An in­sti­tute you can’t dis­par­age

The Courier-Mail - - OPINION - SUE WIGHTON suewighton@gmail.com Sue Wighton is a free­lance writer

“LOVE and mar­riage, it’s an in­sti­tute you can’t dis­par­age.” So crooned Ol’ Blue Eyes. And de­spite be­ing a failed wife my­self, I must agree.

I re­cently read that mar­riage and ro­mance are mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive. This con­cept – though I’m a cynic – dis­turbs and up­sets me. I’m deeply wed­ded to the idea of mar­riage. I so want to be­lieve that happy, ro­man­tic mar­riages do ex­ist and can en­dure and deepen over time.

But mar­riage is like stand-up pad­dle-board­ing: it looks like fun but not every­one can suc­ceed at it.

From my own ex­pe­ri­ence, mar­riage was a bit like knit­ting. Sure, I gave it a red hot go, but I didn’t seem to have the knack. Oh, I started off en­thu­si­as­ti­cally enough, aim­ing to cre­ate some­thing beau­ti­ful to last a life­time – an in­tri­cate and rich Fair Isle jumper per­haps – to warm and com­fort, to soften and change shape along with me over time. Some­thing I could be proud of.

Sadly it wasn’t long be­fore things be­came dif­fi­cult, the pat­tern eluded me and I let my at­ten­tion wan­der. I started drop­ping stitches willy-nilly and what should have been a thing of beauty be­came a pa­thetic joke, all holes and ragged edges. My Fair Isle jumper was a mis­shapen lump of grubby wool, un­rav­el­ling at a rate of knots and even­tu­ally con­signed to the bin. Mar­riage fi­nis.

Don’t get me wrong: There were mo­ments of plea­sure in my mar­riage and when I left I wasn’t en­tirely empty-handed. There were boun­teous gifts. I in­her­ited a por­tion of the mar­i­tal home, a lovely silky oak dresser, a beau­ti­ful, amaz­ing daugh­ter and a sound work­ing knowl­edge of the Fam­ily Law Act. Count your bless­ings, I say.

His­tor­i­cally mar­riage was a strate­gic al­liance be­tween fam­i­lies; the first mar­riage oc­curred about 2350BC in Me­sopotamia.

The idea of ro­man­tic love as a rea­son to stum­ble down the aisle only goes as far back as the Mid­dle Ages.

As I look around at my friends and their var­i­ous states of alone­ness, cou­ple­dom and mar­riage, I marvel at the unique­ness of re­la­tion­ships these days.

Some are staunchly sin­gle, some opt for com­pan­ion­ship sans pa­per­work, some mar­ried late, and some have been mar­ried a very long time.

My own par­ents were hap­pily mar­ried for more than 50 years.

Then there are the hap­lessly hope­less cou­ples that ap­pear on the re­al­ity show Mar­ried at First Sight.

These poor schmucks elect to marry some­one, sight-un­seen, on na­tional tele­vi­sion.

View­ers then watch over the weeks as these “mar­riages” spec­tac­u­larly im­plode and un­ravel, just like my knit­ting. I’m ashamed that, like some­one pass­ing a road crash, I sim­ply can’t look away.

Of all the songs, po­ems and plays that have been penned about this in­sti­tu­tion, mar­riage re­mains one of life’s sweet and sour mys­ter­ies. Jane Austen said that hap­pi­ness in mar­riage is “en­tirely a mat­ter of chance”.

I pre­fer US co­me­dian Rita Rud­ner’s take: “I love be­ing mar­ried. It’s so great to find that one spe­cial per­son you want to an­noy for the rest of your life.”

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