Each marriage is different and changes with the passing years. Four writers at different stages in the adventure explain what theirs means to them

Guy Adams, 30

Falling in love had been easy. I'd met Katie during my first year at university, was instantly smitten, and contrived, in my wisdom, not to pursue her. We lost touch for a decade. Then, last summer, our paths re-crossed via the happy medium of social networking. She "poked" me (to use the correct argot) on the website Facebook. I "poked" her back. Very soon, we were a couple.

Getting engaged, roughly a year later, was harder. First came that expensive visit to the jeweller. Then I'd had to negotiate the all-important business of dropping to one knee. This, in case you hadn't realised, is an extremely big deal. Modern protocol requires prospective grooms to deliver a knockout speech, in a memorable location. Thanks to Hollywood, tears are expected to stream down our manly cheeks.

To me, this seemed a step too far: not because of emotional backwardness or stiff upper lip, but because a five-minute oration affords neither the time nor the environment to explain why you're proposing marriage. Not if you want to do it properly.

You cannot put into words the process by which you slowly realise that another person is "the one". You can't explain the curious alchemy that seamlessly turns the weeks you spend together into months, and makes you wake up one morning realising that, together, you are infinitely better than the sum of your parts.

You may never be able to express why, after 30 years of independent life, the time suddenly comes when life will only make sense if you meet its challenges in a partnership. There is no form of words that gets to bottom of that feeling - not without falling back upon weary clich.

So my proposal speech, like so many others, was toe-curling: a hybrid of Hugh Grant and Boris Johnson, and Alan Partridge, delivered on a wet hillside near my family home in Wales.

But looking back, it was none the worse for that. Because even as the institution of marriage is undermined, men and women carry on doing it. Even as common sense dictates that many will fail, hundreds of thousands of couples plight their troth each year. Love is an optimistic estate, and weddings are celebration of that optimism.

And in the end, I suppose, that's why she said yes.

Dr Linda Papadopoulos, 35

I've been married to Teddy (Theodore) for what will be 10 years on Friday. We met when I was 21. I was studying in Canada and he was studying in Manchester and we were both on vacation in Cyprus.

We had both lived only five minutes down the road from each other when we were growing up, but it wasn't until this holiday that we met. My favourite thing about him is that he's a lot of fun. He makes me laugh a lot and he's just a great guy. We still do things like play poker until 2am when we both have work the next day. It helps that we grew up in the same place and that we met when we were so young because it helps us to feel safe around each other. I don't think getting married changed anything between us. It was a good thing, but it was more important for our families. We're both from quite traditional families I'm Greek and he's half-Greek and half-Irish.

Teddy is an investment banker. I don't think the fact that I'm on television bothers him, but he is quite a private person. One side of him finds my job difficult because of that, but usually he laughs about it. We have a little girl called Jessica who is six. It's a lovely age. But she didn't come easily; I had three miscarriages before we had her. They were traumatic for both of us, but Teddy was really good at reassuring me when I was worried that as a woman I was letting him down. It definitely brought us closer. As a psychologist I try not to overanalyse our relationship, but some things just jump out at you. I see friends who are couples arguing and have to try really hard not to intervene because it just seems so obvious what's going wrong.

We're not argumentative. We have our moments, but he usually ends up defusing it by making me laugh. The biggest pressures on our relationship are work and time. We both work a lot, but we're strict with ourselves about not just vegging out in front of the television.

If anything annoys me about him it is that I always want to get things done quickly and he doesn't. Sometimes it makes me want to strangle him, and I probably irritate him by rushing around. But the shrink in me tells me that it's a good thing because our personalities complement each other.

Dr Papadopoulos's book, 'What Men Say, What Women Hear' is published by Century (11.99)

Roger McGough, 70

I have been married to my wife for 22 years. We met in Liverpool at a bus-stop. Neither of us knew that there was a bus strike. Eventually we walked down to the Philharmonic pub for a drink. She was lecturing in Liverpool and I had just broken up from my first wife.

I have four children. Two are from my previous marriage, Finn and Tom (as well as a stepson, Nathan); and Hilary and I have two children, Matthew and Isabel.

Whenever Hilary is away I practise feeling lonely. I recently wrote a poem about it: "To Absence". I'm not very good at living on my own.

Writing and marriage help to keep the darkness at bay. I read my poems to Hilary, as a sort of sounding board. She is a scientist, so she's practical. I like that sort of Yin and Yang. I've almost convinced her that sitting in a pub or lying in bed is part of the poet's job.

Making time for each other comes naturally. I do go away a lot to write, run writing courses or do readings and this helps keep the relationship on its toes.

I like to think I'm a romantic, although I'm not good at buying flowers. We occasionally go to the theatre together and to the Chelsea Arts Club, and often we go as a family to literary festivals. But she also pursues her own interests, which I think is important too. She isn't a great drinker, but I'm pretty good at it, and she strives to keep me in line. Hilary converted to Catholicism when we married, so we share a religion and go to church together.

As a young man I thought having children and living in the suburbs was the last thing I wanted to do. I had a wildly romantic image of love and thought that marriage closed doors which it does. But now I know that it also gives you enrichment. Being a writer can make you totally self-centred, and the companionship that marriage provides, that lifetime commitment, helps keeps one grounded.

We are at the stage now when our children are about to move off, so I feel like Iwe'll be waiting at the bus stop again and this time the bus will arrive. And we'll both get on, happy but not quite sure of our destination.

'Slapstick', by Roger McGough, is published by Puffin (8.99)

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