A couple of recent discussions with friends has lead to a list being made (pause for excitement…) ok…read on!
5 things you can’t or don’t predict when choosing a life partner.
1) How you & you’re partner vote. Politics is kind of boring and kind of important. Voting is a right many fought for & we all have our own opinions. The majority of us however, in a normal week, don’t go round talking about who we vote for. We may discuss how the potholes are becoming a disgrace or how NHS waiting times are just not good enough, but we don’t do so wearing a political sash. When elections come round, all of a sudden people are passionately discussing it. A quick look on my facebook news feed & I can see the political stance of a large portion of my friends and (thanks to online debates) their friends voting plans. I have never started a relationship and asked what party they vote for as a deal breaker. I personally enjoy a good debate over social, political, religious and moral issues but I wouldn’t cut friends out of my life over a difference of opinion (someone who makes it clear they’re voting for the ‘death to all’ party I might give a wide berth to but as a general rule..!).
My husband and I have discussed it and voted the same way. We come from very similar backgrounds and work in similar fields so it’s not a huge surprise but it’s something we hadn’t really spoken about beforehand. Having witnessed a couple have a blazing row about their political stances (one Green Party, one considering UKIP..!) it made me realise that it’s the type of thing you don’t necessarily cover at the audition stages of a relationship. You’d assume some people with really strong views might but in general, I don’t think we really do. And likewise your views can change, mine have, I’m voting differently than I did five years ago, as is my husband. We now live in a different constituency which of course can make a difference but it’s interesting to think whether it would cause friction if we chose different. I’d like to think not, but after sitting behind the unhappy Green/UKIP coalition couple, it certainly makes one wonder!
2) How to bring up children. When entering a relationship, you discuss whether or not you want children. A lot of people do it quite early on as it is make or break situation. It’s not a decision that can easily be compromised on (ok dear we won’t have children but as a compromise I want us to do more paper mâché and watch CBeebies..!).
What you don’t necessarily go into depth with are the details. What type of school do you want your child at? Do you believe in harsh discipline or a softer approach? Even simple things, what hobbies will you encourage? No first time parent comes equipped with any experience. We’re all learning as we go and it’s a steep old learning curve. Almost every day you have to make choices and if you’re at odds with your parenting comrade, you have to debate it out before making a choice and it won’t always be the choice you would rather.
My husband and I have avoided any major clashes but we don’t agree on everything. Im a bit more gung ho whereas my husband can sometimes err a bit more on the side of caution! That statement stands for most things in our life really, he’s always happy to get dragged along with me but I think sometimes he probably wishes I’d think about things a bit more before jumping headlong! Anyway, I recently read an article about a couple who paid for a legal go between as they had reached an issue that they simply couldn’t come to an agreement on. The Father wanted their son to attend boarding school (the one he had attended), the Mother, who knew he’d attended boarding school but had no idea he was adamant his children would follow, wanted their son to attend the local comprehensive. In a quote, “I’d homeschool before I sent my child to boarding school.” Before that sticking point, they may well have been the happiest couple on the planet! But on your fifth date when you’re considering this person as a potential long term partner, you’re not likely to discuss the schooling options of your metaphorical children!
“I’m having a lovely time, this is a great little Italian place. So picture the scene, Sid’s passed the 11+…”
“Sorry whose Sid?”
“Sorry yes, our future son Sid, he must be named after my Grandfather. And I want him to go to boarding school. I also think that I prefer the idea of baby led weaning. Oh and by the way if you vote Lib Dem I’m leaving now.”
3) How you’ll deal with an emergency or crisis. Fingers crossed, when you meet a new partner, you’re not immediately delved into a massive crisis. You’d at least hope they’d wait for the third date to drag you into a big drama anyway! However, at some point in your relationship, one or both of you will go through something really difficult. What you don’t know going in is how one or both of you will deal with it and how (and if) you’ll be able to get through it together.
When I was pregnant with Scarlett, my epilepsy (a condition I hadn’t really been bothered by for a number of years) reared its head. I was on medication that could potentially affect our precious cargo. My kidneys then started malfunctioning enough to hospitalise me because of the different medication I was on, and I have a bicornuate uterus which brings with it its own exciting complications! It was scary, it was upsetting, it was our first set of emergencys. In a way, it was lucky we were near the beginning of our relationship because we were able to see, yes, good, we’re both level headed, calm and deal with things like this. This will put us in good stead for the future! I know some people who are married twenty years when they suddenly are faced with a trauma that they have to deal with together. And it’s not something you can prepare for. You don’t draw up a list of emergency procedures with a list of ways you should deal with hundreds and thousands of potential situations! You can’t guess what situation you may suddenly be faced with. Life just happens to you and in the same way you can’t know for sure what’s round the corner, until something like that happens, you can’t know for sure how you’re going to deal with it as a couple.
