posted on: Wednesday, 16 January 2013

To the people who are you mentally review the state of your marriage often? Does marriage become something that you forget about? Forget that you fact married? I recall those heady young days pre-marriage, where what my friends considered as important was to become married; in short the wedding. The dress, the venue, the guest-list. Now of course that whole wedding day - whilst immortalised in memory and uniquely special - is just one tiny step into the world of being married.

via better than fine
I married well. We are happily married. Marriage is good. But equally I am aware that there are so many who must think the same, who revel in the comfort of being married but for whom it all goes wrong. I don't ever take it for granted. I saw this passage from a blog I read and it makes my heart ache in the knowledge that it could so easily happen.

Somehow I'd seen us in Maine, on the coast, wrapped in blankets in our Adirondack chairs, with books, perhaps the New York Times, spectacles perched on the ends of our noses, our cold hands clasping each other's in our old age. That's the way I thought it would be.

But things don't always work out the way you imagine.  You just don't imagine that nearly thirty years of your life will be boiled down to a list of belongings. You don't imagine yourself saying, "who's going to get the wedding silver?" Every little thing in this house has a story. Every little thing is waiting to find out its fate. There are too many memories to sift through.

My friend Dawn and I call it 'the fear'. If you are angry with your spouse, if you feel that you are not being listened to, if you want something else, do you get 'the fear' when you consider walking away? Does the idea of your spouse with a new person give you 'the fear'? You see how it goes. 'The fear' is the acid test.

Because if nothing else I appreciate the most how my husband and I have a shared history. How our family in all its foibles and silliness; all the little jokes and sayings, all the years of memories and happenings, they all add up to me. And how would I be without it?

When I started University, I got together with my husband, although I had known him for many years beforehand. My housemates used to laugh at me; I had discovered this happiness virtually on my front door and yet I spent the entire time thinking I would lose it. Thinking I would lose him. Even years later, it took me ages to work out that he wasn't going anywhere. He used to say 'I am not one who changes; I stay'. I am the product of divorced parents and grew up with very limited exposure to conventional families. My family was different; a tight nucleus of my Mum, my brother and I; my Dad a satellite that I visited on strict rotation. I didn't know what marriage was meant to look like, exactly.

And now? I have made this marriage mine. It's not been always easy - but it's been the single most important thing I ever did. Along with what we created along the way.


  1. I'm not married, yet, but even unmarried people have the "fear"! I would be livid if I ever had to see my fiance with someone else. And this might be a bit common, but the final episode of Teen Mom (season 1) also gave me a wake up call.

    All those teens were so much in love, had babies, vowed to raise them together, and two-three years down the line, they are broken up, in new relationships, or in complicated relationships. It made me appreciate my fiance so much more!

  2. My husband and I just celebrated our 10th anniversary. I think the fact that didn't get married until I was 36 is a great benefit. Seeing kids get married before they've even had to face any hardships in life is what scares me. I think if more people waited until they knew who they really were, developed some life skills and personalities of their own, some independence, they would make much better partners for each other. I also believe that getting married should not be the goal. Live together and find out if your lives work together. Never marry "someone you can live with" - only the one you cannot live without.

    For me, "the fear" is the knowledge that one of us will die before the other, most likely. That is something I just try not to think about.

  3. Yet another common thread between us. I am a child of divorce, and I married the "I'm not going anywhere" type from a stable home. I'm proud of the fact that my marriage has already lasted longer (10 years!) than any of my parents' many marriages. It's not easy, it can be too easy to take it for granted at times, and when babies enter the picture, it seems that marriage can take a back seat to the kids. I have to remind myself not to let that happen. It's worth it. I have a love and a partner in life, and I am lucky indeed.

  4. Lovely post Lou. I've been happily married for 17 years. We chose not to have children because I know I had a subconscious "fear" that children would "dilute" . Maybe it was unfounded (I will never know) but I do know I have friends constantly asking how Hubs and I are still so happy after more than 20 years together.
    My other biggest fear is old-age without each other; it terrifies me every time I think about it. I lost my Mum when she was only 49 and my Dad a few years older. He's been a widower ever since; never ever contemplating replacing her and yet I can still how the light from his eyes died with her.
    I just give thanks every day I am with my husband. There's a Winnie the Pooh quote that says "If you live to be 100, I hope to live to be 100 minus 1 day, so I never have to live without you". That's how I feel about my marriage.

  5. Hmm. this is an interesting post. I'm not sure I relate to having "the fear," if it's about fear of sudden loss of love. Or a stunning reversal of feelings that comes out of nowhere. Because I don't think emotions happen like that. I've come from years in the mental health field and I always used to wince inside when I heard someone describe their food binge as something mysterious, that "just happened." Because that's not true. Binges don't just suddenly happen without triggers and violent actions don't just occur without a context for understanding them and marriages don't simply end without some signs, hidden or not.
    The problem with the poignant and beautiful writing of Miss Whistle, is that it's a mere blurry snapshot. We don't know their whole story, we only hear the sad strains of loss in her writing. But if we did probe deeper, I'm sure we would come to at least understand the unraveling of their lives. With both sides of their story for a truer picture.
    I've always found it comforting to know that our emotional lives always make sense we slow down and take time to examine, without judgement, our deepest feelings.
    I've been married 25 years, and trying to have this kind of realness in our marriage remains our life-long goal. But like everything else that's meaningful in life, it takes hard work.
    Leslie (aka Gwen Moss)

  6. every once in a while i get 'the fear'. we've been together eight years and married almost three of those, but the lingering fear from our courtship sometimes resurfaces.

  7. For me when things may not be sunshine and roses ~ I do get the fear ~ but it is not the fear of him with someone else. I was 35 when we got together so I know how to be on my own ~ we too were friends first for almost 20 years before things went serious for us. I need to step back and remind myself of how good we are together when things get a little bumpy ~ it will be 12 years in August. xo

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