An institute you can’t disparage
“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.”