Married People Just Don’t Get It

September 12, 2011 § 13 Comments

I had a great night staying with one of my best friends and her husband on Saturday.  They are one of the happiest couples I know; standard-bearers, (but with almost impossible standards).  My love for them is great and my admiration for them profound.  They are incredibly lucky, but they work hard and are managing to get it so right because they are astute and because they respect each other so thoroughly.  We had a cosy kitchen supper and stayed up chatting and laughing till way too late.

She asked me for the latest on the man front.   (She is one of my best friends; she is allowed and I don’t mind).  I began to talk.  I said that while I am enormously fortunate in many respects, the man situation is, frankly, bleak.  It is, effectively, non-existent and, despite all my efforts to be pro-active and not sit on my fat arse whingeing about it yet doing nothing, nothing is happening.  This friend is sympathetic but my experience is so far from hers that it is difficult for her to understand.  There is sympathy but, reasonably enough, no empathy.

After the party in the early summer (cf. I Went to a Wonderful Party), a fellow plankton guest and I talked about it the next day.  We had both found the evening difficult.  She said with emphasis, “Married people Just Don’t Get It”.

She is absolutely right, of course.  But not all married people.  The ones who have spotted the brink themselves and are grappling with whether or not to veer away from it or take the divorce plunge, do get it.  Thoughts of losing what they stand to lose focuses their minds and kick-starts their imaginations.  I have many a girlfriend who has contemplated leaving her husband.  A wish to cling on to the shared history which they come to view not just as pedestrian but priceless, makes them pause.  But a glimpse of the plankton life, makes them cling on for dear life.  I think of one in particular whose husband’s shenanigans were up there with the very worst.  In a temporary bid for respite and freedom she went out to dinner with an old boyfriend.  He got spectacularly drunk and left without even offering to contribute to the bill, let alone pay it.  She has not filed for divorce after all.  Friends like her, with marital troubles and doubts and strife of their own, do Get It, and there are plenty of them.  Even intelligent ones in marriages that are happy but who have other difficulties (financial, career, health, whatever) do often Get It.  Janey who is happily married and doesn’t have other difficulties, Gets It because she is so intelligent and generous and Empathy happens to be her middle name (though she is an exception verging on a one-woman phenomenon).  It’s the I’m All Right Jack ones, the bumbling-along ones, or the very happy ones, who haven’t got a clue.

The beloved friend with whom I stayed on Saturday night just doesn’t get it, but that is not a criticism.  Why would she understand?  How could she?  Why should she?  I tell her about what has been lost with my failed marriage.  I say, the love could possibly be replicated with someone else sometime in the future (though the signs aren’t good), but the shared history of all those crucial years together – forging careers and having children and making friends – never can and I mourn that every day.  She can relate to that to some extent if she thinks for one moment about not having any more what she has got with her husband.  What she cannot compute, because she has never touched that void, is the reality of that loss, and the daily, grinding truth of pushing on with a fixed smile on the face but with No Men even really in the offing, and hope diminishing a little more each day.

She told me about an elderly relation of hers, in her late sixties, who after years of a less than happy marriage, had emerged from her divorce and period of solitude with not one but two lovely suitors, and she is marrying one of them!

I hear these stories every day, or almost, from kindly folk trying to promote in me a sense of optimism.  But while they happen only to other people, they remain just that: stories.  I can relate to them as little as my married friends can relate to my situation: a mere story to them, but my day and night reality, and one without any signs of changing soon.

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§ 13 Responses to Married People Just Don’t Get It

  • John says:

    Dear P, Have you told us yet why you are on your own? Was the divorce his fault? Was it a mutual decision? or maybe, Was it your fault? I have been married and divorced and married again – and now separated – but have to admit I am probably not great marriage material. We are all different.

    • plumgrape says:

      Well done, John. I have not heard anything at all of Plankton’s plight, about why and how she found herself in this situation. I think this is important to know too. I have said before, I think she is a man and what she is really looking for is just a very good story for WordPress!

  • Patricia says:

    How I identify. Been reading your blog since it began, and now feel I must respond. 10 years ago my marriage of 28 (relatively)happy years ended in divorce, 2 fabulous children and so much happy history. Friends called us ‘The Cornflake Packet Family’. I made the decision to leave, just couldn’t cope with his affair number 6, & that final morning when I woke again in tears, I decided I would rather live alone and poor than endure the pain. And I thought, there are other fish in the sea etc etc, and no way would I be seen as a victim. After the settlement, I took off on a Gap Year (both kids at Uni.)& left all my married friends behind. I’ve had such lonely times, sad times, but much fun. But I too know the forced smiles and the need to show people how WELL I am coping – still, 10 years on. Yes, there have been a few men (internet dating…) but no-one can replace what I had.Even tried being a bit of a femme-fatale for a year, just for the fun of it. Oh how empty it left me.
    And all those kind friends, those couple dinner parties and the platitudes!Now? 59…..attractive and smiley and interesting……is this as good as it gets? Some days are good, some days are bad – I’m learning positive mind-control!
    Thanks for your blog Plankton, keep smiling, good luck, and as you know, you are not alone!

