A Postmortem Of Twenty-Five Years Of Marriage

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As we hurtle towards our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary – celebrations and condolences for which are still under negotiation – it seems to me that the timing couldn’t be more perfect for a postmortem of our relationship.

 

I’ll be honest with you, as the product of divorced parents, I never expected our marriage to last, and like many couples in long-term relationships, we have experienced our share of highs and lows. Particularly this year. Living TOGETHER, and working from home TOGETHER, have inevitably created pressure points that at times have pushed us closer to our own re-enactment of the last scene in “The Notebook”.

 

And yet, here we are, still breathing, still together, together forever – words he taunts me with when I’m grumpy – as we morph into the middle-aged stereotypes we always denied we’d become. He is the archetypal grumpy old man who shouts at the television, wears socks with sandals, and feels no guilt about excusing himself from social gatherings. I am the highly-strung, middle-aged other half, secretly more suited to life as Betty Draper, in spite of my feminist idealism. 

 

My father describes our marriage as a life sentence, and sometimes, (as some of you will agree), it feels like it. But although marriage doesn’t get any easier, the ageing process does have a clever way of smoothing over cracks that in the past we might have left exposed. And perhaps, as well, both of us feel like we’ve passed the point of no return in our relationship. The idea of intimacy with anyone else is terrifying, we are comfortable with our silences, and unapologetic about the deterioration in our physical standards.

 

Our marriage has enriched and evolved like a fine wine. Not like those schmaltzy, finger-down-your-throat senior love matches depicted in British movies – usually set in India – no, we are more Jerry and Margo Leadbetter from “The Good Life” or Ethel and Norman Thayer from “On Golden Pond”. We have traded the fireworks for a resigned acceptance of how we should behave at our age, although secretly we keep our swords sharpened.

 

When he is loving life, I hate it. When I’m chill, he’s a stress ball. While he condemns me through his silence, I am a spitting, yapping Rottweiler. While he rarely criticizes me, I prepare a review of him each morning to contemplate throughout his day – although I have noticed some underground attempts to alter that status quo, demonstrating a worm-turning bravery in middle age that he concealed from me as a young man.

 

The other day he accused me of not putting the lid back on the toothpaste.

 

‘What lid?’ I countered, bristling as I frantically racked the wine-addled cells of my brain for a visual of our bathroom vanity and the scrunched up toothpaste tube.

 

This… image1 (1)

 

PETTY – I’m sure you will agree. And yet, pettiness evolves with marriage in the same way that deep love and respect do, and so: his refusal to refill the oats container, the fact that he only empties the recycling box once it has overflowed and the way he asks me what’s for dinner the day before – a cardinal sin in the universally accepted rules of marriage – have all been duly noted, and will be used in retribution, sometime in the future.

 

But he’s my best mate. I know what he’s going to say before he says it; he has steered me through more dark tunnels than I can remember, forcing his sweaty hand into mine exactly when I’ve needed it. He makes me laugh when I am determined not to, and his impression of Miguel Maestre from The Living Room has to be seen to be believed.

 

Admittedly, his close relationship with the dog is bordering on seedy, he has rarely bought me flowers, can’t cook for toffee, and is useless when it comes to DIY. And yet he can put a smile on my face even when storms rage around us.

 

The set of scales has always wavered precariously in our marriage, yet somehow, it always finds its balance in the end.

The Wedding Anniversary Negotiations

The author does not apologise for the foul language contained in this post. Occasionally, certain descriptive words are necessary to the content.

Wedding Anniversary Negotiations by My Midlife MayhemThe twentieth wedding anniversary plans are moving forward, although not quite in the direction I had hoped.

My sister in Brisbane has kindly taken pity on us and offered to lock up Kurt at her pad for three whole days so that the old man and I can go on a Brigitte Jones-esque ‘mini break’ for the weekend.

Kurt smiled for the first time in three months when I told him and said it was ‘rad’ – which I understand to mean that it is a good thing.

When I excitedly told the old man that I had managed to outsource childcare for our delinquent our son, his response was not the unmitigated euphoria I had expected. He looked puzzled at first and then suggested that if we could entice Nerd Child out of her bedroom and pack her off on some physics internship for the three days, we could stay at home together and save some money instead.

Now wouldn’t that be a special way to spend our anniversary?

‘Go back to f*cking Mars’, I secretly thought….(or may have actually voiced at the time).

I objected calmly to his suggestion, justifying that we WERE going to do something special because surviving twenty years together deserved a celebration of sorts. Whereupon he questioned why on earth we would choose to spend such a ludicrous amount of money on one weekend away when we could stay in the city and perhaps go to a really nice restaurant instead (!). Anyway, he asked finally, (turning the knife a little harder), was a celebration really necessary?

Who said romance was dead?

To which I assured him wholeheartedly that, yes, I personally felt the need to celebrate twenty years of living with a complete c….t.

‘How big a c….t? he asked with a straight face. ‘The biggest?’ And I realised he was on the verge of launching into his favourite Billy Connolly joke again.

I shot him one of my best withering looks.

So surprise, surprise, our luxurious mini-break for two isn’t going to be to Hayman Island after all. No, I won’t be showing off my new Speedo swimmers on the beach anytime soon. Apparently, we are going by train to that well-known lovers destination of the Blue Mountains instead. To the cold, again. Because after an enforced week at the snow (skiing) in the company of the dysfunctional family, I will really want to freeze my nuts off again the following week!

