We really thought we would see our 60th wedding anniversary. But Earle died unexpectedly, when we’d completed exactly 59 years and 5 months.
You might think that we had a good long innings together and weren’t we a bit bored with each other after all that time?
Only last week, as a Family Counsellor, I was with a couple who’ve been married for a mere 1 ½ years and found that the only thing they have in common to talk about, is their baby. Consequently, he goes out as much as possible and she feels neglected and hurt.
I remembered another young woman who once told me she had applied to join Sri Lanka Sumithrayo as a volunteer and when I said “Good!” she shocked me by adding: “It might give me something to talk about with my husband!”
It makes me wonder sometimes whether marriage is a lottery. If you’re lucky, you pair off with someone with whom you will happily spend the rest of your life. But if not, you soon feel disillusioned and begin to wonder whether the grass on the other side of the fence might be greener.
Any lawyer will tell you of our soaring divorce rates; any counsellor will admit that 98% of her clients are couples whose marriages are in trouble. Look around for yourself, among your contemporaries, and see how many contented married couples you can find.
How many snipe at each other, how many put their partners down in company, how many stay under one roof, yet lead separate lives.
There was a man who said to me: “My married life wasn’t happy. My wife and I had, as it turned out, very little in common other than the first rush of passion which brought about the marriage. When that wore off and we settled down to a day-by-day relationship, we became mutually dissatisfied. She evidenced that dissatisfaction by finding fault with just about everything I did. I showed my dissatisfaction by staying away from home a great deal and in the course of time I developed other emotional interests.” A sad admission of the kind of situation that often develops.
All too often, people who seemed to think the world of each other during courtship and engagement, discover that the hero/heroine has feet of clay after all. Very soon, both focus on the negatives and completely forget or ignore the positives that attracted them to each other in the first place.
I think of the June brides who will joyfully step on to the poruwa or walk up the aisle exuding an aura of happiness as they stand beside their adoring bridegrooms, and I wonder how many of them will retain that same ardour in a year’s time.
If wedding photographers ask for payment in advance because, I am told, it has been their sad experience that sometimes the marriage has soured even before the wedding photographs are collected and therefore the final proofs are not even called for, it’s surely an indication of the true state of affairs.
Newspaper cartoons and jokes all downgrade marriage. Seldom do you hear an encouraging word about it, even though that doesn’t seem to deter people from entering “the bonds” of matrimony.
There’s this joke I came across in a magazine last week. A man tells a colleague: “My family is just like a nation. My wife is the Minister of Finance, my mother-in-law is Minister of War, and my daughter is Foreign Secretary.” His co-worker replies, “Sounds interesting. And what is your position?”
Came the reply: ”Oh, I’m the people. All I do is pay.”
Men sometimes find occasion to say to a complaining wife, “That’s the way I am and you have to accept me – not constantly keep nagging me to change my ways.”
Women do tend to think, before marriage, that they will re-model the guy to suit them. That’s a sad, bad mistake. Heaven knows people don’t easily change unless there is a strong motivation. That’s just what should present in marriage. Because you love this person you have chosen to marry, you are sensitive to her/his feelings and you start doing little things you wouldn’t normally do, to please her/him. Like, for example, drying the dishes after dinner, instead of going straight to the TV or the computer and leaving the other alone to do the clearing up. Or showing some interest in the cricket matches he loves to follow.
There’s this lovely true story about a newly-married couple who had different ideas about putting the cap back on the toothpaste tube after use. She was very particular to do so, while he couldn’t care less about leaving it open, with toothpaste smearing the shelf as a result.
The more she spoke about it, the more he resisted obliging her. Until one day, he thought to himself , “Why should I be so cussed about a trifle? Since it matters to her, I will make an effort to remember to place the cap back.” On the third day since his reformation, the young wife asked him: “How come you’ve stopped brushing your teeth?”
I married before my 21st birthday. I was an inept housekeeper and I couldn’t cook or sew. Since my husband turned a blind eye (most of the time!) to my deficiencies, I learned to do the same with regard to his minor shortcomings – like his habit of throwing wet towels and sarongs on a tidily-made bed.
We were unalike in many respects, but almost imperceptibly, over the years, each of us changed from who we were at the beginning of our life together, because we loved each other and cared enough to try to meet even some of the needs and expectations of the other.
We also learned that it made a difference when one said “ I’m sorry” and the other responded with generosity of spirit. Similarly, not being niggardly with a ‘Thank you’ that expressed appreciation of the other.
Two days before my husband died, we sat out in the garden until dinner-time, as we usually did. Sometimes, we’d sit awhile in companionable silence, watching cloud formations, or listening to the tweet-tweet of homing birds which flew overhead.
At other times, we talked about books, amusing ‘Forwards’ received on e-mail, news items of interest, a cricket match, politics – anything at all. I used to memorise funny stories in old copies of Reader’s Digest, to regale him with and would be rewarded by his laughter. Over the years, we had become so accustomed to sharing not only jokes and events, but almost everything that gave us delight – a book, a bird, a flower, a squirrel. Married couples who enjoy each other’s company, feel they are allies who together can cope with any blows life throws at them. If only more couples could appreciate the strength that the feeling of two-together fosters, they would surely go all out to forge that kind of bonding. “And so they got married and lived happily ever after” is not something that just happens. Two people have to care enough for each other to work at it, to make allowances for each other’s shortcomings, to say sorry when they hurt each other, to forgive, to maximize the positives and minimize the negatives.
Even when two people appear to be well-matched, coming from the same community, religion and social level, they still come from two different backgrounds and have to learn how to give and take and meet each other half way. And, my goodness, the differences there are between the two sexes are, apart from anything else, quite enough to bring challenges. It IS true in a sense, that “Men are from Mars and women from Venus.” This is well illustrated in the following story:- A man is a person who, if a woman says to him, “Never mind, I’ll do it myself,” and he lets her and she gets mad, says: “Now what are you mad about?”
A woman is a person who, if she says to a man, “Never mind, I’ll do it myself” and he lets her, and she gets mad, and he says, “Now what are you mad about?” says,
“If you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you.”