i Editor's Letter: To have and to hold...


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The Independent Online


What, I asked one of i’s columnists, is the main difference between being engaged and married? “You don’t have to plan a wedding any more!” he laughed.

It’s often said that long cohabitation before marriage, as is the norm, means that couples who wed have already had those meaningful discussions about children, joint bank accounts and who gets to choose the colour scheme for the bathroom.

That’s not always the case, though. Ahead of our (Church of England) nuptials this Saturday, our vicar lent us a book, Growing Together: A Guide for Couples Getting Married. Written by a clergyman, it is as much a title for people of little or no faith, and the most thought-provoking I’ve had time to read for some while.

It compels you to confront issues otherwise tempting to dodge, and poses dozens of questions without claiming to offer many answers.

Is it OK to have secrets? Where do you dream you will be in five, 10, 25 years? How would you feel if you were told that your child was going to be born with a disability? Do you make enough time for your friends? What things do you want to do separately, and together? What do you avoid discussing? How do you feel about having debts? What are your fears, and hopes, for the future?

Being forced to think and talk about such profound questions can be awkward but help relationships grow. Under proposals apparently being considered by Labour, every adult in Britain would be offered free marriage guidance counselling if their relationship runs into trouble. The idea is well-intentioned, but there is greater need for the money elsewhere, and I doubt that Labour will plump for it as policy.

The principle, though, is sound. I like those lines from TS Eliot: We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.