Monday 28 April 2014

Some marriage vows we could really use

Steve and I had the same abject fear around marriage.
I'm not too sure how I got here myself but let's just go with it and see if we get somewhere cogent in the end.
If you want to avoid the serious bit, you can head straight down to the (supposedly) funny bit below, headlined "The Lighter Side".
I was writing elsewhere recently about marriage and wondering why anyone does it anymore.
And that led me to cast my mind back to my only failed attempt at this manacling of two people together under the auspices of an outmoded christian rule system.
My ex-wife was Canadian and we got married over there.
It wasn't strictly a marriage of convenience, but my work visa for Canada was tied up in it.
At the end of my first year over there, I applied for an extension.
I had met Deb and we were very happy together as boyfriend and girlfriend.
I thought my extension for another year would be granted as I had what I thought was a specialist job with Greenpeace.
But, oh boy, I had not reckoned with the brick-hard face of the Canadian immigration department.
They turned my extension application down.
I couldn't believe it, but looking back, they had every right to do so.
My job was essentially just an office manager, and there were a million Canadians who could have done it.
So Deb and I were suddenly faced with the prospect of splitting up, me having to go home to Australia, and her then staying on and trying to get a work visa for my homeland, allowing her to come out and for us to be together.
However, that was obviously just a reverse of the problems we had had in Canada.
So we decided to get married.
Then I could stay for a while, and we could see how things worked out.
However this is where the views of two people began to diverge.
I asked Deb to keep our marriage a secret.

A girlfriend was one thing, but a wife was something else again.
However, of course, that is a rotten thing to ask of anyone, I conjecture that Deb must have been wondering if I was ashamed of her.
She was beautiful, nice and rich to boot.
What's more she drove a Black MG convertible, which I had the use of.
No it wasn't that at all.
It was that I knew my own shortcomings mentally, and knew if the word got out that we were now married, I would find it all too much.
Anyway, Deb was under tremendous pressure and in the end couldn't keep the secret anymore and let it slip to her mother.
And then, boy did the balloon go up.
I, somewhat like Steve Martin in Father of the Bride, had a very rudimentary idea of how our marriage would occur.
We would slip down to the registry office in our lunch hour, get married and be back at work by two pm, with no one the wiser.
However with the cat out of the bag, everything I feared came to fruition.
People do treat you differently when you're married.
One moment I had been one of the lads, working all week, then playing soccer or cricket on the weekend, then getting on the juice after the game.
Now I was a husband, and expected to behave differently.
And I don't want to to Deb a disservice here.
She wasn't standing at the front door with a rolling pin every time I went out with my friends, oh no, she quite enjoyed the same socialising.
But the upshot was, I felt under pressure and began to crumble mentally.
We stuck out the marriage for two years, in Canada and Australia, but eventually I had to say 'enough'.
I had to go to Deb and say we have to break up.
In hindsight, it was the first decision I had made in my life.
All decisions are hard (sorry, but they are), it's axiomatic that if the decision is easy, a no-brainer, then it's not really a decision.
Deb loved me, and it wasn't that I didn't love her, it was more that due to my horrendous upbringing, I simply didn't know what love was.
There was none in my cold, harsh home in Prospect street Bathurst.
So maybe I did love Deb, but I simply had nothing to compare with, and so didn't know.
And the decision I made was that it was all too hard, and I just wanted to go back to my one-of-the-lads existence in the bars of Sydney.
It was undoubtedly the worst thing I had done to a person up to that point in my life. 
There is a widely held view that if you are the one leaving a relationship, then you have the easy part.
Well I'd like to disabuse anyone who thinks this.
It's hard in both directions.
I had to hurt Deb terribly, and causing such pain, after all I'd been through myself, was terribly hard.
I never really forgave myself.
And indeed it is why I never have been remarried, or even had a long term relationship since (25 years it's been now).
I simply wasn't prepared to hurt, or be hurt, to those levels again.
The old aphorism, "love like you've never been hurt", is well said, but the number of people who have pulled that off is vanishingly small.
And now I remembered how all of the above started in my head.
During the break up, Deb introduced me to therapy.
We went and saw a counsellor, and he was very good.
He couldn't keep us together, but he did make me realize that my father's view that all counsellors are nuts, and they help nobody was simply untrue.
With his support we got through the initial mechanics of the breakup.
I picked up my tattered, meagre possessions and moved into a student share house near my Uni, and went back to school.
On my own again, I quickly fell into a relationship with a nineteen-year-old student on the women's soccer team I was coaching at Sydney U.
Talk about a cliche.
This point was made well in the Steve Martin movie LA Story.
Sarah Jessica Parker in LA Story: "She'll be 27 in four years."
Steve is caught out by the woman he wishes to go out with, as shown in this exchange:

Sara: Why didn't you tell me you had just broke up with someone?
Harris: How do you know I just broke up with someone?
Sara: Because when men just break up with someone, they always run around with someone much too young for them.
Harris: She's not so young. She'll be 27 in four years.

