"We have (mostly) stopped trying to change one another" - 10 things I’ve learned about love after 25 years of marriage

Don’t believe the modern myth that the spark can’t last - our writer has chalked up a quarter of a century with her first love and says Valentine’s Day matters more than ever.

A pink envelope sealed with a red heart-shaped sticker and a photo of the writer and her husband
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Lately, I’ve been feeling old-fashioned for still loving the bones of the first fella I ever fell for. Reader, I married him. We're still going strong twenty-five years later with no signs of needing to spice up our relationship. (Just don’t mention last weekend when he poured away the glass of Prosecco I was saving to enjoy while cooking Sunday lunch…)

But these days, between endless articles in praise of polyamory, and celebrities from Lenny Kravitz to Gigi Hadid extolling the virtues of how to coparent, I’m starting to feel like still being into my husband after 25 years of marriage is kind of... weird. Which led me to reflect on why we’re still together after all this time. Mostly,  it’s down to his patience, a lot of humour, and a heartfelt belief in the fact that happy-ever-after does exist. (As long as you're willing to work at it.)

So, in honour of Valentine's Day, here are 10 things I've learned about love after 25 years of marriage…

Choose me, is what they're really saying, and they choose you.

1. Cards are everything

I can still remember exactly how I felt when I opened my first Valentine’s card from my husband. That tummy-flipping rush of ‘he likes me!’ excitement that all the poets in the world have tried to capture for centuries. We weren’t even officially an item but over the years I have amassed boxes of cards and letters that no amount of slushy texts could ever match. Trust me, scrolling back through a lifetime of flirty texts when you're 80 won’t hold a candle to the soul-nourishing joy of reading through old love letters and Valentine’s Day cards. I love the range of personalised Valentine's Day cards from Moonpig - from cheeky cards that'll raise a smile to heartful declarations of love to treasure, you can add stickers, audio messages, video and more.

2. Love is an invitation

My husband pointed this out. Told you he was a keeper. ‘Be My Valentine is an invitation,’ he said, and he’s right. It’s a proposal, a proposition, a request. I think the old-fashioned pleasure of a proper invitation is something we’ve lost in the modern age. My kids get invited to parties via the class WhatsApp, friends arrange meet-ups via text, and even wedding invitations arrive without fanfare since we’ve already had the ‘save the date’ card stuck to the fridge for weeks. 

But when someone asks you to be their Valentine - whether it’s via Tinder or Hallmark - it harks back to the romance of a bygone era. Choose me, is what they’re really saying, because they choose you. It's all a bit Bridgerton, and who doesn't love that?

3. Dine-in deals are amazing

We’re bad at date nights. With a 10-year-old, we still need a babysitter if we go out for dinner but she point-blank refuses to be left with her teenage brothers, so eating out is very much a family affair when it happens. But we try to find ways to make time for each other. A lunchtime walk, an occasional breakfast date after the school run, or a dine-in deal and a grown-up movie on a Sunday night. My go-to is the Marks & Spencer Pizza Night Dine In Deal - you get two pizzas and two sides for just £12 - the perfect date night for knackered parents, if you ask me. And there’s enough to feed four so if the teens wander in at the smell of pizza, we’ve got enough to share.

A little boy holds two heart-shaped sweets up to his face and smiles broadly

(Image credit: Getty Images)

4. Involve the kids

Kids love a bit of romance so let them feel a part of your love story. And they absolutely get the concept of devoting a day to love. Encourage this. You don’t have to spend loads on Valentine’s Day gifts for kids if that's not your style but pop a love note in their lunch box or indulge in some heart-themed crafts or baking. After all, the world needs more kids who grow up to be lovers, not haters.

"But we’ve learned to laugh at each other’s foibles and have (mostly) stopped trying to change one another."

5. ‘It’s nice to have a little bit of the extraordinary’

After three kids and 25 years of marriage there’s no denying that things sometimes get a little humdrum. We get on each other’s nerves now and then. For example, I ‘tidy up' by gathering his belongings from all over the house and dumping them in the hallway as a gentle reminder that I would appreciate it if he put his stuff away. (Deep down he probably finds this endearing but that’s not what his face says when he’s sifting through piles of his chattels...)

Equally, he leaves dirty dishes all over the kitchen and can’t seem to wash up unless he spends three hours doing so with headphones in whilst watching Netflix. But we’ve learned to laugh at each other’s foibles and have (mostly) stopped trying to change one another. 

Valentine’s Day is all about adding a bit of the extraordinary to an otherwise mundane normal day. It doesn’t have to be extravagant if that’s not your style and yes, you can choose to do it any day of the year. The important thing is expressing the sentiment, not the date itself.

6. It truly is the thought that counts

I’d rather have an unexpected bunch of tulips on a random Tuesday than 50 red roses on Valentine's Day. Find what makes the object of your affection feel kept in mind and do that.

For example, I laughed out loud when I saw that Greggs is selling a box of baked treats via Uber Eats this Valentine’s Day, billing it as 'the gift that screams 'I’m a melt'' - and in my opinion, it’s a tenner well spent.

Meanwhile, Lego Malaysia sold out of a Brick Date gift box that includes a card, coasters, conversation cards, a sticker sheet, and a heart-shaped Lego lock to build together. Not quite my idea of romance but you get the drift. This Lego bouquet of roses featuring a dozen red roses and four sprigs of baby's breath is a zero-maintenance bouquet worth buying if you want to find your way to a Lego lover's heart.

Red racy knickers aren’t for me and I’m ok with that.

7. Lingerie is not the one

I got married in a size 8 wedding gown that I designed myself. I wore a boxfresh pair of Acupuncture sneaks with my frock, long before dresses and trainers were a thing. I graduated two days before our wedding and I turned 22 two days later. 

Now, I’m two years away from turning 50 and I'm a size 16 (on a good day) with stretch marks that I’m trying to learn to love. My body has birthed and breastfed three humans, and it shows. I'm tired all the time due to hypothyroidism. Red racy knickers aren’t for me and I’m ok with that. One of the most romantic gifts my husband ever gave me was a pair of running trainers. Not a hint, thankfully. Just a thoughtful gesture after I mentioned wanting to get back to running again.

8. Love means always having to say you’re sorry

I don’t know where the notion came from that the opposite is true. It’s wrong. Get good - really good - at saying sorry if you want love to last. 

9. Flowers are also sold outside of February

Sending a Valentine's flower delivery is lovely and anyone who says otherwise clearly hasn’t known the exquisite joy of carrying an enormous bouquet home on the Tube, pretending to be embarrassed. The time my husband sent flowers to my office stands out as a core memory that I’ll always treasure. Top marks. 

But you know when it’s even lovelier? Finding a vase of Co-op tulips on the kitchen table because I happened to mention how happy they make me. 

10. Try new things

I know where you thought this was going but let's just say that the only toys I've got time for these days are the ones on my Christmas shopping list after my kids have written their letters to Santa.

But whatever 'new things' mean to you, be that in the bedroom or the kitchen, my advice is to keep discovering the world, and each other, together. See? Long-term love can be sexy AF. And keeping the spark alive doesn't have to be a big deal. Just embrace the new. I'm loving the Valentine basket trend on TikTok right now, for example, and since my husband gets neglected at Christmas when it's all about the kids, I plan on jumping on this viral bandwagon and making him a little love-themed gift basket this year, full of his favourite things. 

Continue reading

Heidi Scrimgeour
Deputy Editor

As a parenting specialist for more than 15 years, Heidi has written for most national newspapers and for a wide range of consumer magazines, including Mother & Baby where she was the Shopping Editor for six years, looking after regular consumer features including buying guides and gift roundups.