All my friends are getting unmarried

Miss 5 came to me this week with a firm instruction that her teacher was no longer to be called Mrs XYZ, but Miss ZYX.  “She got unmarried”, I was informed.  Mmm, so I’d heard.  It happens; a lot, unfortunately.  But until recently my children were very lucky that the majority of couples around them were pretty solid.  Whether or not they were actually married in the legal sense,  the bulk of our closer circle of friends and family was made up of couples who seemed to be in it for the long haul.   In the latter part of this year, though, that has changed in a few unexpected cases, and I’m having trouble juggling the inevitable questions from the small folk.

As grownups we recognise that no relationship is perfect and that many marriages are likely to end before the actual ‘death do us part’ bit comes into play. But clearly, as a population, we keep on getting married, so we must all be seeing the glass half full, at least at the start.  (I’m trying not to make a pun about how many relationships have been found at the bottom of a half full glass…but I digress).  But how do you explain all this to children?  After the first of the major break ups amongst our friends, it went something like this….

“Well, sometimes married people just don’t want to live with each other anymore.  They’re still friends, but they live in a different house now.  Yes, we’ll still see them both when we go to [insert child’s name]’s birthday party.  Yes, [name] will still be [name]’s Mummy.  Yes, they still love [name] and [name] very much.  No, I don’t know who is getting the dog.”  

Miss 5, who’s a thinker, took this away and pondered it for awhile.  She asked for clarification on a few points.   She compared it to some school friends whose parents, she knew, lived in different houses.  It was a learning curve for both of us.

Later that day her behaviour took a major turn for the worse.  She was picking fights with her siblings for no particular reason and had upended a bowl of fruit all over the floor.  Her father – with patience at its limit – hit the roof and began laying down the law about picking up her mess. She dissolved into tears. You all know the drill.  Then, with the fruit cleaned up, she sat at my feet and whimpered “Mummy, I just can’t help wondering whether you and Daddy might get unmarried one day.”   Ah, the moment I’d been waiting for.  I gathered her in my arms and wiped the tears away. All the afternoon’s temper tantrums were put aside for a moment so that I could reassure my beautiful girl that Mummy and Daddy were doing just fine.  “We argue sometimes, of course, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love each other…etc”   I’ve watched enough family movies over the years to know exactly how this scene was supposed to play out.  We cuddled while I gave her my spiel and the crying gradually stopped.  I asked whether she had any particular concerns?

“It’s just that I was sort of thinking it might be really cool if we had two houses. ‘Cos then Dad wouldn’t get so annoyed at me and yell at me when I spill stuff.   But if you were in a bad mood, or on the computer or something, we could always just go to Dad’s house and he’d probably let us have takeaway and stuff.  So, if you could please get unmarried, then, if we did have a dog…well, we could, like, have two dogs…cos we’d have one at Dad’s house and one here.  Mum, Mum, can we get a dog?”

So much for Super Mum.

Could you live with either of these people? (Image from

The scenario in her head, of course, is more like life in one of those terribly modern Hollywood families where couples live in separate houses, but next door to each other, so they can explore their artistic temperaments without compromise whilst still, ostensibly, being in a relationship.  I read that this works for Helena Bonham-Carter and Tim Burton, for example.  Perhaps that’s why she still gets to play the lead in every one of his films, rather than becoming just another embittered divorcee?  You’ve got to admit, it would help keep the mystery alive.

But then again, when you get married, aren’t you kind of acknowledging that the mystery, lovely as it may be, is going to be replaced at some point by other things?  If you’re lucky, it’s replaced by a comforting level of commitment – something less explosive and more comfortable, but something very special nonetheless.  It’s hard to generalise, obviously, as every relationship is as unique as the people in it.  Some marriages end in a blaze of fire and fury;  others peter out with a minimum of fuss and legal fees.  Some of the hardest ends I’ve had to watch are the ones where the couple clearly still care about each other but stress or illness or IVF or geography or poverty or some other crazy life factor forces them apart.   Some people struggle on through counselling; others call it quits and move on.  No one, ever, escapes completely unscathed.

There was a time in my 20s when the majority of girlfriend and/or martini related conversations were about how to meet a man.  Then, through my 30s, the martinis were replaced by glasses of salutary bubbles as I attended weddings with the regularity of a Richard Curtis film.  Now, the almost-40s are becoming a time for endings; for dividing up the hard-earned houses and much-loved children; for changing Facebook statuses.

My marriage is OK, at the moment – assuming my husband doesn’t kick me out in a fit of blog-resenting rage.  He knows I’d probably just blog about it anyway (bwah, ha, ha…my cunning plan).  But, all jokes aside, I treasure my marriage and I’m so sad for the friends who’ve hit the skids in that department lately.   Onwards and upwards I guess, for us all.  Here’s cheers.







