A good marriage
We review our investments regularly, at least monthly if we are sensible. We review our business almost daily with a variety of reports and meetings to ensure it is not going off the rails. We review our children’s education at least three times a year. We review our parents’ old age arrangements as often as necessary to see they are comfortable and happy. We review our holiday plans, our routine health check-ups, our visits to the gym or whatever other exercise we take. In fact we review practically every aspect of our lives except our marriages. Why is that?
The myth and ceremony surrounding marriage imply entering a state of everlasting bliss that is created to maintain passionate love and deeply held companionship in perpetuity. It is a tribute to the wedding concept that some couples do achieve this happy state. Unfortunately, many don’t. About half end up divorcing – generally regarded as more painful than death – others jog along together in a kind of truce, a few lead completely separate lives, sometimes happily, sometimes miserably. “We got along” was an honest if disappointing response from a widow whose husband had just died. Marriage should be better than ‘getting along’.
Just as the idea of a prenuptial agreement seems unromantic, transactional and suitable only for the incredibly rich, so a regular review of a marriage looks like turning what should be self-fulfilling into a logistics exercise more suited to military barracks than the family home. We are shy of talking to each other about sensitive things like money, time, leisure, aspirations, old age, death. But these are the realities of life, the very essence of what we are about. If we have difficulty talking about them we should overcome it before we simply can’t. Life is too short to waste.
Should we make these reviews of our marriages regular, firmly marked in the diary, or should we just consider the issues informally from time to time? I think we should make them regular, say once every six months, and they should be quite formal and recorded so both parties can hear what they said at a later date. That doesn’t preclude either party from changing their minds. Knowing where you are going in life and checking up on the journey is a prerequisite to being fruitful and happy. These reviews are for couples only. Children will have separate reviews from time to time and these are best done with parents and each child separately.
What is the agenda for a marriage review? It will vary from couple to couple and from time to time. But the basic agenda will be much the same for everyone. It will, in order of importance, deal with sex, children, personalities of each of the couple, money, work, lifestyle, home, mobility, parental and other family responsibilities, leisure, aspirations, dreams, old age, death. Some of these may seem a luxury in light of the weighty subjects to be covered but don’t ignore them. Partnerships of all sorts fall apart for lack of understanding the other partner’s dreams.
Where there is disagreement the couple should compromise with equal generosity and giving. Committed couples disintegrate because of selfishness. It is the main factor in all divorces. We often forget that remarriages pose the same problems, possibly even exaggerated versions of them. Reviews become more, not less, important when one or both sides feel they are getting the worse deal. For all that marriage is not (usually) a transaction, the reality is that compromise is the only real lifestyle. Each side has to give more than the other for compromise to work successfully.
A good marriage is a partnership of similar humour, tastes, intellects. It works when these attributes are cherished. A review of them at the same time as the regular marriage review makes their importance clear and relevant.
Marriage isn’t meant to be easy. Like everything not easy, effort and determination play a big part in its success.
Good companionship is the model marriage.
May yours be such a partnership.