Terence Blacker: Keeping the magic alive after 'I do'

 

Share
Related Topics

My good friends Laura and Raj were married yesterday; today, they have very sensibly started their married life together with a seminar. The subject under discussion was prompted by the title of a book Laura once saw in a guesthouse in Scotland: How To Be Happy Though Married. Here surely is one of life's tougher challenges. How I wish I could take part in this think-tank to bring my own experience – married, divorced, now living with a woman who runs shrieking from the room at the mention of marriage – to this important subject.

Do not have a joint bank account. A bank balance can reflect, with surprising accuracy, the state of your inner life. It is important not to lose your sense of self in a marriage, and nothing erodes individuality quite like a joint account. Even if you have a household account into which you both pay, devise a system to keep your finances apart. The alternative is grim: every time she shows off a new dress, or he a pair of smart new shoes, it will cause a wince of pain where there should be pleasure.

Walk. Even without a dog, it is worth walking together, preferably without chatting away on mobile phones. The madness of the world will be kept at bay for those few minutes. You can have a conversation without looking at one another – sometimes an aid to frankness.

Avoid shopping together. There is an intimate rhythm to shopping, a mood (impatient, luxuriating, shameful, reckless) which is entirely individual. Apart from occasional duty trips to the supermarket, buying stuff should be a solitary activity. Very few couples are consumer-compatible.

Keep the family-unit thing under control. We all know about couples who are so wrapped up in one another that their children are made to feel like intruders. There is another contrasting danger. As a family builds around you, the little couple which is at the centre of it all somehow gets lost, or simply become two parts of a busy domestic enterprise. Hold on to what first brought you together before life became so grown-up and crowded.

Eat together. For reasons no one quite understands, eating a meal together once a day plays a small but important part in keeping married couples sane and happy. Ready-made pizzas, shoved into the oven and taken out, slightly burnt, should be avoided.

Stop competitive sulking before it gets a grip. He's angry, she's furious, they both want to show the other that they are more hurt than the other. Skirmishes develop into battles, which harden into wars. On these occasions, the action of a true hero of married life is to cut through the nonsense before it gets out of hand. Doing it may feel like defeat, but is the opposite.

Allow each other's childish enthusiasms. It is tough enough being an adult without the person with whom you are living complaining that some hobby or interest, which matters to you for reasons you have never quite understood, is something you should have outgrown. What may seem eccentric and incomprehensible to one person may be giving the other a much-needed form of escape or release.

Have secrets. Domestic life can take the edge off relationships. Now and then, perhaps once a year, it is worth arranging things so that you see your husband or wife in the original light: surprising, different, unpredictable. Part of this process is to keep part of yourself mysterious and elusive – "over-sharing" can be harmful.

Be as sparing as possible with the pronoun "we". The world is delighted by your union but it will be slightly greyer if two "I"s become too obviously a "we", moving through life in a clumsy marital three-legged race. The line quoted by John Bayley about his marriage to Iris Murdoch, "growing closer and closer apart", has a strange wisdom to it. Love and lean on one another, but all the while hold on to your self.





terenceblacker.com

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Why it won’t be the i wot won it – our promise to you

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
A relative of dead Bangladeshi blogger Washiqur Rahman reacts after seeing his body at Dhaka Medical College in Dhaka on March 30,  

Atheists are being hacked to death in Bangladesh, and soon there will be none left

Rory Fenton
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor