The storms of marriage.

This is a picture of a baby.  We’ve had a bit of a baby-esque start to the week, haven’t we?   
This is me, in 1982, at six months old.  With sick on my chin.  You’re welcome.
“You’d just learned to sit up unaided”, wrote my Mum. 
“I look wracked with worry!  I was a worrier at six months and have remained one for 29 years!” wailed I.  “Was I worrying about the next step; learning to crawl  At SIX MONTHS?” 
“I think you are worried about staying upright with no safety net” responded my Mum.
Ugh.
I guarantee that my Mum didn’t mean this to be shrouded in underlying meaning, as I have interpreted it.  But it’s a point, isn’t it.  A good point.  Me being a natural worrier isn’t any trouble.  It means I anticipate problems, it means I resolve them early on, and yes it might take ten years off my life but I’m never going to be a carefree free spirit, wafting around without a care in the world, and I’ve learned to live with that. 
The fear of sitting up with no safety net, though?  That’s problematic.  That’s not what I want to be, not in work, not in relationships, not in life.
Rebecca Norris wrote a really interesting discussion piece recently about the nature of ambition, and concluded that a big part of what holds us back is the risk of public failure.
Marrying someone is a massive risk.  Failing at that is horribly public. 
I spent the first few years of being with Mr K worrying that I was selling out (ugh, I know, what does that even mean?)  Before we bought our flat, I was still the sort of person who threw her bank statements away unopened and wore my so-called financial freedom like a badge of honour.  Never would I be chained to bricks and mortar!  Never would I be the mistress of a mortgage!  And then, suddenly, I was. 
I was similarly convinced that marriage was never on the cards.  My student room was filled with posters of obscure political movements and strange philosophical quotes, many of them about how the patriarchal institution of marriage will kill you inside (I am paraphrasing somewhat, but you get the idea).  I don’t mean to say one look at Mr K and all my misgivings melted away.  Life isn’t sugar-coated.  But right up until that autumn day when we got engaged, I was sure that marriage was a joke, a con, a Tiffany cover-up.  And that choosing it was the easy option, and that the truly courageous went through life with no ties. 
But it’s not like that, not at all.  It’s the biggest risk I’ve ever taken.
I’m reading The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue, and keep thinking about a (paraphrased) quote in the words of the fickle Helen Codrington;  “It takes a great devotion to weather the storms of marriage”.  It made me think of a stormy sea at night, and the hull of a boat crashing through the waves, and of having no clue what you’re doing, and of steering with blind faith.
Marrying someone doesn’t make life less risky, and it’s not the easy option.  It’s never the easy option.  What if I’m no good at this?  What if I change my mind?  What if we both change too much to tolerate each other?  Yes, it’s all very good saying we took vows that should override everything, and that splitting up should be the very, very last resort, but people divorce ALL THE TIME, and what makes my marriage any stronger, any better, than the 113,949 that failed in 2009?  Let me put this in perspective.  There were only 231,490 marriages in the UK in 2009.  Mine was one of those.  Those are some scary biscuit statistics, right there.
It’s so easy to think that because Mr K and I are measured individuals, because we communicate, because we put things into perspective, that we’ve got a better chance than most of succeeding.  But I bet you that many divorced people got married with exactly the same conviction and blind faith as we did.  It’s easy to think that divorced couples were doomed from the start, but I bet you that so many of them weren’t.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t creep around the flat lamenting to Mr K that we are doomed…and discussing divorce options.  I don’t even think about it most of the time.  But as a society we are conditioned to think of divorce as equating to failure.  Whether it is or not isn’t my call (guest post, anyone?).  But I want to give me and Mr K the best possible chance of succeeding.            
Does anyone else worry about this?    
Categories: Life Experience, Marriage, Written By Anna
17 interesting thoughts on this

15 Comments

  1. Posted December 6, 2011 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    First off Anna, I love you at 6 months! Your little worried face is awesome. If it makes you feel better, my first real words ever spoken aloud on this planet, at the age of 10 months were "oh dear". Already at less than 1 year old I was worried enough that this was my first vocalised thought. It rather set the tone.

    But in answer to your question, yes. I do worry about it. A little over 10 years ago my parents nearly split up, they survived by going to counselling and fighting really sickeningly hard for their relationship. What I find I've taken from this is that marriage is a promise to stay together when staying together becomes the hard option.

