Friday 28 April 2017

Separate beds: Is this the recipe for a happy marriage?

Library Image. Photo: Getty Images
Library Image. Photo: Getty Images
Deirdre Reynolds

Deirdre Reynolds

Amanda Brunker and a host of Irish celebs give their take on Jilly Cooper’s best-selling marital guide. By Deirdre Reynolds

Amanda Brunker reckons she knows just what it takes to keep the magic in your marriage. The author who wed husband Philip two years ago says that it's as simple as separate beds.

"My husband likes to listen to music or watch TV as he falls asleep -- and then snores once he does. So instead of nagging him, now I have my own room where I can read a few pages of a good book before nodding off in peace," she says.

"The fact that he lets me only makes me love him even more. And of course, we share the same bed from time to time!"

Amanda's recipe may not suit everyone and she is still enjoying the honeymoon period of her union after all. But one woman who is definitely an expert on wedded bliss is author Jilly Coooper, who has just celebrated her 50th Christmas with the same man.

Back when she penned her bestselling guide on How to Stay Married however, the romantic novelist admits she hadn't got a clue.

Just seven years after marrying her husband Leo in 1961, Cooper spilled all her secrets to a happy marriage in hardback -- including being cheerful, an enthusiastic lover and good cook. But in a revised introduction to the newly re-released book, the mum-of-three admits she was "a smug little know-all" to write a marital guide less than a decade after saying 'I Do'.

"Even though I had been married only seven years I was merrily laying down the law on everything from sex on the honeymoon to setting up house, from in-laws to infidelity," recalls Cooper (74) today.

"It was smugly entitled How to Stay Married but that was in 1969 when I knew nothing."

Five decades of married life later -- and having weathered infertility, infidelity and her husband's battle with Parkinson's, the author has more than earned the right to offer advice in the area.

"Shamingly, I have never practised what I preached," she adds, whose own marriage came under the spotlight when news of her husband's affair broke in the early 90s. "[Now I believe] marriage is kept alive by bed springs creaking as much from helpless laughter as from sex."

So if it's not making paper flowers or rushing home from work at 4.30pm to have the house clean before your husband's return -- both of which are advocated in the book, then what is the secret to reaching your golden wedding anniversary like the Coopers?

"Falling in love and living happily ever after is a myth," says marriage therapist Owen Connolly of Counsellor.ie.

"No two people can make a one-time commitment and agree to keep those rules for a lifetime. Love changes over time and accommodating these changes is what makes a successful marriage.

"In my opinion, all marriage contracts should be reviewed by the couple every five years with a mandatory visit to a professional," he adds.

"Couples who acknowledge that things are going off course and seek help are more likely to go the distance."

Meanwhile, in retrospect, Cooper insists that at least some of the wisdom shared in her husband-centric handbook has stood the test of time like her marriage.

"I still believe a happy marriage is the best thing life has to offer," she says. "Relationships seem rather disposable in a way they didn't used to be. Marriage, for all its limitations, makes people try harder."

Irish Independent

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