  • plumgrape says:

    Hello Plankton,
    I get the feeling that you wish to promote a feeling of misery. Come here please, I’ll take you out and cheer you up. Give me your phone number please and your name and I will call you, I promise. We can then talk about happiness, love, fun and joy.
    The problem I feel is, that just because you are sometimes feeling available doesnt mean either i) that your circumstances won’t change from day to day or even minute to minute, but that you won’t any longer then be available, because you choose not to be, in the first instance, or are just plain busy in the second; but that you also, and/or: ii) are a suitor who should just accept a man as he is, because clearly you need to be able to offer exactly what is desired to be acquired because if you dont you may be deliberately choosing to be even entirely on your own because you can’t be bothered all of the time. It is a choice that you yourself are making. Unlike the plum I see that can be picked, the plum must pick back! So it is a picky picked, that I suggest is what you are looking for: a picked picky!
    Keep writing and I will also, and additionally, let you know when I get back to London I promise faithfully.

    • MissBates says:

      I don’t view Plankton as trying to promote misery. Actually, she gives some of us, at least, a forum in which to express our feelings about having fetched up single, one way or another, in middle age. This is not something that we’re free to discuss in most venues, because of — I’ll just say it — the stigma that still attaches to this female demographic. Most friends squirm and don’t want to address it, offering inane platitudes such as when You’re Least Expecting It! (cf Plankton’s earlier hilarious post on this lame expression). All we want, really, is for somebody to acknowledge, “gosh, yes, it must be hard. How do you cope? Is there anything I can do?” I mean, that’s the reaction I would get if I had contracted some disease, or had lost my job, but {wince} “an unattached middle-aged woman who wants a man in her life — that is just beyond the pale!”

      Instead, we get people trying to shove down our throats how “great!” it must be to be single — the freedom! the lack of responsibility! all those sexy men to choose from! <<All of the foregoing reflects an absolute failure (I would say refusal) to take us and our concerns seriously. I can tell you I feel precious little freedom and lack of responsiblity dealing with my high-pressure job and family obligations. (Why do all smug marrieds think single people don't "have families," or any duties in connection therewith?) As for all those opportunities for madcap, string-free sex: [hollow laughter] I think I've covered that topic in comments on previous posts. God knows I have no illusions about "happy ever after" (divorce lawyer, remember?) but this sort of life is pretty soul-destroying.

      • Sarah says:

        On the other hand, smug married members of one’s family assume that the single female is exactly the one to take on the responsibility of family obligations because, after all, they don’t have a partner/kids to look after or a life (of worth).

  • Lydia says:

    I think just relax more and let it happen and if it doesn’t so what? Plenty of marriges are unhappy. We don’t need a woman or man to fix us. In fact we need to fix ourselves first before finding someone else. I’m meeting someone this week. It won’t work (as ever he’s keen, I’m not that keen), but I will give it a go.

    I think how one’s marriage was colours views. Nothing can be as bad as mine was and thus I’m happy. Those who felt relatively happily married might be less happy trying to replicate what they had. I will be avoiding replication at all costs.

    There is a patronising nature of the smug marrieds. Patricia writes above about putting on a brave face to them etc. Why need the face to be brave? We single ones have so very very much more than the married in many ways. We have sexual freedom. We have personal freedom. We have obligations to children but nothing needs to be agreed on a daily basis with a partner. We can work long hours and earn a fortune if we want or do very little. It’s a wonderful state to be. it’s top of the food chain being a divorce single woman in her 40s, not bottom of the ocean

    I am not a will not marry again person actually and I do like men and I might end up with someone but I don’t regard not being part of a couple as a negative or bad thing. There are huge positives in it, many many of them every day.

  • Hi Plankton, got here via Mrs T/Waffle…wonderful blog. You’ve made me laugh reading your old posts far too much to be categorised as a misery blog…but do get the lonely bits too. Like to think I Get It.

  • Observer says:

    I’m very happily married, after having been single for a long while and very much remember how difficult it was to be single. I have a friend in her early forties, divorced about 10 years w/ ex having cheated on her, and empathized w/ her to the hilt. Problem is, I don’t think it’s the ‘healthy’ loneliness and frustration that mid-aged singles understandably feel. I believe she has borderline personality disorder, a walking textbook case who needs to be on meds and intense therapy, using this the notion of a dream man to come and save her from her misery. What to do in such a situation? She seems to use the lack of a man as an excuse to not see her true affliction, i.e., mental illness.

    Sorry if this seems to come out of nowhere, but as a married woman, I am truly empathetic to my single women friends’ plight and appreciate Ms. Plankton for her extremely mentally healthy honesty, and those of the various commenters here.

  • rayr says:

    I get it. Single- mother- editor- independent. Thank you for the honesty,

  • plumgrape says:

    Interesting, truth and honesty may be women “spin” as Plankton has so well described, but then that makes them no different to men in that respect. Whydo I feel so many men are being and have been criticized for the same thing? The problem is honesty. Perhaps honesty is relative. If I tell a woman I love that I am not available because I must see someone else for a weekend why must I be punished or frozen out and then where is the discussion? Perhaps the truth is that Plankton is still married, in heart, mind or soul. After all she has the children! How can she loose?

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