Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Even after the hurly-burly of the chaise longue, marriage has its moments

Penny asked me to say more about my answer to 'Things I can do' in this meme - that is, that being a wife is the most worthwhile thing I've ever done.

Once your children have grown up, there is a feeling of a 'job done'. The next stage of one's marriage is an opportunity to make of it what you want, if you choose to take it. I remember, when our youngest reached 18, thinking that we'd finally done it - brought them all up to adulthood and now our responsibility was of a different, voluntary kind. 8 months later, when my mother died, it was a completion of another responsibility. A couple of months later, we celebrated (quietly) our 30th wedding anniversary. At last, I felt that we could say that we had a long and (goodness, this feels like tempting fate, but I'll say it) successful marriage.

At the time, actually, I felt pretty low. It had been a difficult few years and my resilience had been strained. Part of my 'job doneness' was just relief that it was over and I had no more obligations - this sounds a bit awful and I'm reluctant to write it down, but I think that some of you will know what I mean, so I'll say it - I could, if it came to it, die with a clear conscience that I had not left a job uncompleted. I had a bit of a death-wish at the time. I was tired and drained and a bit depressed. I'm over it now.

A bonus of this time is the Sage's and my appreciation of each other. It's rather lovely. And, in conversations with other long-together couples, I can see it in them too. You'd think that, after all these years, a partnership (for not all my friends are married, nor all couples of different sex) wouldn't need to grow any more, but it can, if you want it to. There are a lot of us about, you know, more than you might think. We asked friends in Mousehole round for dinner one night last week* and it came up that one couple is about to celebrate their 40th anniversary. The others are about 18 months behind. We went to a wedding on Saturday - the bride's and groom's parents were there, looking happy and united, and the next day we had lunch with other friends - I've known L. all our lives, as his parents were best friends with mine. He and his wife got married the same year as we did, when he was 22 and she was 32. In all these couples, the deep unity is palpable and heart-warming.

Funnily enough, at the wedding breakfast (do you call it that in other countries? It is 'breaking the fast' following the wedding, so can take place at any time of day), I sat next to a schoolfriend of my sister's and of the bride's mother. She is a nun and has lived in Rwanda for most of the past 40 years. At one point, she asked me, and this could have been disconcerting, what is the most important, to me, thing I have done, and what ambition do I still have. It was not disconcerting at all, of course, because I had my answer ready, and she was quite impressed by it. She told me, when we said our goodbyes, that I must tell the Sage what I had said. Heh heh. I might. If I feel smoochy enough one day.

Over 30 years, we've gone through periods of taking each other for granted, but I don't think that's a bad thing in itself, if it indicates trust and comfort rather than indifference and complacency. We have been, more recently, very appreciative of each other. We have time to think about each other now that we don't have to worry about children or careers or, now the offspring are independent, money.

Is this an achievement, luck, hard work, complacency? Luck, for sure, and I don't underestimate that at all and am deeply grateful for it. For a start, we're both alive, and I'm not being facetious. Too many of my friends and family have not been so blessed. I guess I could sound complacent - but that's why we (all we long-married couples) don't talk about it, you see. We don't want to sound as if we've done better than others, that we've 'succeeded' and some have 'failed', because that's not what we think. We all know all the downsides as well as the ups of life and sometimes the smallest factor can make the difference between staying or leaving.

I've always said I'm the luckiest person I know, and if it were to end tomorrow, that wouldn't change. And I am not being complacent in saying that it's the care that the Sage and I have put in to our marriage that makes it a good one. I've not put as much effort into anything else - bringing up my children, yes, and they are our dearest treasures, but they are a credit to themselves more than to us.

Dammit, I'm stopping now. I said this wouldn't be too long. I wouldn't want to start getting sentimental or anything.
Glad you asked, Penny? ;-D

*Cornish asparagus risotto followed by gurnard flavoured with chilli, ginger and spring onions (okay, scallions), baked whole en papilotte with white wine, with Cornish new potatoes and salad, then cheese - Cornish Yarg, of course.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

A delicious read after a long, tiring and urghh day.

I'm glad you're side. I mean back.

You make me feel all cosy!

:-)

jen said...

you are so damn lovely, Z. you and your new/old love.

And the SageMan. I've had a crush on him for awhile now, but it's clearer as to why after reading this.

Chairwoman of the bored said...

And I am not being complacent in saying that it's the care that the Sage and I have put in to our marriage that makes it a good one. I've not put as much effort into anything else - bringing up my children, yes, and they are our dearest treasures, but they are a credit to themselves more than to us.

That so encapsulates how I felt about my own situation, that it leaves me breahless.

Z said...

'Course, I'm not this sloppy in real life. Keep him guessing - Hah!

Chairwoman - *hug*

Steg said...

Bless you both! You just warmed my heart a little.

Murph said...

The "luck" thing reminded me of a quote by Greg Norman or someone similar when asked about his luck in a golf match. "You know, the harder I practise, the luckier I get!"

The Boy said...

As elequent as always Z. I am sure the stories behind the statement of care of your relationship have both highs and lows. It is a truth of good relationships that care is required.

LL and I are only at 10 years, but I suspect we'll get there.

Z said...

You can make your good luck, Murph, but sometimes bad luck just hits you and there's nothing you can do about it.

Boy, however charmingly you put it, both you and Dharmabum reckon I talk an awful lot. There's truth in that, of course.

Steg, *hug* for you too

How do we know said...

Zoe, as usual, heartwarming and very nice! I am sending this to my husband with a special request that he read it. :-)

Penny. said...

Wow, Z.. you actually made me hopeful. That was a warm post and I appreciate you taking up the question.

There is a level of understanding and acceptance of all things that I hear in posts and in conversation from men and women who have been with their spouses for a number of decades. The distinguishing tone is the difference between those that feel that have 'survived' their marriages and those that have 'succeeded' albeit 'thus far' in theirs. You sound successful in your attitudes and love and marriage and life, Z. I hope I sound like you do, when someone asks me.

Very enjoyable post, Z. Thanks.

Z said...

*wave* to HDWK's husband!

Penny, that's a good way of putting it - 'survived' or 'succeeded'. My Sage and I are better people for having been together, I'm sure of that.

I should thank you for asking me to write it - it's needed a lot of thought and I found it quite hard to stick to the point* - there were so many angles I could have taken.

*yes folks, this post could have been a whole lot longer!

dharmabum said...

the most beautiful post.
the most beautiful z.
cheers!

i'm so glad to be here, theres always so muc to learn from the wise you :) i think i'll ask my parents to read this. mind?

Z said...

Aw, thanks, Dharmabum.

Not wise at all, however, but in a happy and fortunate place.