When the old man and I were younger, deliriously and pathetically in love, we’d spot old couples in the street, holding hands and being publicly affectionate, and say ‘that will be us one day.’
Other days, we might spot a middle aged couple in a restaurant, who barely spoke a word to each other, and pray that wouldn’t be us.
Sometimes I wonder if young couples look at us and have similar musings.
Doubtful though, because the message is hardly the same when your husband insists on walking at least five steps ahead of you because, (apparently), you’re too slow; usually because I’m teetering on heels and we live in a very hilly part of Sydney.
I’d love to be that elderly couple that we strived to attain to be all those years ago when we were still so green. It’s usually when I catch one of those UK hospital reality series where they interview gorgeous old couples, usually with quaint names like Bert and June, who appear to be as much in love today as the day they married, that I find myself pondering as to why our relationship doesn’t mimic theirs.
And it would be easy to blame modern-day stresses and responsibility (aka LIFE) for not being them, but I know those aren’t the real reasons. I mean, sure, these days it can be hard to find time in our relationship to prioritise loving, and not just because of the usual constraints, but also because we’ve reached a stage in our lives where we’ve been afforded some ME time again and each of us have grabbed at the opportunity hungrily.
We have plenty of our own interests, that don’t necessarily interest the other.
But we’re not that lovely, elderly couple because we’re just not that type of people, with that type of relationship, even though even I can see the importance of keeping in touch – physically and socially.
Long marriages can and do work, for the reasons below:
There are many benefits to having a history that has bonded you through the ups and the downs. While neither of you is perfect, you have the sense that you’re in this together and that you can count on one another. There is comfort in the familiarity that exists in your relationship. But there can be discomfort and boredom with this familiarity too. (Your Tango).
‘Comfort’ is the compelling word here.
In our relationship, however, being romantic or ‘showing your cards’ has always been seen as a weakness, because the underlying code of our partnership is about ‘survival of the fittest.’
We’d be shit if we were animals in the wild, forced to demonstrate our affection publicly to each other with some flamboyant and awkward mating ritual. When one of us is feeling sensitive, tired, or God help us – emotional – that provokes feelings of superiority rather than empathy in the other. I honestly can’t remember the last time we felt the need to spontaneously declare our undying love for each other Notebook-style.
The old man is better at demonstrating emotion than me; something to do with being the WEAKER sex, I think. He is tactile by nature, loves touching, pawing and generally annoying the fuck out of me, whereas I had to learn about the benefits to both myself and others of the spontaneous hug. I have to remind myself to tell him that I love him.
When you’ve been married for a life sentence, it’s too easy to get caught up in the ‘stuff’ of life and blame it as the reason for taking your relationship for granted; especially when you have your own busy micro-life outside your partnership and a son who can cause conflict, making it difficult to differentiate between your parenting relationship and your marital relationship.
And I’m guilty of that.
Men are simple creatures (!) and I have it on good authority is that all they really want is their mother comfort and companionship, with some quick nooky thrown in (preferably with no unnecessary dialogue afterwards).
But there’s no doubt that some form of intimacy needs to be upheld to keep in touch with each other. You don’t have to be banging on the kitchen table every night or hanging from the chandelier – super-easy with teenagers who go to bed later than us (NOT!) – it can be as innocuous as asking about each other’s day, sharing that last cube of chocolate (as if!) or having a weary goodnight kiss in bed before you turn out the lights at 9pm.
It’s far easier to lose touch with each other, become distant ships in the night or friends with benefits; especially when one of the best benefits of growing old together is being able to veg in front of inane television series every night together, quaffing vast quantities of wine and chocolate and farting in unison.
As a couple we’ve never gone the ‘date night’ route – that would be far too contrived for the old man – but we do go out to dinner together at least one night a week. Eating, drinking and arguing about our relationship are usually our priorities, but even those evenings, when invariably one of us storms off or sulks for three days straight, keep those precious communication channels open.