. “I knew who he was, but we didn’t speak at the party,” said Bird, who grew up in Cape Town. “I remember thinking I’d like to see him again. He was super chill and gave off a good energy.”
They didn’t meet again until a month later when Hall rented an extra room in Bird’s shared house. “Shortly after he moved in we had a house party; we ran out of beer and we went together to get it,” she said. They didn’t return home until 11 a.m. the following day. “He took a skateboard and we met people on a bus and watched a movie at someone’s house,” she said. “We went to a pub, then a park. Everyone said, ‘You went to buy beer 12 hours ago. What happened?’ That’s a summary of what our life has been like.”
In 2006, Hall proposed on the balcony of a small hotel on Britain’s Isle of Wight, which they both said was the closest he could get to South Africa without leaving the country. Eighteen months later they were married.
What They’ve Learned
BIRD: Our relationship has thrived on both of us never wanting to feel complacent in life, always looking for adventure and always just being open to trying something new. I’m more strategic and worry; he’s a brilliant executor and finds solutions. I come with grand plans; he’s on board and helps make it happen.
We fight when we’re tired or stressed. Marriage is bumpy. You have to decide you want to stay married. He’s very good at apologizing and making peace. When things are not going well or you’re not getting on, emotionally it’s easy to give up. You say, ‘Why are we doing this? It’s such hard work.’ But I have to remind myself of the good things and the commitment I made.
I’m very vocal and have strong opinions. And I’m louder. It’s hard to remember we’re a team because sometimes it’s easier to do things alone. Gareth taught me to connect. He’s very calming. That also drives me crazy, too, that he can be so relaxed.
Several years ago he came to me and said, “I have a severe drinking problem. I want to sort it out.” Getting sober slowed us down, took the chaos away and that was really good. He spent time on self-reflection and on himself, which he had never done.
He looks after me and the kids, and he wants to make sure I’m happy. He’s an incredible dad and partner, and he’s learned how to be more in the moment.
We’re still learning how to communicate properly. We’re not good at having deep conversations or talking about serious stuff. We may start one, but then we don’t finish it. It’s a skill to remember to come back and do that. We’re still learning how to resolve deeper issues rather than making school lunches and that we didn’t pay the taxes.
HALL: Laura’s not a typical girlie girl, which was never my vibe. She was a cool chick who wore band shirts and who, over the years, has turned into a trustworthy partner. She’s taught me to be more thoughtful. I admire and adore her. We lived carefree, rich lives. I’m ADD and all over the place; she’s more organized. I’m better at finding solutions; she’s more action based. Over the past decade, I’ve learned to compromise and to tolerate my partner’s shortcomings. You have to find the common ground regarding what they expect out of life and what you expect. I used to do whatever I wanted. I’ve learned to reel myself in. I’m part of a team, and I need to take my kids and my wife into consideration with everything I do.
I got sober in 2013. I went to a program and did it proper. I learned I’m not invincible. You can’t take every problem on yourself. I was coming to terms with my own weaknesses, and having Laura there to support me was really helpful. She was so patient and understanding and kind. My issues took us further apart, to the brink of almost getting divorced. But it forced me to be honest, vulnerable and trusting. That brought us closer together. When Laura makes a commitment, she won’t abandon something if it gets hard. That really held us together.
We hardly get any time alone between work and the kids. We’re not good at making time. We’re working on that. But we joke a lot and we have fun. I’m comfortable with her. I feel at home. I have a great thing going here. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else or with anyone else.