We go through different phases in our marriage. Sometimes we love each other with the intensity of Jack and Rose in Titanic; sometimes he’s George and I’m Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
It didn’t take me long to work out that marriage involves a lot of hard work and luck. There is the luck that your ambitions don’t change with time; the luck that you don’t meet your other soulmate on a chairlift at the snow after a row, and the luck that the shared moral code that bought you together in the first place doesn’t radically change during your (potentially) half-century together.
There are times when long relationships can feel as viscerally painful as someone pushing their finger into a boil – the reason, no doubt, why so many fail. But when they work, they are enlightening.
The old man and I are in one of our quarterly sessions of testing each other’s tolerance level at the moment. It’s a game we play to keep our marriage interesting. Getting on my tits at the moment is the noise he makes when he chews on the ice cubes in his Friday night Whisky, and the way he needs to be in the exact square meterage of the kitchen as me, ALL THE TIME. Getting on his man boobs is my habit of snoring around 5am each morning, (a divorceable offense, apparently), how I leave old sweet wrappers and coffee cups in the car, and my ridiculous expectation that he leaves the house at least once a month.
The topic of what questions to ask yourself before you get married has been covered many times – most recently in Lucy Mangan’s hilarious assessment in The Guardian here. And because hers is such a great list, I’ve stolen one of her questions to kick off my own:
- ‘If there were a seismic event in Anglo-European politics brought about, say, by the wanton selfishness and ineptitude of a former television PR man who had unaccountably made it to the position of prime minister, which left the country riven, would you be on the same side?’
- Does your partner cook?
- Will they make you breakfast in bed, for no other reason than they love you?
- Will they take the bins out without argument, looks of resentment or risk of retribution?
- Are they against all forms of discrimination and inequality?
- Can they make you laugh all the time, even when you’re really cross with them?
- Do they have a problem with spending? Actually, allow me to rephrase that. Do they have a problem with you spending too much? And, (ahem), do you have a problem with them not wanting to spend anything at all? If you can’t agree on where your money goes, I can personally guarantee that this is a recipe for disaster that can only be overcome if they agree to 2 and 3 and 4.
- Do your goals match? Of course, dreams and ambitions change over time, but if your partner’s long-term goal is to travel around the globe on a yacht and you get seasick, it’s something to think about.
- How do you resolve disagreements? Does it really work when he shuts down like he’s on a silent retreat, while you take off like a rocket?
- How well do you really know each other? Do you know what your partner will order off a menu before they say it? Will it begin to annoy you when they order a burger at every meal?
- Level of self-centeredness. If there’s only one cube of chocolate or cookie left in the jar, will they give it to you?
- Do you really believe them when they swear they’ll take the kids and leave the dog should you divorce?