Happy couples bend the rules
For myriad reasons, my husband despises cliché and commercialism. I may pretend to agree with him, but in truth, there would be a frisson of girl-joy when receiving red roses, or even a scrawled card and croissants, on Valentine’s Day.
I’ve yet to experience that, because he won’t be moved. And that isn’t a bad thing, given that I wouldn’t have him any other way – he is a counter-culture guy, which makes him interesting.
His views on America, religion, politics and parenting make for lively, white-knuckled discussions at social gigs. It’s like living on the edge but comfortably.
Since our wedding anniversary comes up next month, I looked back at what I wrote about him five years ago. We’re still a little left of centre and pleasantly mismatched – and the studies I read about partnership still hold true.
We finally told our kids recently that Marc and I met on the internet. Not on a dating site (nothing wrong with those – studies prove it) or because we were looking, but quite by divine chance, owing to our respective careers and a salacious interest in that trendy TV series back then, Big Brother.
Our online history is why we often chatted via Skype back then (while living in the same house – and a small house, at that), and these days, quite frequently via Whatsapp.
My friends cannot fathom this. But that’s because they didn’t meet on a chat forum. I still feel thrilled when his name pops up on-screen. It takes me back to my size 10, rosy-cheeked 20-something self, when romance was logical and a necessity, rather than something I had to work at after persuading kids into bed. Not that I haven’t yearned for a more traditional set-up. Both of us work long hours and it’s not the 9-5pm drill either.
We don’t take our work home because our work is at home; we can’t escape it. It was my friend Penny who got me thinking about what constitutes a good marriage or partnership anyway. She pointed out what Edith Wharton said: “I begin to see what marriage is for. It’s to keep people away from each other. Sometimes I think that two people who love each other can be saved from madness only by the things that come between them: children, duties, visits, bores, relations, the things that protect married people from each other.”
As research tells us, again and again – even though we’re mostly not listening – it’s honestly okay to be an individual after signing an antenup.
The old rules about not going to bed angry, or having the same hobbies, or never admitting that you’re bored of each other, simply don’t apply.
Psychotherapist Barbara Bartlein and author of Why Did I Marry You Anyway? reckons that breaking old-school marriage rules could be the best rule yet.
So, if you’re covertly comparing your situ with the couple next door; or trying to coerce a reluctant spouse into taking up tandem biking on Sundays: don’t.
At the end of the day, if you still rather dig the guy who’s seen you give birth, and who doesn’t rag you when he has to fish out your toenail clippings from the bath, then you’re on to something.