Monday 18 December 2017

How a wife's wild mates can save a marriage

Women are shunning divorce for reasons sure to shock naive husbands, discovers John Masterson

John Masterson

THERE are a lot of people who would like to know the secret of a happy marriage. A fair few books have had a crack at it, and about a trillion articles. People are increasingly aware that divorce is a messy, painful and expensive business which is probably best avoided. An American academic, Iris Krasnow, recently offered her tuppence worth with a book, The Secret Lives of Wives, that is causing quite a stir across the pond.

She listened to what a lot of married women had to say about marriage, and came to a few conclusions that will knock the smiles off their husbands' faces. It seems that most married women think about divorce on a fairly regular basis but stick in there because they like being married fractionally more than the alternative. But only fractionally. Endurance turns out to be far more important than love. A lot of women seem to be slightly envious of Tipper Gore who parted from Al after a 40-year marriage.

With many marriages lasting up to half a century, it is not surprising that couples can become sick of the sight of each other. In the US, the overall divorce rate has decreased a little in the past 20 years, but for those aged over 50 it has doubled. They are looking at greener pastures and deciding to graze on them before it is too late.

So what is different about Professor Krasnow's informants that made them decide to stick it out? First and foremost, they had substantially diluted their coupledom approach to life. These women were much more likely to have a bunch of fairly wild women friends with whom they travelled, partied, and laughed and fumed about the husbands they had no intention of leaving but did not need to be around 24/7. They were adamant that they needed their own lives.

In a small number of cases, they behaved in ways that were less innocent than a few drinks with the girls. She cites one woman who said the key to her long-standing happy marriage was the regular sex she had with a tradesman while her husband was out at work. This no-strings-attached enjoyment made up for the lack of excitement with her husband. Would she have considered leaving her husband for this man? Are you mad? She had a very comfortable life that she loved in most other ways, and had no intention of giving that up.

With the complexity of juggling home, both people working, children, travel, finance through various stages of life, is it any wonder that people have to find their own way to muddle through, and that it might not be identical to the way they intended to live?

There is talk in Mexico of a two-year temporary marriage licence which people could try out before deciding to make it permanent. Fine in my book, but not much good if you have children in that interval, since they require a touch more than two years' care.

As everything in life moves faster, therapists are noticing that the seven-year itch has been replaced by the three-year glitch. The small irritations of living with another person peak around this time. What was endearing has become infuriating. Weight-gain, hygiene issues, too much drinking,and a work schedule that requires romance to be fitted in are major passion-killers. And yes, so is snoring .

It must come as something of a shock to husbands to think that while they are having their anniversary dinner with their wife dressed up to the nines she is thinking something like ... "he's not the worst... I may as well do another year at this stage... if only he would exercise more... and thank heavens when Jane and I go to Cancun next month he doesn't mind me putting it on his card."

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