And I followed the pattern.
At the age of 27, I took up with this 19 year old.
I think the underlying reason men, particularly, do this is that someone too young for you is uncomplicated; they make few demands on you.
Whatever the reason, I quickly found that too much pressure due to my eternally fractured head, and then proceeded to dump her in a cowardly fashion.
However, the one thing to my credit was that I began to realize I was terribly dysfunctional and needed help for mental illness.
So I began to go to counselling and slowly began the path to today, where I'm off the booze and circling widely, as of a moon of Jupiter, the idea of having a functional relationship.
But the paradox that I've led you to over the long roundabout paragraphs above is that the way I look at it now is that it was only by breaking up with Deb did I develop the mental strength to stay together.
Try that for a paradox.
It, deb and I staying together, couldn't happen, she had gone back to Canada by then, but thanks brain for delivering hopeless paradoxes to us humans on a regular basis.
And I might add, to compound my difficulty during that time, was this.
Deb's best friend, Sally, came out to Australia while we were still living in Vancouver.
I gave her the contact details for my best friend Steve.
Sally and Steve eventually got married.
At the time I thought, "Brilliant! My wife's best friend, married to my best friend, we'll have a great time".
What I didn't realize was how much I relied on Steve as a listener.
Then, as now, I would moan eternally to him about my problems, and he would listen with enormous patience to my moaning.
Once he began going out with Sally though, I realized that I could no longer talk with him about my biggest problem, my relationship, as that would put him in the position of having to keep secrets from Sally.
So alone I wandered the dark caverns of my mind wondering what to do.
I have often written here that we would all do things differently if we had a time machine, but I'm not sure that would apply here.
I still feel breaking up was the right decision for Deb and me at the time, painful though it was to both parties.
Actually, now that I think about it, if I did have a time machine, I would go back to Prospect street Bathurst to when I was ten years old and get my parents to divorce, now that would have solved everything!
Anyway, the lesson I think I'm bringing is this, if you're having trouble with your relationship, try breaking up, it may be the only thing that keeps you together.

The Lighter side

So leaving those dark days let us turn to a lighter note.
All of the above caterwauling on my part reminded me of an episode of Roseanne.
For those who don't know, Roseanne and her husband Dan live a blue-collar working poor existence in Lanford, Illinois.
In one episode they are having relationship trouble, but by talking it through they come to resolution and decide to stay together.
So well does it go, that they decide to renew their marriage vows.
But they get to talking and decide that instead of the normal rubbish spouted by the priest, they would write vows that are useful in the real world.
So Dan agrees to put his dirty socks in the laundry basket and not leave them on the floor.
Roseanne agrees to only say something if Dan spends more than three hours in the Lobo Bar.
Dan agrees to at least pretend to listen to the principal when they are called to school for a conference over their children's behaviour.
Roseanne agrees to not let her mother in the house more than three times a year.
Dan agrees that if he does come home drunk, he is not to expect sex.
Roseanne agrees to feign interest when football is on TV.

Now they are vows we can work with.

And I would add a few of my own.
He: Will learn what colours she can't wear and buy clothing presents accordingly.
She: Will learn what offside is.
He: Will wash dishes and not "leave them to soak" in the sink, hoping She will wash them tomorrow morning.
She: Will solemnly swear to not point out what a load of f$%^ing jackasses his drinking buddies are.
He: Will not explain for the hundredth time why stick shift cars are better than automatics.
She: Will maintain the fiction that he has the biggest dick she has ever seen. (Yes, sorry followers of the human condition, but that is all men care about really.)

What do you think?

And finally to this week's joke/humour.
I did originally relay an esoteric joke about Noddy and Big Ears, but my humour testers, Daz and Scott, returned the findings as so:
Scott: "I don't get it".
Daz: "No, it was shit, the only thing funny was that Big Ears looks like Tony Abbott".

[For my American readers: Tony Abbott is the current Australian Prime Minister, a fuckwit of truly cosmic proportions. He seeks to dump toxic waste on the Great Barrier Reef among other eco-holocaust crimes.]

And I told Scott the joke after he had consumed his coffee, the only time of the day he even approaches mental acuity, so it looks like that joke will have to be consigned to the dustbin of history.

But first, since coming home drunk is a factor in the marriage vows of Roseanne and Dan above, here is Billy Connolly's take on it.
Said Billy: "I have here the solution for you if you come home drunk and don't want to get caught by your wife.
Most of us take our shoes off on the front step then open the door like a cat burglar, then step as quietly on padded feet up the stairs to the bed room.
This never works, as your wife will invariably hear the first floorboard creak and then be out of bed like The Flash and standing on the top step with a rolling pin in her hand."
"No," continued Billy, "If you don't want to get caught, what you do is, come down your road singing at the top of your voice. Open the door like your a member of the anti-terrorist squad on a raid, and with your willy in your hand yell, 'are ya' ready darlin', I fell like some legover tonight!!'"
Tony Abbott - a fuckwit of giant proportions.
"I promise you", concludes Billy, "all you'll hear from your wife is snoring as she frantically tries to pretend she's asleep".

So the joke (at long last).
A guy goes down the pub and gets a skinful.
It comes closing time and he buys a bottle of whiskey to take home with him, and sticks this in his back pocket.
He then weaves down the road to his house.
He fumbles several times in the dark for the key, eventually opens the front door, then steps inside.
He goes to mount the stairs, but trips on the second step and falls backwards, and lands flat on his bum, shattering the bottle in his back pocket.
He gets up, feeling the pain in his rear end, and realizes that he has cut his backside very badly.
So he staggers up to the bathroom and gets the Band-aids out of the medicine cabinet.
Then, awkwardly, he turns around and using the mirror, puts the Band-Aids on one by one, and once the job is done, more or less, staggers along to the spare room, flops on the fold out couch and goes to bed.
The next morning he staggers down to the kitchen.
His wife is already up, and as he stumbles in, his wife wastes no time, and says, "YOU were drunk last night."
The guy counterattacks and says, "no, I wasn't, I only had a few with the lads. Got home OK."
His wife sniffs disapprovingly, and says "no, you were drunk."
So the guy says, "Why do you say that?"
And his wife replies, "Because there's 20 sticking plasters on the bathroom mirror."

See you next week.


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