I’ve watched one or two marriages, lately, fall apart on the couple’s approaching  retirement, which seems even sadder than an earlier disintegration would have been.   It seems very unfortunate that couples who have stayed together through the hard working years of life, reared their families, and have arrived at a stage when they might have hoped for a more peaceful time together, should discover when they turn to one another that they no longer have anything in common.

When you look at the marriages of those around you, there is a tendency to flag some up as more problematic than others, but when people have been together for over thirty years, you tend to assume they they’ve resolved the difficulties to their mutual satisfaction.  There are NO marriages without tensions within them – a complete absence of tension would be a problem anyway – and all successful marriages go through some periods of difficulty.

There are many elements to a successful marriage.   The first one, obviously, is love.  By this I do not mean the heat of physical desire (though I would have thought that too was a necessity), but the unselfish love that puts the other person’s interests before your own.  However, both parties must possess this quality.   If only one person truly loves, the selfishness or indifference of the other  will eventually erode that love.

But there are more mundane things that help, such as sharing common interests, or at any rate a willingness to enter into another’s interests.   I have often been surprised how women can enjoy the benefits of their husband’s work and career – they have a large house, nice holidays, the luxury of bringing up their own children, yet they have little understanding of the pressures or demands of the job.   In a household with two careers, each partner must be willing to make sacrifices on his or her work front from time to time, to support their partner’s ambitions;  this support must not be a one way traffic.

Sharing a leisure interest helps too.  If one of you likes horse racing, riding and hunting and the other is terrified being on horseback, while this is not insurmountable, it is a definite handicap.

Willingness to establish the dominant family unit as being you, your partner and your children, and while hopefully retaining warm relations with the family units you both came from, recognising that you are now primarily  spouse and parent, and not child or sibling is important.   Your spouse should not just become a new member of your existing family but an equal partner in your own household.

Sometimes when you look at a marriage with pronounced tensions, you can see that one of the partners is very stable and steady;  that whatever happens they are going to stand in their place, and these marriages, while not indissoluble, are less likely to fall apart.

Persons having limited pre-marital experience of other partners can sometimes be a problem.   As people feel themselves getting older and their sexual powers waning, they may be overwhelmed with a sense that they did not experience enough;  that they wanted more variety or passion or excitement.   Wild oats however should definitely be sewn in one’s youth, when one can afford the  risk or endure the pain.   Wild oats are meant to be spent swiftly;  not conserved.

In later years, family life is a great pleasure.   Seeing and helping one’s children and their spouses set up home together, helping with their families, receiving their help and support in turn, doing these things the two of you together – these things are among the great pleasures of growing old.       The grown up children of marriages have pleasure in bringing their children into the family circle, and in being recognised as Mummy and Daddy in their turn.    Although the eventual death of a grandparent is a great loss, it is as nothing compared to the sorrows, anger and bitterness when one partner  abandons their spouse for  some unknown other and tramples upon and destroys the family citadel which the children of the marriage experienced as a protection for them, and assumed would be available as a place of comfort and safety for their children.   It’s difficult to understand why people fall apart at such a time.   There’s everything to lose and little to gain.   It’s rarely by mutual consent.  One party abandons the marriage and the other is devastated.

And there’s no magic answer either.   There’s no charm or talisman you can hold that will guarantee the survival of your marriage.   It is a dynamic exchange and it is forever vulnerable, even in its strength.

A good marriage is a bulwark against misfortune.   But it can never be taken for granted.   I’d like to close by saying, all you need is love, and certainly you cannot have a successful marriage without it.     But you need more than that.   You need to have an instinctive awareness of what you NEED – as opposed to what you think you want – when you make your choice.   You need the faith to wait until you meet the one for you, and not settle for a substitute.    You must also be able to see both the ordinary man with his hurts and his needs and his human limitations who will need your help; and that he is also the prince who comes riding (or that she is the queen of your heart.)   You need to be able to tolerate his faults.  (There’s no-one who doesn’t have some.)   When, occasionally, the going gets tough, you need generosity of spirit, to be able to forgive and set aside your hurts and count it all as nothing.   You need to appreciate his virtues and strengths and not take him for granted.    You must have the strength to stand your ground and the courage to advise him what he will not willingly hear.   You will need the flexibility to know when he is right and you are wrong and change your position gracefully.  You must remember that for everything you give to him, he gives to you in equal measure.    You should remember him as one of your blessings, every day.

When you reflect on all these things, it is amazing that so many marriages do survive.                                                                                                                                      

Finally, you need a little bit of luck.


About adhocannie
I am a good natured woman with a long memory and a swift tongue. I like loooking at things and thinking about them. Also food, clothes, travel, reading, sewing. I try to see the ridiculous in things, but sobriety of reflection keeps edgting in. I have husband, children, grandchildren, friends... I feel rich in things that matter. I am a happy exile. I like writing. I do not like talking about me (though I do.). You willl be much more interesting.

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