BY DOMINIC WIGHTMAN
Two weekends ago at the rugby an old friend told me that I am blessed as I’m happily married.
Horses for courses, I guess. The grass is always greener and all that.
But yes, I told my friend that he was right, that I was a fortunate fellow indeed. I reckoned that frankly anything else would be an awful lot of bother.
Fifteen years of marriage, like most longer lasting marriages, has not always gone swimmingly but, generally, when you meet and marry the right person, life (and parenthood) can become that much easier. On reflection it’s good to have someone to clip me around the ear and to share bagging dog poo.
Unreasonable behaviour is the number one reason for divorce in the UK, with adultery being responsible for around 14 per cent of marriage breakups. The average length of marriage in the UK at the time of divorce for opposite-sex couples (whatever that means these days) is 11.9 years, and the average UK divorce age for women is 43.9 and 46.4 for men.
Given those stats, it’s not that surprising to find other couples looking miserable together at social events, or a surplus of singles of my age down at the gym. In the town nearest to us there is said to be a ratio of three single women to one single man. Our dustmen and postmen who hail from that town are always late and forever smiley.
My point is that statistically one should expect to see others suffering in their marriages at around my time in life.
Some male friends do tell me they now feel trapped in their marriages. I never advise them. I have no idea what makes a happy marriage or where they might be going wrong. But I am reminded whenever they whine to me of the short tale of Amelia, the wife in a marriage in a story once told to me in a London pub. It explains so well the delusions of some marriages and touches upon the Mars/Venus variance (women and men really are from opposite planets). All I know is that objectivising relationships (take note my dear American friends so partial to emotional bulimia that you are) inevitably screws them up.
The tale goes something like this:
Amelia woke up in the middle of the night to find her husband Ben was not in bed. She put on her nightgown and went downstairs to search for him.
She found him sitting at the kitchen table with a tumbler of Glenfiddich in front of him. He appeared to be deep in thought, just staring at the wall. He had not noticed her. She watched as he wiped away a tear from his eye.
“What’s the matter dear?” she whispered as she stepped into the room. “Why are you down here at this time of night!?”
Ben looked up from his drink, “it’s the twentieth anniversary of the day we met.”
Amelia can’t believe he has remembered. Tears well in her eyes. How blessed she is to have such a wonderful, caring chap as a husband.
But Ben continued most solemnly, “do you remember twenty years ago when we started dating? I was eighteen and you were only fifteen.”
Once again, Amelia is reduced to tears thinking that her darling husband is so caring and sensitive.
“Yes, I do,” she replied.
Ben paused… his words were not flowing easily at all.
“Do you remember when your father caught us in the back seat of my car that night?”
“Yes, I remember,” said Amelia, lowering herself into a chair beside him.
“Do you remember when he shoved his shotgun in my face and said, ‘Either you marry my daughter or I will make sure you spend the next twenty years in prison?'”
“Yes, I remember that too,” Amelia replied softly…
Ben sighed as he wiped another tear away from his cheek.
“My sentence would have ended today.”
Dominic Wightman is Editor of Country Squire Magazine.