I’ve been thinking about marriage and blended families and middle aged dating quite a lot lately. Probably over thinking it, young people seem to me to take it all in their stride, being the products of broken and reconstituted families and creating their own temporary families, weathering it as singletons and then recreating another temporary family. I know I’m generalising but the next generation don’t seem to have as much of a forever after with prince charming outlook as we did.
Nick’s bathroom, throw away, brandy induced comment recently made me think about marriage for the first time in a long time. I’ve been married once and it shattered all illusions I had. I was the product of a 40 plus year marriage, ended only by death although from a young age I was aware that it would have perhaps been better had time been called on it much sooner.
Witnessing that protracted period of incompatibility between my parents made me determined as a child that I would always be happy with my husband. It didn’t put me off marriage at all, I still wanted to meet Mr Right and be married and have children. It just always felt like the right thing to do to me. From a young age, unlike many girls of my social standing and my age I also was acutely aware that I wanted a career too. I loved baking and doing laundry and making beds but I wanted that and something more. To me then marriage was going to be an essential forever thing where we both worked at keeping it happy and loving and fun, where children would feature, where I would run a lovely home with clean sheets and baked goods and where myself and my husband would manage careers and support one another.
I wanted it all and believed it was all possible.
After my first disastrous relationship with a psychopath and escaping with my life if not much else and being told I could never have children my outlook changed. I still wanted marriage, happy ever after. I still believed that happiness was possible but I was more aware of how it was important to ensure that the right partner was chosen first. I was more cautious. I was less trusting but I had more of a realistic set of criteria… topped off with 1. First establish that he is not a psychopath.
I was glad I didn’t marry that guy.
Then I met a man who intrigued me, he was calm, unflappable, intelligent, ambitious, refined, sophisticated, funny, family orientated and he had nice long arms which I felt confident could accommodate my girth should the yo yo ever slide down again. Long arms were important as was height which is good news as long arms and short stature could have seen me wandering off down the aisle with a silver back.
I’d been through a tumultuous period of wanton abandon since my escape from psychoville which had included a resisted relationship with a very nice guy who asked me to marry him very publicly in a full on romantic proposal which destroyed him when I declined his offer to take my hand in marriage. I said no because I just didn’t love him, I didn’t feel ready to get married or to trust anyone with the level of intimacy required for marriage at that point. I don’t mean physical intimacy, I’ve never needed to feel close to anyone for that, but emotional intimacy (which of course I now know makes physical intimacy a different experience so I would not like to totally drive a wedge between the two forms).
The period of never getting close to anyone really became wild after public proposal and ended with a more private and formal proposal from tall guy with long arms. Just prior to the proposal I had decided that my life needed to change. I was out of control and heading for disaster. I was progressing with my career and doing well, I was recovering from the residue of psychopath and starting to see my wild ways as not quite the fun I once felt it was. But I started to see that I was potentially damaging myself with the partying and black book filled with names of hot guys and in need of a more normal toned down existence. I had kind of washed the damage (or so I thought) from myself and was ready to revisit what I actually wanted in life. The proposal then seemed to present me with a wide open doorway to that new settled me and to everything I’d ever wanted before the psycho blip. So I said yes. Eventually. He did ask me several times and around the fourth time instead of saying give me time to think I said yes.
I’d always envisaged my wedding, it was going to be a grand affair. However I don’t like stress and once we announced our impending marriage, my father had been asked formally for my hand in marriage and consented, the stress began. Two families separated by thousands of miles on different continents wanting things to be done their way, two betrothed people living hundreds of miles from each family with a huge circle of friends living close to them all wanting to be involved. The planning and satisfying of everyone quickly became problematic and stressful. So ultimately we opted for a version of a wedding which suited us and we had several celebrations in various venues around the globe which took in everyone else’s needs… well it nodded to them. I hope they appreciated it because none of it was what I would have wanted for myself and i must say that I did feel slightly cheated by that.
I knew I’d made a mistake as soon as the vows were said, well if not then, as soon as the register was signed. I realised that I did want to be married, I was ready for it BUT I hadn’t given enough thought to the person I had married. I’d kind of married him because he wanted to marry me at a time when I’d realised I wanted to be married. What I should have done is held that thought and found someone who I really wanted to marry, not the person I just happened to be dating when I realised I wanted to get married to someone. There is a difference.
But I do not regret it, I regret that it wasn’t right but I meant what I said at the time, I realised that I might have repeated my parents’ mistake and married the wrong person and that I was, due to my resolve to only ever marry one person and to stay married, going to be with him forever in what had every chance of becoming a mismatched long drawn out uncomfortableness, much the same as my parents.
