at my friend’s wedding a couple of weeks ago, i was thinking about the whole institution of marriage and also thinking about something my grandmother had said about her own less than ideal marriage.
“marry a dog, marry a pig, cant be helped.” she had said (my translation does not do justice to it).
It neatly summarised the approach her generation had for marriage – that it was something everyone had to do and that it was permenant and unbreakable. A bit like death.
It struck me that that no exit clause actually provided married couples of that day and age with something that our no-fault divorce generation lacks – an undeniable incentive to make a marriage work.
The choice back then was pretty stark really. Finding yourself with an incompatible partner, you either chose to adapt and make the best of it or you chose to be miserable for the rest of your life. Adaptation could of course be external(ie change your partner) or internal (change yourself).
Gran ended up with an emotionally abusive, very short-tempered and pathologically proud husband whose fidelity was doubtful.
When we asked her about whether she was happy with her marriage, she said that she never thought about it in that way. What was the point, she said. When pushed, she admitted that things got easier when my grandfather got older and retired. But he got too affectionate, she said, I had to tell him to go to sleep sometimes.
When we asked her about whether she was happy with her life, she took a moment to consider, probably taking stock of her eight succesful upper-middle class children, her numerous great-grandchildren, her quite well supported life with two of her sons looking after her and living with her, and said, yes.