Miles Kington: Marriage in trouble? Bored? Anxious? Call in the Army

An affair is like a military raid. Map out the terrain, test the enemy's weakness, and then - bang! Go for the big push. Then get back to base
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The trouble with most agony columns is that they are run by agony aunts. I have nothing against agony aunts, all of whom must have their own problems which drive them to be agony aunts in the first place, but obviously it makes sense to have personal problems dealt with by rather more detached specialists from time to time.

That is why this problem corner is very different. All your emotional dilemmas are being dealt with today by the well-known military historian General Sir Quentin Mendip, who brings his own special expertise to bear. Over to you, Sir!

Dear Sir Quentin,

I have been married now for 20 years, and although my wife and I have never had serious disagreements, I sense we are gradually drifting apart. What can we do about this?

General Sir Quentin Mendip writes: You know, marriage is very much like a military peacetime operation. It's a question of routine, vigilance and discipline. Falling in love and getting married is the campaign, the conquest, the capitulation. But after that come the long years of peace, during which time an army begins to think: what on earth are we doing here? Yes, you can have training exercises, yes, you can update your equipment, yes, you can have tours of duty abroad, but there comes a moment to all of us when we wake up in the morning, put our uniform on and think to ourselves: What the devil am I doing here? And the answer is, whatever the devil it was that got you there in the first place.

Dear Sir Quentin, I am becoming convinced that my wife is having an affair. Bits of evidence such as unexplained receipts, secret phone calls, hidden letters, stuff like that. Should I tax her with it? Or pretend nothing is happening?

General Sir Quentin Mendip writes: You know, marriage is very much like a sophisticated intelligence operation. You get reports which suggest that the enemy is up to something.

You hear of troop movements. You get whispers of build-ups on the ground. And you get your intelligence agents to work on all this, and very often you find that there was nothing in it at all, just routine redeployment. I remember one very embarrassing episode when exactly the same thing happened to me - phone calls, receipts, broken off conversations when I entered the room, all that sort of thing. I was convinced my wife was having an affair. Turned out she was planning a surprise 50th birthday bash for me! Ooops! Later, it turned out she had in fact been having an affair all along, but that's another story. Next!

Dear Sir Quentin, I wonder if it is possible to be genuinely in love with two people at the same time? I really do love my wife, yet I have also fallen head over heels in love with someone else and feel myself hopelessly drawn towards her. What shall I do?

General Sir Quentin Mendip writes: You know, an affair is very much like a lightning military raid. Map out the terrain, test the enemy's weakness, choose a time when everyone is distracted and expecting nothing and then - bang! Go for the big push, excuse the expression! Then, don't hang around, but get back to base as soon as you can. Cover your traces and pretend nothing had happened. Certainly works for me all right.

Dear Sir Quentin,

How can one put the magic back into marriage?

General Sir Quentin Mendip writes: You know, marriage is very much like an army in peacetime. It has to continue to attract attention without actually letting off bombs. So what the army does is what it does best: display, ritual, preening and showing off.

That's what regimental tattooes are all about, and trooping the colours, and beating retreats, and band displays, and fly-pasts and Red Devils, and all that. Strictly speaking, it's all very old-fashioned stuff, with horses and military bands, but it's amazing how the old-fashioned stuff still gets people where they live.

Think music, think candle-light, think days out. Think I might take the wife away this weekend myself, actually. Thanks for the idea.

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