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Tuesday, 5 May 2020

“It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

I'm going to say at the start I'm not a counsellor, so this is just my opinion. Get proper help if you are having problems. Don't stick with or discard a relationship because of anything you read here. And definitely don't stay with anyone abusive and don't let someone chip away at your self-esteem.

A week or so ago, someone posted on Facebook that they'd never had the kind of love that the character has in After Life (the Ricky Gervais series), and that they really wanted that kind of consuming love. It was a really heartbreaking post to read, but as I hadn't watched the second series yet, I said nothing. I have since watched it, and went back to respond but it's vanished, so I'm writing my thoughts here.

Firstly, in After Life, the wife has died. The husband is grieving. So the husband is focused on all the good things about her that he loved and missed. In the second season, there are hints that he wasn't the most attentive husband. He tells how he wouldn't say I love you back at the end of a phone call if other people were around, and how she'd be busy in the kitchen and he would get annoyed if he had to help and wouldn't dance with her at parties and so on. These are all fairly normal things, and are part of a long life together where we take opportunity for granted (we think our lives together will last forever, so that opportunity to say I love you on the phone won't be our last opportunity to say it). The show does give us glimpses that the husband is idolising his wife, but that perhaps it wasn't the most perfect relationship in real life, in no small part because of him and how casually he loved her at the time. All of which I would say is actually pretty normal. (Maybe not right, but normal).

Secondly, there is this brilliant talk by Alain De Botton on what shapes our idea of romantic love and marriage, and what it actually should be. It is part of the Opera House's Digital Season (which if you haven't checked out, it's worth doing - I've been making up for my lack of weekly visits by 'catching up' online). You can run it in the background while you're doing something else, so while it's an hour, it doesn't need to take up any time.




The bottom line is, with a romanticised idea of love, there's no room for arguing about towels. However, life is all those things, and so is love. It's utilitarian as well as being swept off your feet and a driving desire. It has to be.

While talking about lockdown, we were talking how lonely some people were, and my husband said "I've never felt that. I've always had you." He meant it in the sense that there was always someone to off load stress to, and someone to play Banangrams with when bored, and someone whose presence shone approval, rather than someone actually being there. There are plenty of people lonely in their marriage. The pragmatism of the statement was an acknowledgement of 20 plus years of marriage and friendship, rather than an indication of a romanticised 'great love'.  Love is the little day to day things added up, not just the grand romantic gestures.

Lastly, just remember you forget. When you first got together you probably had that all-consuming love and desire that floods through many new relationships. But time dilutes its power and other glue emerges.

I think De Botton gives some very good advice at the end of the talk to a lady who asks about bringing some more romance back into her long marriage. 'Act as if tonight is your last'. Say that I love you in the phone call, plan something special for no reason. Do that thing you used to do but stopped because of kids, school, work or the million other aspects of life that got in the way.

This is a long post for a person who I hope reads it. I don't know if she will or how to find her. My advice, is don't throw away a good thing for an ideal that is impractical and just shaped by the Romantic Poets (this is discussed at length by De Botton in the talk). We are influenced in our ideas on love by movies and shows that do not show arguments over towels because it's too boring to watch. But those arguments about towels* happen all the same.

Linking with #MLSTL
Navigating Baby
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

My Random Musings



*De Botton uses the towels example. I don't have a nutty obsession with towels or a passive agressive issue with towels - at least not with my husband. The kids on the other hand....but that's another post.



24 comments:

  1. I love your post Lydia and I agree that whilst romance and love are important in a relationship, friendship and supporting each other's endeavours and goals are the foundations. You do forget what it was like in the beginning especially if you've been together for many years. You also tend to look at the negatives rather than remembering the good things and that whilst life won't every be perfect and good relationship can survive. I haven't seen After Life although I have heard of it. Thanks for sharing at #MLSTL and reminding us that there is more to a relationship than hearts and flowers x

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  2. Yes Yes and Yes. I'm about to celebrate our 31st together anniversary and 26th wedding anniversary (tomorrow) and hundred and one percent agree that friendship is the foundation. Alain de Botton's theory is right on - as is his theory around mediocrity and how it's actually all okay. If you're interested there are 2 great podcasts with him on the subject on How To Fail.

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    1. Can you shoot me the link. I'm listening to these while doing excel spread sheets....I really need intellectual engagement!! Ha!