I have begrudgingly agreed to the weekend on the condition that we can stay in a swanky, deluxe hotel with pool, chocolate fountain and full access to the mini bar as my minimum luxury requirements. The old man wants to stay in a motel with Fox Sports and for us to buy our booze (like the cheapskates that we are) at the local bottle shop.

I am on the verge of committing what happened to Theon in Game of Thrones on my husband – (hold me back, Satan).

Sometimes, just sometimes, I truly question why I didn’t marry one of those lovely (but deathly dull) ‘nice guys’ who worshipped me in my twenties and would have booked a weekend on Haymen Island without batting an eyelid, simply to make me happy.

What made me choose ‘the biggest c…t’?

How To Celebrate Your 20th Wedding Anniversary

Will and Kate may just have celebrated their first wedding anniversary, but more excitingly we too have a major wedding anniversary looming. One that could test the very foundations of our marriage, as inevitably we share very different views about how best to celebrate it.

Hayman Island by df1hx at www.flickr.com

It’s not that I’m worried about the old man remembering the date – he only has to look at the massive tattoo on his chest inscribed with the words ‘17th JULY’ – my gift to him on our first anniversary.

I just know innately that I’m going to be disappointed. I can’t decide whether to accept that for what it is, suck it up, and focus on all the things he is wonderful at.

Or HOPE.

I think that ‘hoping’ is where I always go wrong. Hope is dangerous and a little foolish after twenty years together. Logically, leopards do not generally change their spots.

But, I argue in my head, this anniversary is more special than the others, so maybe….

*Hoping*

My argument is that we need to celebrate that I have put up with him for twenty years and lived to tell the tale. It’s an achievement that needs to be celebrated with more than a bottle of sparkling white wine, a curry and a quickie.

His arguments are characterically, ‘cost’,  and some bullshit about ‘not needing to prove his love with false public demonstrations of love.’

It’s not like I’m expecting anything REALLY special, like friends of ours who set the bar unrealistically high by flying to New York and doing romantic stuff like ‘spending time together’. (You know who you are!). Just a step up from a Chicken Korma and a kiss on the cheek, say.Nilgiri Chicken Korma courtesy of Sailajag at www.flickr.com

I’ve bandied around the idea of a weekend on Hayman Island, which was met with what I can only describe as a guffaw from the old man’s camp. Is that a positive reaction or am I reading too much into it?

I foolishly thought that if I aimed high, he might actually ‘read the cue’ that I’m serious about him treating this anniversary with a little more than the usual skepticism.

But there is a fundamental problem with us going to Hayman Island, (were there even the remote chance in a billion that he would ever to take my suggestion seriously), in that I am terrified of the ocean. I’ve always had difficulties with the whole breathing technique of snorkeling and usually end up a spluttering mess on a bed of those hideous-looking Sea Cucumber things at the bottom of the ocean – (Ever question God’s choices when he decided what to create?). Frankly, I can only tolerate living fish if they stay in their own zone or are in tanks.

Snorkelling courtesy of Jenchiblu at www.flickr.com

So I was hoping that he might come up with a counter-suggestion along the lines of a weekend in Noosa or Port Douglas maybe, even Melbourne, or worst case scenario, some fancy-schmantzy hotel in the city. But I haven’t spotted him furtively researching any holiday or hotel websites recently and I’ve checked his search history and there’s nothing there apart from questionable bodily function symptoms.

I made him promise years ago that for my fiftieth birthday we would go on a tour of Italy together and he’s even having second thoughts about that now. Last night he offered me a change of plan and suggested that I go (with a few girlfriends) on an all-expenses-paid trip (by him) around North Korea.

So it doesn’t bode well.

My husband has many talents but organization and ‘giving’ are not two of them. He has surprised me once during our marriage – at our wedding reception, when he introduced my speech to our guests – the one that I had no idea I was making and had to deliver after at least eight glasses of Champagne.

The other problem we face, of course, is that we are not sure if we can leave Kurt Cobain (the ADHDer), the Spoodle and Nerd Child on their own and in the same house, for a whole night.

Nerd Child has been having a bit of a crisis as a result of Kurt’s recent antics at Darling Harbour. She has come to the conclusion that our house is a mental asylum and I admit that I have noticed that she stays at friends’ houses more and more regularly as Kurt becomes more and more sociopathic. I’m envisaging more therapy bills for the old man to tut about.

In fairness, she has offered to ‘babysit’ our sixteen year old for vast sums of money, but these are the conditions:

  • Kurt is not allowed to walk around the house naked
  • He is not to emit his Tourettes-like howls before 8am in the morning
  • He is not to steal money from her purse to buy cigarettes
  • He is not to climb out onto his roof to smoke them
  • He is not to wake her up in the middle of the night, singing
  • He is not to take the television apart
  • He is not to play his electric guitar at full volume using his Big Muff distortion pedal before 8am
  • He is not to wear his bunny onesie or Thunderbird costume in public
  • He is not to terrorise the Spoodle by any of the following means: a) the blanket game b) the bladder game or c) dressing up in aforementioned onesie.

Unfortunately, Kurt will not agree to conditions 1 and 8, so it looks like we could be back at Blue Ginger’s curry house for our 20th wedding anniversary after all.

What did you do to celebrate your 20th Wedding Anniversary?

Hayman Island by df1hx at http://www.flickr.com

Snorkelling by Jenchiblu at http://www.flickr.com

Nilgiri Chicken Korma by Sailajag at http://www.flickr.com