Brushing things under the carpet is best for couples
I was going to write: “When the trust goes in a marriage, there’s no fun lying to her any more.” I was then going to tell you that the line came from an old episode of Cheers, circa 1985, adding: “It was Norm who said it, I think, while propping up the bar.”
But the web has taken away all the pleasure of such hazy recollection. I looked at what I had written, thought it didn’t sound quite right, then googled it. Sure enough, I found the proper quote within seconds. “Once the trust goes out of a relationship, it’s really no fun lying to them any more.” Which is better. It was Norm, though – I was right about that. Anyway, this line came back to me when reading the reports about Chris Huhne and his ex-wife. What a mess. Poor things. A marriage breakdown must be hard enough without having to go through it in the spotlight.
Perhaps they can find consolation in the thought that they might have helped save the marriages of others. Their unhappy tale certainly concentrates the mind. Must try harder. Work on that trust. And mental note to self: never write anything in a text you don’t want to hear read out in court.
That story coincided with one about a psychology professor who has found that couples are more likely to stay together if they sit down three times a year and write reports about the rows they have been having — the “save your marriage in seven minutes” audit, he calls it.
An interesting idea, but I can’t think of anything worse than opening up wounds by going over old arguments. The secret to a successful marriage, I think, is brushing things under the carpet. Pretending nothing happened. Also, the way to take the sting out of something is to make a joke about it, preferably at your own expense. But this is not to say you shouldn’t have the argument in the first place. A priest once told me that.
It might seem eccentric to seek marriage guidance from an unmarried priest, before you are married. But that is exactly what I did 20 years ago, along with my wife-to-be, and about a dozen other soon-to-be married couples. She was, is, a Roman Catholic, while I was raised an Anglican. The deal was that we could only get married in a Catholic church if we attended classes on how to make a “mixed” marriage work.
Now, if I’m being honest, I’ve forgotten most of what was said. But I do remember one thing. The toothpaste. The priest said that in every marriage there will be “a toothpaste moment”, that is, an argument about something trivial such as not putting the lid back on the toothpaste after you have used it. It might be that the toothpaste is a proxy for a greater, more complex grievance. On the other hand, it really could be just about the toothpaste and, by not confronting it for months or even years, you may be asking for trouble. Wise words.
Our most recent toothpaste moments have included me not listening, me not rinsing out the sink properly after shaving, and me eating things without first asking if they were bought for a special reason.
I suppose the next level of such toothpaste moments is when couples divorce and argue about who gets to keep the trivial things that neither really wants. According to the lawyers who act as go-betweens, money matters tend to be quite straightforward to settle, it is the little things such as frying pans and vacuum cleaners that cause the headaches. Very little things in one case. Spermatozoids. Not the husband’s, the horse’s. The couple ran an equestrian centre and jointly owned a valuable stallion.
Far be it from me to tell a big company like Findus how to market itself, but aren’t they missing a PR trick here? There has been so much talk of horse meat lately that I bet there are plenty of people who are now curious to try it. We’re not talking rat or dog meat, after all. Horses are about the same shape and size as cows, and they eat grass. How different can it be? They don’t even have to change the product, only the slogan. “Guaranteed 100 per cent horse lasagne!” I’d try it. But then, as my wife would attest, I will eat anything.