    Right now, for example, spending the rest of my life with G seems like a wonderful thought and spending my life without him makes me feel spinny and sick. But there may come a time when walking away will be the easier option, god, who knows there might come a time when walking away will be the RIGHT option. Maybe one day I will think it better for me to be without him. It's inconceivable now, but it could happen. Life is unpredictable. In the end, all I know is right now is that I would be prepared to fight the world to be with him, and I believe that however hard it gets I will always feel that way, somewhere deep inside. I'm promising him to always try and fight for us.

    K x

  2. Posted December 6, 2011 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Oh god yes! I worry about this all. the. time.

    Then I get worried about the worrying, like does the fact that I'm concerned about this already, only 1.5 years into being married mean that we're headed for DOOM? But my parents' marriage broke up, then one of their re-marriages also broke up (and got back together, after tooth and nail fighting to be together post infidelity which I have a huge amount of respect for now and don't know if I did before). And generally, like you, I'm a worrier. So sometimes I try to cut myself some slack, and sometimes I have heart palpitations.

  3. mahj
    Posted December 6, 2011 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Katielase, your last paragraph was just lovely.
    I read yday that the average person spends about 4 months of their lifetime worrying if they've switched off their hair straightners once leaving their house. Given that I worry about this, even when I know I haven't used them, makes me think im doomed!

    Anna K, im a worrier too. I said to Martin before we got married, what if in 10 yrs time we hate each other and his response was "we'll figure it out". Not that I know what that means, but I think he meant he's in this for the long haul, the forever kind. And after all we've been through as a couple, marriage will be easy. Ish.

    xoxo

  4. Posted December 6, 2011 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    You're definitely not alone! Both me and my other half come from very broken families, and we talk a lot about how we are committed to working very hard to make our marriage work. Not out of romanticism actually, just out of sheer bloody mindedness and because this is our bed and we're damn well going to lie in it. The thought of it NOT working is so enormously present in both of our minds, and always has been. For me, finding somebody who has the same grit about the whole thing as me was one of the big deciding factors in settling with this person – I will fight for somebody, but I need to know they will fight for me.

    You were a VERY cute baby Anna, and ohmygod Katielase, "oh dear?" ADORABLE.

    Px

  5. amy f
    Posted December 6, 2011 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    We've been to 2 weddings where the couples have since divorced – both within a year – and it's so sad to think that all that happiness and optimism from the wedding wasn't carried through to the marriage. In one of those instances the couple had got married very quickly and it turned out they didn't really know each other that well, in the other they faced some big and ultimately insurmountable obstacles in that first year. It was so sad to see friends going through that but now they're both in much better places.

  6. Posted December 6, 2011 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    I'm in the minority here. Divorce has never entered my radar, when it comes to me and Andy.

    We're together for better and for worse.

    I married a solid dependable, very lovely man, who fits with me. Andy believes one women is more than enough trouble and would not want the hassle of a second (no ladies man for me girls), he hates violence, never shown any sign of any temper, works crazy long hours, makes me laugh, very family orientated, good cook, neat and tidy, kind to animals, I could go on. He's everything I've ever wanted. He also believes divorce is not an option, so will be sticking with me and all my many flaws.

    Nope, never worried about divorce. Sorry, if I'm going against the grain.

    Anna, you were an adorable baby.

    xx

  7. Anni
    Posted December 6, 2011 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Oh Anna, you are adorable at 6 months! And almost like Katie, my first words were "uh oh!"

    My parents also nearly broke up 11 years ago – well they did. My dad moved out and my mum threw her wedding ring out the window after him. But somehow things worked themselves out and they fought tooth and nail to get their marriage back. It took months but they've done it and in 2009 they celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary by going on a month long cruise and renewing their vows at sunset in the Suez Canal.

    Because of this, I do worry about what if? But the Boy told me this: "Just because things get tough, don't you dare think I'm walking away. This is it and we will make it work – somehow!"