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  3. My husband is a family counselor and he LOVES that Alan de Botton lecture - he got me to watch it (I've watched it twice now) because so much damage to marriage is done by our 1st world/Western world fixation on romantic love.
    Our marriage has ridden a lot of waves over the years and sometimes I wondered why it wasn't all sugar and fairyfloss, but that kind of love doesn't weather storms - it fizzles out and runs and hides. True love is strong and abiding and only gets that way with hard work and commitment. Great post Lydia xx
    and thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL - I've shared on my SM 😊

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  4. This was a very thought provoking post Lydia and I hope the person who wrote the original post you were responding to see sit, but if not we have all read and enjoyed your thoughts. I tried to like After Life, and got the gist of it but just couldn't get into it for some reason. I agree with you friendship is the basis for the success of any relationship, we've just celebrated 40 years of marriage and I can assure you things are very different from how they were in the early years, but we still get on with each other and respect our differences. It's not always been easy that's for sure! #mlstl

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  5. Romantic love is easy to come by when the couple is free of day-to-day living responsibilities. Most ordinary couples do our own cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc. so yes, a solid friendship would help to weather disagreements. #MLSTL

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  6. Thanks for the link to the video...I'm putting it in my listening list. I do believe that friendship and hard work are more important than romantic love in a long-term marriage. We will be married 28 years this month, and in reality, there is very little romance in our marriage. But a whole lot of love. There is no-one else I'd want to be quarantined with!!

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  7. Hi Lydia. I love the show After Life. I'm happy to say, I've been married to my best friend for 37 years. We have a special bond that isn't like the movies or some romantic poem, but it is special and we are both incredibly happy. I think this post will resonate with a lot of people and I'm sharing to FB.

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    1. I like After Life too - I think the show wasn't showing anything unrealistic, I think the person who intially posted the very sad question was not 'seeing' what Afterlife was showing. Just the mourning and missing and idolising part.

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  8. Sorry Lydia, I tried to share this post on Fb, but when I click on the fb icon I get a blog post that I shared from someone elses site, yesterday.

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    1. No worries - my blog is a mass of technical difficulties most of the time - Thanks all the same. :)

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  9. I didn't read it all about After Life as we are still watching it. I think, from my perspective of almost 50 years wed (Jan '21) that love changes and grows and moves around and even more...BUT...and my husband and I have talked of this, what has kept us together in the worst of times (ill-health, financial troubles and more) is that each of us remembers the smile and the person we were when we met and we are never ever letting that feeling go. Oh, and to be each other's best and closest confidante and to say sorry when you know it's you not him. Lots of lessons learned every day in our twosome life in retirement in umpteen years of being parents and grandparents and now it's 'just us'. Denyse #mlstl

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  10. You are on target! Things change and so do people. It is easy to forgot that all relationships evolve and you must work to make them succeed.

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  11. What a fabulous post! Long term love is definitely not what you see in romantic movies, and it does take effort from both sides to have a wonderful life together. There is no denying there will be lots of ups and downs. After Life is a great series - I haven't quite finished season 2 yet! #DreamTeamLinky

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  12. Good post that will make people think and those are the best blog posts of all. I have questions about my own marriage right now and find it hard to unpick. As part of this I read this guy's book on marriage and it did make me see that we do expect hearts and flowers and for there to be no bumps in the road which is unrealistic. Having said that I don't like abuse and I do love flowers! #AnythingGoes

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    1. Not being flippant but go and talk to some one. If there is abuse, you might need an exit plan (that's more involved than just deciding you're leaving - those things are way beyond my lack of expertise)

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  13. Interesting post #dreamteam@_karendennis

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  14. I absolutely agree. My husband is my best friend and I feel so blessed. Lots of great content in the post. I enjoyed the video. Thank you.

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  15. I totally get this, you need to be good friends as well as lovers for a relationship to last. #KCACOLS

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  16. I feel sometimes that relationships are just a delicate balancing act and that there are so many little things that can just knock the whole thing out of whack with no warning #KCACOLS

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  17. Ah I love this - 'love is the little day-to-day things added up.' So so true, completely agree :) #KCACOLS

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  18. Great post and advice marriage is about friendship and companionship too. That spark of love is so important to but lots of people miss the really beauty of a marriage.
    #kcacols

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  19. I must say that whilst he drives me potty the husband and I have actually had quiet a lot of fun during lockdown. It has been nice for us both to be on the same schedule as he hasn't been rushing out in the morning to get to work #DreamTeamLinky

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