DILEMMAS: I want a long holiday from my marriage

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What Virginia says

A marriage is a contract between two people, and it sounds as though Kay and her husband have signed different versions - and neither knows what's written on the other's piece of paper.

Kay has clearly always thought of herself as an independent being, who didn't do her own thing only because she was bringing up the children. She feels her marriage should be strong enough, after all this time, to bear a mere three months of separation. She sees it as a contract of love and trust, but not a commitment to stick together like glue for ever and share everything that comes their way. She sees the relationship as more like that of brother and sister, for ever committed to each other but basically independent.

Kay's husband, on the other hand, sees his marriage as being a contract of togetherness. He sees himself as part of a unit, and perceives their relationship as one of lovers. Presumably he's been working hard for years to support the family, and feels he's put quite as much into it financially, as Kay has done practically. Were he to inherit money, he would not dream of keeping it for himself. He would immediately share it with Kay because he sees them as one pair, not two people.

No wonder he feels furious and betrayed when Kay suggests leaving him for so long. What's going on? Does she want to leave him? How could she bear to be away from him for such a long time? He's prepared to work and support her, so why is she suddenly not prepared and support him in her own way? He must feel gobsmacked at the idea.

Kay, on the other hand, feels resentful. It's her money, she feels, and she deserves a break. But has she thought it through? Three months is a hell of a long time away. I was on a 10-day cruise once, and felt I was on a floating prison. You are trapped in a world of mainly elderly people - most cruise ships have a hospital on board, and doctors to register the deaths of the many people who die during their floating hol.

Ghastly bead-stringing classes abound, not to mention ballroom dancing (no fun without a partner), scarf-tying, origami and bingo. No one introduces anyone to anyone else, and as a lone woman she'd find it hard to meet other people. Occasionally she'd be let off for a couple of hours to nip round a foreign port, and then it's back to jail.

Of course, it could be that this holiday idea is a way for Kay to try to find out how she would cope on her own. Maybe she's thoroughly bored and fed up with being married, although she doesn't consciously realise it, and wants her own "space", to use that overused word. Or perhaps she is really taking her husband for granted and simply doesn't appreciate that he has been working not just for himself but for his entire family. Has it occurred to her that he too may feel he deserves a break?

If I were Kay and wanted to keep my marriage going, I'd spend the money on a holiday with my husband, and then perhaps take the odd four-day package weekend away with a girlfriend. Otherwise, after her cruise she may find she has no husband to return to. If he is, as she says, a demanding man, she'll find there are plenty of sexy widows and divorcees who'll be happy to accede to his requests, from making meals to worse, when she's away. .TEXT: What readers say

Tell him he means a lot to you

I suspect your husband was not a little hurt by your suggestion. He may be wondering what the last 25 years were worth, if you suddenly want to go away for such a long period. From your description of him as "demanding" it sounds as though he is somewhat insecure.

Explain to him how important he is to you, and that you feel the need for more stimulation in your life. Then perhaps you could suggest a compromise. As he works, he obviously cannot come with you for three months. Can you reduce the length of time you wish to travel, so that he can join you for half of it?

In this way a happy compromise can be reached and your marriage, as well as your daily life, could receive a new lease of life.

EMMA WATKINS

Coventry

Men hate change

In 1970, with a daughter aged 12 and son aged nine, I applied for a job in social work for one-and-a-half days a week. My husband, mother and sister were furious when I was offered the job.

Now my husband recognises that it was a good thing to do; men basically do not welcome change - especially when creature comforts are concerned!

I would suggest to Kay that three months away is too long - she may not enjoy it as much as she hoped. Why not have a two-week cruise and, should she enjoy it, then suggest to her husband that they could both enjoy such a holiday together?

HELEN CALDER

Barnard Castle, Co Durham

Don't turn this down

Rarely in life are we handed money on a plate. So unless there are pressing bills, enjoy it and the memory. After 25 years married, your husband must know you love him but will need reassurance before you go that you will miss him.

But go you must. It is important to you, as the individual that you are, to prevent a "look back in anger" in the years that follow.

FRAN SMITH

Southend-on-Sea, Essex

Escape this dreary routine

Kay is not playing the cards right; my first thought, to be politically correct, would be to suggest that both she and her husband go on a cruise. Give the breadwinner a choice; he will feel acknowledged as a partner to share the bounty. He would more than likely refuse the idea, as it would mean too much time away from work. He might even suggest spending the money on a new car and refurbishing his greenhouse.

It sounds as though the love has faded and flown away with the children. If Kay's husband refuses, she should opt for a month's cruise by herself and, like Shirley Valentine, stock the freezer with home-cooked meals. If she hasn't the courage for this, buy a computer and sign up on the Internet - world travel is available 24 hours a day at the press of a button.

PATRICIA MILLER

It would be a betrayal

For the last 25 years your husband has worked his balls off to bring in the money that will support him, you and the children.

The first time you get a whiff of some of your own cash, all you can think about is running away from him and escaping. There is only one word for that; betrayal.

Get a life and get a job if you are so bored at home - then perhaps your husband will be able to retire earlier and you can go on a cruise together.

ANON

Next Week's Dilemma

Dear Virginia,

My husband and I are involved in a particularly acrimonious divorce. He promised to pay for all my son's school equipment and clothes, and so far has failed to do so, however much I nag him. I have paid for essentials, but now my son needs a new rucksack to take his things to school. It is falling to pieces and schoolwork has actually fallen out on his way home. I am so angry about my husband's meanness. I have, however, decided to put my foot down. I have said to my son, who's eight, that he has to ask his dad for a new bag. His teacher has said I must get him a new one, but why should I? It's a matter of principle. What should I do?

Veronica

Letters are welcome, and everyone who has a suggestion quoted will be sent a bouquet from

. Send comments and suggestions to Virginia Ironside, Features Department, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, fax 0171- 293 2182, or e-mail: dilemmas@independent.co.uk - giving your postal address.

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