‘Then Comes Marriage’
I don’t know if many of you have been watching this programme on RTE 2. Three couples are brought together over a weekend and their relationships are analysed by psychologist Allison Keating and psychoanalyst Dr Ray O’Neill. It is a pre-marriage course of sorts. I have watched three episodes at this stage and I must say I admire all of the couples who were prepared to literally ‘bare all’ to the Irish public.
Nothing is off the table. Everything is fair game to be discussed.
What I realise from the programme is how ill-prepared GG and I were for marriage. We were engaged and married eighteen months after we started dating. In many ways, we barely knew each other and had spent only two weekends away together.
We were ‘madly’ in love and that was enough!
In the course of the programme, the couples are assessed and helped in many different areas.
How we communicate with each other is important in life generally, but essential in a relationship. So the couples are watched as they complete an assigned task such as putting up a tent. I tried to imagine what Allison and Ray would say about us.
Graham and I are both talkers, but I think I am the better listener. We probably listened more carefully when we were younger, but after thirty five years I nearly know what he is going to say on every issue. I can finish his sentences and he mine and I often know what he is thinking. That skill comes after many years, however. And some of you might think it rather boring if you know beforehand what your partner is going to say, but we find it funny.
But communication is not just verbal, but physical too and GG and I are cuddlers and hand holders and always have been. We have seldom gone to sleep on an argument and I remember waking Graham up (he had no problem with nodding off!) to ‘make up’ following a heated debate over some important issue that I obviously can’t remember now.
Seemingly, according to the programme, couples who pool their finances are less likely to argue about money.
The only thing we had discussed before we married was finances. I had saved nothing, despite having ‘lived in’ the school where I was teaching. But we still managed to buy a house as Graham was a saver. We had a joint account from when we married and we never argued over money, though of course we never had enough. It worked for us, but I am not certain that it would work for everyone.
Conflict and argument are part of every relationship. How you manage conflict and learning to argue well is a critical skill, we are told in the programme. I totally concur. I actually enjoy arguing with Graham, though in the early years he refused to engage and often shut down. I vented on walks with my girlfriends and went home much calmer. He is much better at arguing now, though in truth we seldom do it and more often than not use humour to sort things out. I am not sure Ray and Allison would approve, however. They might tell us we were not facing up to the issues!
‘Then Comes Marriage’ states that “47% of Irish couples fight over household chores” and I would think this is accurate. Many of our arguments over the years have been about such matters. I expect Graham to see what needs to be done and if I ask him to do something I like it to be done immediately. He never feels the same urgency! I blame myself. When we got married I did the cooking and cleaning; Graham cut the tiny square of grass (back and front). We fell into the typical male and female roles without thinking. I was only short of handing him the slippers and pipe when he walked in the front door in the evenings!
Over the years though, he has handled the painting and decorating, his cooking skills have improved considerably, he does a lot of the grocery shopping and he looks after the laundry, though I think he yet has to clean the toilets or iron the clothes!
But Graham was super with the two girls from the beginning and took to fatherhood like a duck to water. He stepped up to the role with gusto and if there had been a prize for father of the year, he would have won it. He got up at night with them, he took them out in their prams and even learned how to do ponytails and plaits when they got older. No he is not a candidate for sainthood!
“Research suggests that individuals who are similar in their values, backgrounds and life goals are more likely to have a successful marriage.”
Having been married nearly 35 years I can see the truth in this. Though from different backgrounds, we are the same in what we want from life and value family, friends and loyalty above anything else. We share several interests, and also have separate hobbies, (Graham sails and I play bridge, for instance) but very importantly we enjoy each other’s company. But most of all we have a laugh. A sense of humour can see you through bad times and everyone has those.
So ‘Then Comes Marriage’ is on RTE 2 on Monday at 9 30 and you can watch the earlier episodes on Catch Up. It is never too late to work on your relationship!