An Irish woman's social, political and domestic commentary
Tuesday, August 30, 2005  


Drinking tea in the early evening watching M. mow our ridiculously huge lawn, my uncle and I reflected on how we would reduce the amount of grass and the news that an outward relation appears to have accepted her husband back into the home. We knew that after a legal separation of about 4 or 5 years, there had been some family holidays and the occasional overnight stay. However, the news that they had been sighted at mass together seemed a public signal that a reconciliation cannot be far away. His crimes had been twofold. Excessive drinking (invariably followed by driving) and womanising. I think it was after a particularly outrageous drink-driving episode that she threw him out. Apparently he has aged a little and finds it less easy to attract women. Fortunately both had ensured that he had ready access to their children and his increasing presence in the home was so gradual that they are not overly confused. They were both quite young when all the trouble took place and hopefully aren't too affected by the whole thing.
Anyway, we discussed which sins are forgiveable in a marriage and which are not. Violence is obviously top of the list, followed by gambling. Drinking (which would probably go hand-in-hand with the previous) would come next. After that you've got verbal abuse, especially in public. Chronic laziness and unreliability would wear anybody down. You wouldn't have one big row and it would be over. That would be waking up after 10 years and deciding you just couldn't stick him anymore. I think infidelity would be bottom of the list. If it was confined to occasional/rare once-offs that were easily ignored, you'd keep him in the spare room but a break-up wouldn't be necessary. I suppose that doesn't really happen. I suppose it starts with occasionals and then they announce they're in love and must be true to themselves and leave.
I don't know many people who have broken up. Of the together-but-rowing couples I know, none of the above crimes are the cause of arguments. They just feel overworked and blame the other and they're bored and just sick of each other.
Germaine Greer does say that we expect far too much in a marriage. We expect the other person to be our best friend, great conversationalist, equal co-worker, and brilliant lover forever and it's an unrealistic burden to place on one person.
I suppose everyone has to find their own level of toleration. What are they willing to put up with it? The worst case scenario is one willing to go on but the other not.
Interestingly everyone agrees that the one thing keeping unhappy couples together is not the last vestige of love, but money. Break-ups are sooooo expensive. The one broken-up couple I know - he's in a flat and she's in their lovely home with the child. I think if I was him I'd be particularly pissed off that at a mature stage in life he's back in flat land. So, you have to be pretty miserable to put up with that.

Anyway, I find that if he's bugging me*, a little Metta Bhavna goes a long way. "May he be well, may he be happy, may he be free from suffering, may he progress". Then, he's not just an extension of my life; he's the individual I first met who does not exist solely to make me happy.

*I should stress we are quite content at the moment

posted by Sarah | 21:29 4 comments
But when you're single, marriage is presented as the b-all and end-all. All that pressure to get hitched. I was happily single til my mid-30s, when eventually corralled into marriage. I'm not complaining and with baby on the way there's no turning back, but I miss those freewheeling single years.
I know. There is that trade off between the security of knowing they're there, the provision of a father and yet the construction of a prison. I'm 34. If I was single that would seem old (in reproductive terms) but being married it seems so young! Look, the being together living apart deal didn't work for Woody and Mia so I suppose we just have to accept the occasional downside to eternal companionship.
I’ve never understood the ‘seems old’ thing. I’m 37 and was in no hurry. Our grandmothers were having babies well into their forties and we’re fitter now than we ever were. Strange thing, the women who did their damnedest to make me feel bad about being single were no great ad for marriage. You know the ones who last had sex when Princess Diana died. The fattest dullest lump of a woman I know did her best to patronize me for years. Like I’d have been seen dead with the loser she settled for!
Well, my 39 year old friends enduring the misery and failure and expense of IVF might disagree with you on the fertility front. As for smug marrieds, to hell with them. Living in overly close proximity to one person for too long would knock smugness out of anyone.
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