Tuesday 25 October 2016

Regular breaks may just be the secret to a happy marriage

Published 09/06/2014 | 02:30

Picture posed. Thinkstock Images
Picture posed. Thinkstock Images

When we were kids, this boring old American priest, who was a far-out relation of the mother's, used to come on visits. The oul fella said the priest stayed so long he was entitled to claim a squatter's title.

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My poor mother spent all day cooking a feast for him and the priest must have been in a silent order in America because he never shut up from the minute he came into the house. The worst part was when he went into double digits when it came to eating all the chocolate fingers, which were a great treat back then.

The priest with the sweet tooth was very loud. Our friend May, who gave my mother a hand around the house, said the Americans had to talk very loud because the traffic was so bad in New York and if they didn't shout, well then no one would hear them. The father used to duck off by saying he had an interview with the BBC and the rest of us would be stuck entertaining him for hours.

By the end of the day we were well sick of the shouting priest but at least we were rid of him when he went off to torment another relation.

So can you imagine how tough it is then on people who are buckled together for life and there's no escape. I know there's divorce. Only the very poor can afford divorce and then there are many people who couldn't be bothered going to all the trouble with solicitors, finding new homes and the kids having to go to two dinners on Christmas Day.

I'm not sure where I read the history of Neolithic marriage, or maybe the theory came out of a TV documentary made by a sociologist or someone from Monty Python or a boy band member trying to escape the curse of eternal youth. It could be that I dreamt the whole story, like the man I killed of a Tuesday night, who came back from the dead as good as new. I went to his funeral and walked along the row of mourners shaking hands and offering my sympathies. They were very nice to me considering I killed the deceased. I forget exactly what it was he died from but it can't have been too serious as he's fine now.

The man I killed was walking down the street just a few months after I dreamt him to death and a great shock it was to me. Still, though, the encounter was excellent preparation for meeting a ghost if the occasion ever arises. The only other time I ever had a real dream was the one about the blondy one from Abba when I was an adolescent. We are unable to give you an exact age. Suffice to say most Irish men go directly from adolescence to the menopause. Sometimes it's very difficult to figure out which is which as the symptoms are very similar.

I was very pissed off with the blondy one for marrying the small, cagey-looking lad with the beard after pretending for years they were just pals. They couldn't have luck. The blondy singer from Abba and the small lad with the beard fell out after they tied the knot and were divorced. It could be she married the other lad in the band. Either way it all ended in tears and three number-one break-up songs. And you'd think with all the money and the concerts the band would be very happy. Maybe they just got worn out from being in each other's company all the time. The big issue from the dream/documentary is this:

Are men and women only meant to be together for just short periods of time? Like as in a few days for the dinner and the bit of sex and then off they go until the next time. Relationships were a series of dates back in the day when we ate our meat raw and a palm print on a cave wall was the talk of the country.

Men went away off about whatever it was they were doing, like killing mammoths; and the women got on with whatever it was they were doing, like trying to light a fire before it was ever invented. So I got to thinking if this relationship hiatus might not be such bad idea, for some of you. I have men friends who have to beg to be left off to a match and I know women whose husbands begrudge them a trip to the shops, even when they only want to look at the windows. There should be compulsory breaks for married people so they can get away from each other for a while.

This may not be for you. I met this sad man lately and his wife of 13 years had just died. "We were very happy," he told me. "We hadn't a cross word." I tried to console him by telling him that there were millions who would have loved just one day of their married happiness. He was crying now. "We were very lucky," he said. Marriage is the toughest game of all.

The married have to work hard at marriage. The logic is that if we are allowed holidays from work and if we have to work hard at marriage, well then there should be holidays from marriage.

I know this married man who has good enough time for his wife but she drives him mad. His wife is house proud and she makes him wear plastic covers over his shoes like surgeons in the operating theatre. The hygienic wife lets her husband off with the lads to the Galway Races for a few days every August and he starts polishing his good shoes around the end of May.

Billy Keane

Irish Independent

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