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.