    I worry a little less now because I know he's in it for forever – that helps!

    xxx

  8. Posted December 6, 2011 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    This post sums up my feelings on divorce perfectly. It's so powerful:

    http://apracticalwedding.com/2011/06/reclaiming-wife-the-wedding-i-should-have-called-off/

    I learned you have no idea who a person is until you divorce them. I learned ripping apart the web of arteries and veins that is a marriage can make you both almost bleed to death. Divorce is viscerally terrifying. It is the suspension of reason. If children are involved it takes you to primal, reptilian places in your psyche. I learned divorce is never an escape hatch. It is not an option. It is the deepest and darkest last resort when you look at the 50 years stretching in front of you and know that if you have to continue your soul will die. It is never about what is fair, only what you are willing to do to be done. It was a salvation I was so grateful to have, but I was so wrong when I comforted myself on our wedding night that I would always have an out, that we could always get a divorce.

  9. Posted December 6, 2011 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    I am such a worrier too, although being that we are not yet married, divorce isn't high up there yet.

    Everything else is though and I am sure I will also be chipping away the years off my life by being this way.

    At least once a day something will happen that I will then overanalyze to death and dissect until I have covered all options of "what if" or "should I have".

    Anna, cute babyface…even with vomit! x

  10. Posted December 6, 2011 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    I think that we would all describe our boyfriends/husbands/life partners in glowing terms most of the time, certainly, I think Phil is the best thing on the planet since butterscotch Angel Delight.

    It might be entirely weird, but I remember something my driving instructor once said to me… something along the lines of

    'even if you drive test-perfect, hands at '10 to 2', never coasting and always indicating, for the rest of your life; chances are you'll still be in a crash of some description one day. Because you can never control the way that other people drive.'

    This sums up marriage for me, in relation to Katie's comment. Right now, I can scarcely imagine my life without Phil in it. But I've seen too many apparently 'solid, perfect, reliable' couples face up to their demons and be brave enough to seperate to think that divorce is never an option.

    Some of the strongest relationships I know of, my parents included, have been borne of divorce, so I could never say that I don't believe in it.

  11. Liz H
    Posted December 6, 2011 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    The one thing which scared me most about getting married is it not working out – the thought is terrifying.
    I think its a little more real for me as M's already been married and divorced. He had been separated for a couple of months before we got together (long story) but I lived through him actually getting divorced, around a year into our relationship. A very strange experience, having been so close to that divorce process with the person I love was very hard. I don't even want to comtemplate going through with him, but I naturally do.
    His view though is that he has been through a bad marriage, divorce etc so he entered our marriage with his eyes wide open and decided that he will never get divorced again – its a reassuring thought!

  12. Posted December 6, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    I should be clear on what my concern is, I actually trust G to the ends of the universe, he would never deliberately hurt me. I could never deliberately hurt him, because I'd feel the pain reverberate back through myself and I worry that would crush me. What I worry is that life will change us, because life does, and that we may have to fight to make our relationship work when we're no longer the people we are right now. When we say our vows I think we'll be promising to have that fight, if we need to!

    Also, thanks to Aisling I'm now majorly craving Angel Delight. A shopping stop on the way home may be in order!

    K x

  13. Christie
    Posted December 6, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    I have a major fear that it will all go horribly wrong and we will have "failed". My Mom has been married 3 times and she tells me that she'd be concerned about me if I had no worries!

    It makes me sad that I worry about divorce before I'm even married and there have been occasions where I've stressed myself out about it so much that I wonder whether we're doing the right thing.

    My amazing husband to be understands it and he also knows that my fears have absolutely nothing to do with my feelings for him, we often joke that if we end up not liking eachother after we're married we've got to stick at it for at least two years to save on embarassment!

    I know that many people would automatically put it down to me not believing that he's the right man for me (or some similar rubbish)but it's difficult to explain it properly!

    All I really know is that marriage is not something we rushed in to, we've been a couple for over 6 years and lived together for 3. I just try to tell myself that life is for living, I love my other half and we make each other happy. He will be an amazing husband and one day hopefully, a top class Father. Whatever happens in the future I will never regret marrying him.

  14. Posted December 6, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Aisling – I've also known seemingly strong couples divorce, but it still doesn't concern me. I just cannot contemplate either of us wanting to divorce the other, or one of us doing anything so bad the other would want out. In my mind, my life is bound with Andy's, regardless of what life throws at us.

    Both Andy's and my parents are approaching their 40th wedding anniversary, and our experience of divorce has been through more distant family members and friends parents. This may have influenced us.

  15. Posted December 6, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    I think it's perfectly right to worry, but I think I must be wired differently.

    I've always been impulsive and decisive, I try to be positive, and I try not to allow myself to wallow in what ifs. I don't think I'm right over this, but it's how I am.

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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