Scenes from a marriage
I'm reading a fascinating book. Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Portraits of Married Life in London Literary Circles by Katie Roiphe.
So far I'm only halfway through, but it's a wonderful look at just what the title suggests: uncommon arrangements. The book is full of marital secrets. Nearly all these marriages (including those of writers such as H.G. Wells, Vera Brittain, Katherine Mansfield, and others -- both heterosexual an homosexual) were extremely untraditional. Couples with acknowledged lovers or mistresses. Couples who didn't live together. Secret children. Society images to be upheld or conventions to be flouted. It's a very well-researched and written book, but it's gotten me thinking about something I've pondered for a while. Namely - marriage.
What exactly makes a marriage work? And how can there be so many flavors of one institution? Every married couple I know has a relationship that is different from every other married couple I know. And that just fascinates me. Husband and I have many married friends whom we love, but whose way of conducting their marriage is markedly different from how our works. Why do some couples look forward to separate vacations while others want nothing more than non-stop couple time? How can some happily married couples spend every weekday evening apart -- at classes, rehearsals, the gym, work, etc., -- and yet others will cut themselves off from outside activities in order to just be together? I know of couples who are madly in love, happily married, and each other's best friend -- and yet I've never once seen them hold hands or kiss in front of anyone else. Another duo bicker like like two cats in a pillowcase about everything from dinner to politics, and yet they still look at each other with the misty-eyes of newlyweds.
My ex-husband and I have been fortunate enough to have stayed good friends. Both of us are remarried. And we seem to have married someone quite opposite from our original spouses. Oh sure there are some similarities: intelligence, sense of humor, kindness, generosity, etc. But in other ways night and day from our first marriages. Luckily we both seem to be extremely happy in our second (and last) marriages, but is it because we changed our definition (or expectation) of what a marriage should be or is it because we realized what we first wanted wasn't right for us. On the other hand, I know a man on his third marriage and I swear that wives #2 and #3 are all but interchangeable. Like the theme song to the old Patty Duke show, "they look alike, they walk alike, they sometimes even talk alike"). Will this one work, or is he doomed to repeat the failure because he didn't change his tastes enough?
Marriages are fascinating. And to an outsider, every one is something of a puzzle. I'm just happy that for all their crazy differences, my friends all seem to have found their own unique flavor of marriage that works for them and makes them happy.