This week-end I attended my first gay wedding. Two wonderful women, seriously in love, promised themselves to each other in a touching service that felt as natural and romantic as any conventional union.
Free of the restrictions of a pre-formatted religious service, the officiator told their love story and then they exchanged vows. “Do you promise to continue being the same person I met? Do you promise that we will continue to dance around the house? Do you promise to let me lay in for an extra five minutes every morning? Do you promise we’ll go out every fortnight to a concert or show?” (The answer was “No, let’s do it once a week!”)
The vows were dreamy and optimistic. As one who is surrounded by couples who have weathered at least twenty years of marriage and child-rearing, with the scars to prove it, they made me feel jaded. Just you wait, I thought, until you have a few young kids, a to-do list and laundry basket like the magic porridge pot and see how much time you have to dance around the house. Just you wait, until you are both so tired come evening, that you can barely summon the energy to give each other a kiss goodnight, let alone go out. Just you wait until your kids butt into and cross-examine every conversation, so you’re forced to carry out the majority of spousal communication by phone during school hours.
Yet I’m wrong to burst the romantic bubble that surrounds weddings and the first heady years of a relationship with the realities of the hurdles that lie ahead on the next rung of the family ladder. Children and the wealth of time and attention they need may put stress on a marriage, but rather than being the death knell to love, they actually seem to anchor it. American statistics show that couples with children are 40% less likely to divorce.
Interestingly Denmark, the happiest country on earth according to the World Happiness Report 2013; a country of few children, short working hours and many public holidays, notches up a 50% divorce rate, further indicating that the amount of quality time spent together does not improve the chances of marital bliss.
Far away from the modest but beautifully crafted wedding I attended; in Venice this week-end the world’s most notorious bachelor, George Clooney, tied the knot after years of vowing he was not interested. Who he married, a Lebanese-Druse born English lawyer, was less surprising perhaps than the fact that he did it at all. Even for 53 year old Clooney, success, wealth and good-looks, complimented by up-grading lady friends every few years was apparently just not enough.
The lure of marriage, despite all the evidence to the contrary regarding chances of happiness and longevity, is something that can only be put down to the need to belong: to someone, to a partnership, a family and to society’s value systems; and in having a companion who makes you feel special, visible and understood. Yes, the years take their toll and often we fizzle in and out of focus to each other amongst the trials and tribulations of daily life, but as long as we find time, occasionally, to reignite the connection – with something as unexpected as dancing around the house, or just by letting your other half have that precious lay-in without expecting pay-back, we can polish up our dusty marriages and recapture some of the dreamy optimism we started with.