11 comments for “All my friends are getting unmarried

  1. November 26, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    Great post, just captures the sentiments.

    • This Charming Mum
      November 26, 2012 at 9:08 pm

      Thanks Karen 🙂

  2. November 13, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Wow you raise some big stuff. Sad times are afoot. I can picture your lovely little Miss 5’s behaviour on the weekend, as it seems we were living out the same day.
    It’s a big transitional time for them at this age – moving on to school and needing to know their foundations at home are solid I’m finding. Ours is thinking some very big thoughts at the moment, and is really emotional. I’m trying to pad her world with me as much as I can right now so she feels confident out there, and safe to think about scary thoughts, because as you point out, shit just keeps on happening when you least expect it. Even when you think things are ok.

    • This Charming Mum
      November 13, 2012 at 4:17 pm

      Yes, 5 years old is a big year! I was just surprised that she was so keen on us having two houses, when I thought she was worried about us separating! There are so many ideas spinning around in their heads at that age.

  3. 10 % Inspired
    November 12, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    My husband just hit 30 and I’m only a coiple of years behind, and we’re already looking around at our friends relationships and watching them come a croppa. It’s weird to find realtionships that *I* thought were rock solid had actually been on shakey ground for a while.

    My husband and I are weird. We have a juvenile type of relationship that involves a lot of jokes about my boobs, his abs, and our inability to take our sex-life very seriously (head-butting, falling off the bed, the odd fart… oh yeah, we’re dead sexy adults). Our one rule has always been that no matter how cranky we might be (with each other or the world), if one of us asks for a kiss, the other one has to supply. We find it heads off a lot of stupid emotional BS. It’s hard to keep your crank on while your being kissed in that way he knows you like, then once the kissing is done, the talking goes fairly smoothly.

    • This Charming Mum
      November 12, 2012 at 9:32 pm

      Sounds like a good system you have there 🙂 Yeah, every couple is different and you never really know what goes on behind closed doors – some of the most ‘stable’ seeming relationships might have complications you never knew existed. I reckon as long as you can keep talking, it’s always a good thing. Even if the relationship ends, being able to discuss it like grown ups is helpful. The farting might interfere with that maturity level though 😉

  4. Fiona
    November 12, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    Thanks Lara, your blog certainly highlighted the facts, not the airbrushed prim and proper lives that we all wish to live. I feel for the children of today. It’s not enough to have them bombarded with the graphic nature of war, political unrest and how to stretch the dollar another dollar further, they are also forced to become a sounding board/pawn/negotiator to the dramas occurring right under their feet. It’s not something you think will ever happen to you. In saying that, you don’t expect to cartwheel down the aisle in one breath and be trying to stash the china and silver in the other. I am one of the statistics and have seen the benefits of how things ‘should’ occur. This has been bliss, both parents taking the interest of their children first, regardless of ill feelings or temptations to poke out the others eyeballs! I’ve also had the unfortunate parting of ways too. The fallout from that wasn’t so kind to the children involved. It’s hard to put it into words the heartache you feel from trying to tell a young child that you will no longer be with their other parent. The more you dance around the subject, the worse it actually becomes until there’s a powder keg, and the results are normally less than ideal. As much as we try and shield our children from this reality, there’s still hope. Look at my parents, squabbling like 2 year olds with a bad case of red frogitis, yet somehow, they work. I suffer from not being able to remember the most important of dates, names, times, etc but I think they’ve been married around the near 60 year mark!! From this I am able to show my children that even with the disasters happening around us, we can still look to my parents for the inspiration that there are still ‘stayers’ out there. Righto, I’m off now to go and see if I can change from the fishing channel, to watch the taped series of Army Wives!! Watch this space…

    • This Charming Mum
      November 12, 2012 at 9:28 pm

      It’s great that there are still a lot of ‘stayers’ to give us hope. Of course, none of this is black and white (or “married” vs “not married”) – as we all know, relationships are complicated and there are a lot of different ways to make them work – or not. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Enjoy Army Wives!

  5. Enid Bite'Em
    November 12, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    So much food for thought here Lara … I remember getting married within the same month as two other couples (v. Richard Curtis-ish) and wondering who, if, would break up – lovely thoughts for a bride! – but statistically, it should be one of the couples, and then again it could be none of us – well, it’s already happened to one of the couuples, but what was interesting is that the other couple, who are still together talked about it not being the ‘first’ – the ‘first’ of the divorces … that’s kind of a negative but probably very realistic conceptual way to think that quite threw me for a while). However, much better to have a country with no-fault divorce, than to have all those dramas that surround divorce (where, you rightly point out, no one escapes unscathed) than a divorce plus the pressure of the legal need to prove who is ‘at fault’ or worse still, to not even have it as an option despite domestic violence etc. Now that’s sad.

    • This Charming Mum
      November 12, 2012 at 7:08 pm

      I agree Enid. I was just reading about all that actually. I was originally going to throw some statistics into the post, but it got a bit boring and confusing. But, the legal side of things was interesting to Google about. It must be a truly hellish battle in countries without the no-fault ruling. It is obviously better to end an unhappy relationship than to live on in misery – and that’s not even considering issues like domestic violence, which is a whole other story. Just feeling a bit lost for words today after another couple we know calling it quits. And by ‘lost for words’ I do, of course, mean ‘verbose’ 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *