This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.
I have just been to a 45th wedding anniversary party and this morning I received an invitation to a 40th wedding anniversary party. Isn’t it wonderful to celebrate these long-running marriages. I think they all deserve more than a party and some presents… perhaps some sort of achievement award, a recognition from the Queen that they have reached this milestone. I say this because whatever anyone says marriage is a work in progress and like any work project it has its easy parts but it there are also times when, it seems, that an impossibly unsolvable problem is thrown at it. One then may look at this problem and start to think, is the marriage worth solving for the long-term benefits? If the answer is positive then you have to work out how to solve it. That’s the tricky part!
Recently I watched the biographical documentary on TV about Princess Margaret. She was no stranger to love-life hiccoughs. Anyway there were a couple of old dowager duchesses in the documentary who said, back in their day men had their dalliances but women chose to ignore them and just got on with the marriage for the good of the family.
I am not sure that the 21st century man and woman would accept that way. Life was different then. Wives were not so involved with their husbands’ everyday lives. They would not know what they got up to when they went abroad on a business trip. Or even what they got up to at the office Christmas party because no-one was taking pictures, posting them online. Apart from the line that was unofficially ‘drawn in the sand’ between work life and family life there was also that code between men, not to tell a wife about his indiscretions.
These days everything has changed including the language of love. Courting or stepping out are words that my children would never use. Going out, co-habiting is the new language. Recently my daughter said about her relationship with her boyfriend, “we are now exclusive”. I suppose that is a step in the right direction!
Weddings look less and less traditional if they happen at all. There probably won’t be a thick card invitation in the post, more likely it will be Paperless Post via email. There won’t necessarily be a white dress, a father of the bride walking his beloved daughter up the aisle (remember Meghan Markle) or even a best man as it could be a best woman in this modern day. (That is apart from the obvious change with same-sex marriages which are gradually becoming legal throughout the world.) The venue might not be at a church or a hotel or even a marquee in the garden. It will more likely be in a field with jam-jar cocktails, personalised cupcakes and hand-picked wildflowers. For the more wealthy, it could be exotic beaches, barefoot brides and the guests all in white too. And in these days of Covid, neither of them with very many guests.
So if everything is changing is divorce more probable than the long-term marriage?
In England and Wales, divorce is actually in decline – the most recent 10 years of data show a 28% fall in the number of divorces between 2005 and 2015. But older people are bucking the trend. In the same period, the number of men divorcing aged 65 and over went up by 23% and the number of women of the same age divorcing increased by 38%.
Apparently in the UK there are 3.4 million cohabiting couples (the second largest family type) followed by 2.9 million lone parent families in the UK. Is this because marriage is simply going out-of-fashion? Can I really describe marriage as a fashion and if I can then I am guessing it will come back into style like flared trousers and mini-skirts. Perhaps monogamy is going out of fashion too? Or if I listen to those dowager duchesses was it ever in fashion?
Here are three famous quotes –
1. Love conquers all.
2. Love is the greatest gift of all.
3. Life without love is nothing.
I am not so sure that any of them are completely accurate. Am I getting a little cynical in my old age? No. 1 – no it doesn’t. No. 2 – I think Life is the greatest gift of all. No. 3 – Possibly but I would hope that everyone has found love at some time in their lives.
Social media has made it so much easier to have an affair apparently though in my opinion it has also made it easier to be caught out. It has also never been easier to exit a relationship by taking the coward’s way and sending a text or email.
We have to all take some responsibility for our relationships and find the words to express difficult feelings because taking that big step, divorce or splitting up, has long-term repercussions especially if you have a family. I love my long marriage and like wine it seems to get better with age. Of course there are times when you open a bad bottle and it is undrinkable!
More interesting reads here