A few years ago, a friend suggested that I write a book about how to have a successful marriage. It was a follow up to something I say A LOT, which is that you should always seek advice from people who have been a success at something. Seem obvious? Well, I think so, but in fact if you look around you, people seem instead to seek solace from those who have not. Of course, it's good to comfort one another, but it won't actually help you sort your problems out.
So I started writing the book, and it was going quite well, and then I suddenly realised why it wouldn't work. Chapter One was about choosing the right person, and of course for most people reading it, it was too damn late for that. Most people would only read a book like that after already having chosen. In fact, most people would only read it after things started to look a bit wobbly.
That's humans, you see. They go into things with their eyes wide shut. Like men assembling things, they only read the instructions when they are having problems. You know I'm telling the truth.
We have been married for 34 years. We are still very much in love, enjoy each others' company, laugh, play silly, and generally look like poster children for marriage. I keep being told how lucky I am by those whose relationships are not so good, or didn't last.
Luck has very little to do with it.
There are many things in life that are pure luck. There are many that are part luck.
The only aspect of my marriage that was luck was meeting my man. After that all of it was choices.
We met at an incredibly young age. I was 6 and he was 8. Yes, really. It was only a brief encounter, and we actually met properly at 17 and 19. We happened to work in the same place (that was the luck part) and the attraction was mutual. It was an attraction that would be represented in art by coloured twinkly lights, because it was that quick, that natural, that powerful, and that obvious to everyone around us.
Love at first sight is, I'm told, quite rare. I'm not so sure. I think some people just don't wait long enough. There's a saying "if it don't fit, don't force it" and I think that is what happens quite a lot with relationships. It doesn't seem quite right, but hey, I'll make it work. Well, maybe. I think the whole Cinderella story is about "fit", symbolized by a slipper.
However, you still have to choose that person. You have the option to reject them. People do that you know. For all sorts of reasons. My younger daughter almost made that mistake. They were best friends, and she was convinced that was the wrong choice for partner. Well, it wasn't. She clued in eventually and now they are happily married with two little boys.
People also choose the wrong partner (or reject a good one) for reason of money, age, looks, and all sorts of reasons that seem reasonable but aren't. As you well know by now, I don't even think gender is an obstacle, and society is warming up to that generally.
The "right" person cannot be predicted. You will know them when you meet them. THEN you have to choose them. You see? You don't choose any other way.
But it doesn't end there. There are lots more choices during a marriage that can make or break the thing. Choices of fidelity go without saying. That's just the beginning. Anyway, maybe I'll still write that book, who knows.
Why do people forget they have choices? I wish I knew. Honestly. I spend so much time reminding them. It's not "news" to them, they just forget.
While I'm here, on a related issue, there are choices with children. First and foremost, whether to have any. It IS optional. There are a number of people who should have opted not to have children, but had them anyway. Then treated or raised them badly. There are no excuses for that.
There are lots of choices to make as a parent. Raising good kids is only part luck too. Again, I'm told how lucky I am that my kids have all turned out well. Isn't that an incredible coincidence? I have been showered with luck. A good marriage AND 6 good kids. Yes, I am grateful. I also take some of the credit. Here's the good news. This "luck" is widely available. You can have some too.