ACTRESS Rosamund Pike — starring at your local multiplex in the film adaptation of Gone Girl, the best-selling thriller by American writer Gillian Flynn — said something rather wise last week.
“People have ridiculous expectations of a mate,” she told reporters.
“In my grandmother’s day, you wouldn’t expect your husband to fulfil the same need in you as your sister, or girlfriends, or colleagues at work. You’d have different needs met by different people. Now we want all our needs met by one person, and I don’t believe that’s possible.”
With one simple observation, Ms Pike has pinpointed all that’s wrong with romantic notions of marriage.
Because, let’s face it, she’s right. How can one person possibly fulfil all our hopes and dreams? And yet that is what we tell ourselves, time and again. No wonder the divorce rates are so high.
We are all — women especially — susceptible to the idea. It’s not our fault. From a very young age, we are taught to believe in The One.
From Jane Austen to Bridget Jones, everything points to the idea of all-consuming love for a single individual, preferably one who looks nice in a dripping wet shirt and a pair of moderately tight trousers.
It’s an idea that’s reflected in the nonsensical language of romantic novels. “He makes me whole,” wails the tear-stained heroine. “You complete me,” he whispers, as he gathers her in his manly embrace.
True loves, we are led to believe, cannot bear to be apart, not even for a moment. Separation is a knife to the heart; they would rather die than be parted. Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, Cathy and Heathcliff: joined at the hip or for ever doomed.
This is, of course, complete baloney. True love is being married for ten years and successfully resisting the urge to throttle him when he asks you where you keep the plasters. Or when he hangs his wet towel on the corner of the bedroom door.
Or puts his dirty cups just next to the dishwasher, but never actually inside it.
True love is all those maddening daily irritations that you generously and graciously ignore.
That noise he makes chewing his cereal; the way he scratches his nether regions while perusing the morning paper; the gigantic sneezes; the tea-bag down the loo; the half-smoked cigar on the edge of the bath; the empty cartons of milk in the fridge; his habit of leaving the car with barely a drop of petrol in the tank. With close and prolonged proximity comes a certain kind of invisibility, too.
Kindness and consideration suffer. He will refill his glass of wine, but not yours; walk ahead of you on his mobile phone while you carry the shopping; book himself in for a two-hour massage on a Saturday morning, even though you haven’t had a lie-in for three years.
Only the other day, a friend called to tell me her husband had left all his toenail clippings in the bath and she wasn’t sure if she could carry on.
Another was being driven half-mad by sleep deprivation because of her husband’s snoring.
Gradually, you get shunted down the list of priorities. It’s not that he forgot your birthday, he was just too busy to get a present. He thought you’d understand, you see. You do, of course. But you wish you didn’t have to.
None of these problems would arise if you saw less of each other. Those Downton types didn’t favour separate bedrooms because they disapproved of sex; it was because they understood the importance of “proper relations”, as the Dowager Countess might have put it, that they kept their distance.
If you want to stay happily married, take a leaf out of Ms Pike’s book and get a life of your own. For marital absence can only make the heart grow fonder — especially if it means you get the remote control all to yourself for once. – Daily Mail