If I could seriously answer this, I’d be a millionaire by now.
You do get to the stage that I’ve reached in this hell-hole of an interminable marriage when it becomes impossible to ignore the statistics that a lot of middle-aged couples are choosing to go their separate ways at this time of their lives.
Which has always seemed kind of strange to me, to survive the really tough years of young kids, teenagers and the associated financial worries, then move on without each other so close to the finish line. I can kind of see why it happens, however, because it doesn’t take an expensive relationship counsellor to tell you that our hopes and dreams continue to evolve through the different stages of our lives and marriages only last when those changes in direction remain close enough to maintain some connection and shared values.
There’s also nothing like the pressure of our own mortality staring us in the face to make us more selfish about those dreams yet to be fulfilled.
The move to this semi ‘empty-nesting’ stage provides many of us with our first opportunity to discover some clarity about where our lives are taking us and that may sadly result in one of us wanting to break free. That teasing, fluttering finish line ribbon may in fact be the catalyst to make changes, however painful they may be. Indeed, some couples play a waiting game until they feel that the kids are independent enough to cope with those changes.
Who hasn’t at some point during their long relationship thought about a Shirley Valentine experience when their marriage feels flat and in the doldrums?
The old man and I were chatting with NC the other night, who having recently split with The Astronaut, was pontificating over the point of committed, exclusive relationships and how they are ever supposed to work. Personally, I believe that the success of relationships is more down to timing and luck rather than any romanticised notion of a meeting of minds or discovery of your soul-mate, but when you can get it to work, there is nothing greater than a long, fully-committed relationship.
As long as you realise that you will have to work at it, accept, adapt, compromise and manage both your expectations.
Nothing is perfect, which is why it makes me laugh when Kurt says that he can’t find a girl because he’s seeking perfection, and one can only hope that his future soul-mate is a little less choosy.
The old man and I have been married for twenty-three years now and have known each other since we were seventeen. That’s a long time… and sometimes it feels like a really long time, particularly when we discuss money. A well-timed sabbatical apart before we got married was the best decision we ever made and it’s something NC intends to do for the foreseeable future before she gets involved in another long relationship. I’m talking about some dedicated ‘whoring’ (her words), to get temptation and ‘unfinished business’ out of the way.
It’s an important foresight in my opinion, because when the spark in your marriage wanes, which it will at several points, at least you can be pretty certain that the grass is not greener.
Although many of my friends might disagree.
And I’ve seen the proof firsthand with those of them who have remarried or entered new relationships, and who are very happy. I’d be lying if I didn’t feel a little jealous sometimes by the shininess of their spanking new relationships, when they’re still enamoured enough to make an effort with each other with the added maturity and financial freedom afforded by middle age.
But there’s equally something quite nice about implicit trust that has built up over a long period of time, familiar routines (shoot me now), convenience and knowing each other so well that you take the words out of each others mouths and predict each others behaviours. In the same way that the old man knows that red meat makes me fart and I know that he cannot go an hour without checking our bank balance.