Of course the children were a result of that decision and so there is that reason and many others to be grateful for the choice I made but ultimately that choice was a mistake and our marriage ended. I realised that I did not have the long suffering nature of either of my parents (it takes two to make these things drag on) and I realised then that my parents did have one thing in common, they were both prepared to stick with their marriage even though it made neither of them happy. I definitely didn’t share that trait, the genes skipped on me.
I remember sitting at a wedding, not long after my own and watching someone I knew very well make vows for the second time in the space of ten years. The groom had been divorced and I remember having a clear view of the beautiful bride’s face from my near to front of church, groom’s side position. I was cradling my sleeping beautiful new daughter all rigged out in lace, frills and bows for the occasion, nuzzled up to my designer gown (size 10) which she had spewed all over just as the Rolls Royce had pulled up to take us to the church. A damp cloth and a good squirt of Safari did the trick as well as a carefully draped baby shawl. I was sitting there as relaxed as one can only be when cradling a sleeping baby. I looked at her face as he repeated his vows and saw a glazed euphoric look in her eyes and I thought “How can you believe what he is saying? You know he said it to someone else a few years ago and he never meant it then obviously”. I shook myself from this thought but I never forgot thinking it.
Even though I knew at that point that I had made vows to my husband which I realised I didn’t really mean shortly afterwards, I did actually think I meant them as they came out of my mouth and besides I wasn’t going to run off with the first floozy to catch my eye, I’d resolved to see this through, live my mistake. I vowed never to ever marry anyone else. This guy hadn’t managed that. But I guess he too could have made a mistake and when my marriage did end I thought of that day again and my feelings as the bride and groom took their vows and I felt guilty for feeling the way I’d felt (even though he did leave her six months later for a bit of skirt a few years younger). But I knew it was possible to make those promises and mean them at the time but for things to change. I was sure I could never say them again knowing that though. At that point I resolved to never ever marry again and I was cool with that.
I came to believe that marriage was not essential, in today’s world it doesn’t really mean anything, certainly not what it used to but then to some people it does mean what it used to, it is a life long commitment, an unbreakable vow. I respect that but to me it doesn’t mean that. I’m independent in terms of finance so don’t need any kind of security blanket in that sense and I don’t need a contract with someone who loves me. As time has moved on of course I’ve become more self sufficient and more independent and with my children almost independent of me too I have increased freedom and less reliance on other people for support of any kind.
I decided I would never get married again, I didn’t see the point, I’ve done it once, it doesn’t always last forever, it serves no purpose for me, I just don’t need to do it and nothing would ever change that…
So here we are, Nick’s tested the water. As much as he said it was ‘thinking aloud’ he knows my views on marriage and I think he was really testing to see if those views have changed since we last discussed marriage several months ago after we’d spent a long conversation analysing our views and what had formed them.
Nick had a very different experience of marital break down to me and it wasn’t something particularly pleasant, if these things ever are. There was lots of bitterness and allegations and threats and witholding of access to children and fights over property and I was glad that I never had any of that. That was something myself and my husband had in common, neither of us like to argue or fight, we find it a waste of energy and unproductive, so we used to discuss and agree and that’s how our marriage ended really, with a discussion and an agreement. It was sad, don’t get me wrong, it was a failure and it will always affect our children but it could have been worse.
Even so I didn’t want to do it again, in fact perhaps that’s why I didn’t want to do it again, I know I would be hard pushed to be fortunate enough to marry someone so darned reasonable.
I love Nick, I’ve loved him for years and I’m very much in love with him and I love loving him and being loved by him and I hope he’s around for the long haul but marriage? I’m emotionally invested in this, more emotionally invested than I’ve ever been in anything (barring motherhood). Hmmmm. I’m not sure I see the point still. With my newly emerging slender figure of course I’d love to get myself into a fabulous dress and be the centre of attention for a day and throw a fabulous party but the actual being married bit is something I don’t think I will ever have any enthusiasm for. I even wonder if the desire for the dress, attention and party just comes from not having it my way last time. I’m not sure that it doesn’t.
I’ve told him this and he understands but at the same time he is rather more traditional and believes in making a commitment and promises. I do too, I really do but i can make those promises to him sitting on the sofa, they’ll mean as much to me as they would if I said them in front of a crowd of people and then signed to say that I was willing to be legally bound by what I’d promised.
I’m going to leave it there and write more at another time about my thoughts on blended families and remarriage. I’m looking forward to doing that because writing this has made me realise that if I did marry Nick it would be all about the frock and the party, the promises I’d make to him would be just as sincere without witnesses and signatures. Perhaps writing about my views on the other matter will influence my views on marriage further towards the negative or perhaps sway me towards the positive. I also need to think more about his opinions and views, because if I want to remain in a committed relationship with him, which I so do, then I really need to be considering how my decision could affect that relationship and him. Can’t wait to find out.