4) Looks. I know that sounds stupid, unless you go on a blind date and then get forced to marry that person without looking at them, the majority of us can absolutely and do consider looks when choosing a partner. My Nan always used to tell me that if a boy was going to sucker me in with looks, to make sure it was the eyes and the smile that really got me as those were the only two things that would look the same at 80!
People change, they age, they put on weight/lose weight/change their hair/change their style. Their overall look develops and changes. The oldest most tattoo’d Grandmother that has been on TV a few times started getting tattoos quite late on, her secondary school picture shows a totally different person! Health affects us, lifestyle affects us. From a physical and aesthetic point of view, chances are, we’ll look significantly different at 80 than we did at 21 (the exception is of course Jennifer Aniston who has looked that good since her early twenties and shows no signs of looking her actual age anytime soon, down to I can only assume the genes of a magical beauty unicorn!). Since we’ve been together my husband’s look has already quite dramatically changed. And so my Nan is so right, because clean shaven with a Tony Stark haircut or bearded and moustached with the long hair and ruggedness of Aragorn, the way those eyes shine when he smiles at me stays exactly the same!
5) Who we are. When I was 17, I had spent a lot of time in hospitals and really admired the hugely intelligent doctors and nurses who helped me through a difficult time when my epilepsy was in full swing. I decided I wanted to be a surgeon. When I was 6 I told my Mum I wanted to be a bus driver because I liked to travel and meet new people! For a lot of my youth and early twenties I swung between wanting to be an actress and wanting to save the world. In amongst it all I got a criminology degree, and a psychology degree because I wanted to be Poirot! Throughout everything I’ve always written, so without knowing it, I’ve always been a writer, it’s only the last couple of years I’ve actually got paid to do so. And that just covers a small array of career plans. That doesn’t touch the vast journey of my ideals, hopes and dreams.
In your teens and early twenties, they change almost daily. By thirty you’re supposed to have worked it out but the worst kept secret is that nobody really ever does. As individuals we are constantly changing and developing and growing. We have different friends at different stages of life (as well as some precious lifelong friends who stick with us even for that few months you decided you were only going to eat grass and wanted everyone to call you Sister Nature). And it’s healthy for our goals and ideals to adjust and develop.
There is no guarantee that your partner will grow and develop on the same path as you or in a compatible way. I’ve had some brilliant past relationships where we started as ‘soul mates’ because we were both from the same school, or liked the same band or could down the same number of Jägerbombs on a night out. As they start to end, a lot of the time you realise it’s not necessarily that something’s gone wrong, you’re just not right together anymore, it’s time to disembark from the Jäger train! The chances of this happening decrease as you get older, but we also as people tend to connect with people on a deeper level, for example whether you have the same morals, similar life goals. Taste in music is still important but aged thirty you’re much less likely to decide to marry someone just because you love their Nirvana tattoo..! This of course is a generalisation. There are some teenagers who absolutely have their crap together and know exactly what they want and there are most likely some thirty year olds who decide that it’s enough that their Tamagotchis have the same name to build a life together! The point is, you can’t make a decision on a life partner based on who you will become, only who you are. And if and when that changes, it may change things.
This may seem like a list to try and make the point that no-one should ever decide to get married because at some point, one of the above points will prove that your relationship is doomed..! NOT SO! If I had to say I was making a point, it would be that you don’t have all the answers, and won’t even necessarily recognise if you’re considering the right questions. And that’s ok. It’s kind of why life is so great. If you’ve just found out that you’re house is about to be repossessed, your husband has dyed his hair green and wants to take the kids to a cult he’s just joined on the way back from voting Tory whilst you decide actually maybe you’re now a vegetarian who wants to train to be a lawyer instead of a midwife, it’s all ok. Give yourself (and your husband) a break. It may seem like a lot, it may seem that everything you felt so sure of on your wedding day is now a sham. Not so. Life is happening to you. Firstly, cults aren’t generally safe do maybe do put your foot down on that one..! He maybe Tory and you Labour but is that important enough to make you forget how much he makes you laugh? His hair may now be a green you don’t like but maybe it brings out the hazel in his eyes? And if you want to be vegetarian and a lawyer then why the hell not! Give it a go, change your mind back and get in a double pack of bacon!
Obviously I’m not suggesting that dramatic changes every five minutes are a sensible idea but now and then, it’s ok for things to be slightly out of your control and just see where life takes you. You can try and learn every little detail about your chosen life partner but however much you try you’ll every so often be thrown a curveball. And for some people the above causes rifts, or an individual changing is too much for the other and the relationship breaks down. And that’s really sad for all
involved but again, it’s not your fault.
Luck has a huge role to play (as does fate if you believe in that kind of thing!) I was incredibly lucky to find my husband and I look forward to any and all of life’s curveballs for us to dance around and mould into part of our story. I hope to pass on these thoughts to Scarlett and any other children we may have in the future.
I guess my point is, above are five things you don’t or can’t consider until they happen in a relationship. And if you can’t plan for those things, why worry about them. After all, you’re left with everything else. Does that person make your heart swell, do they feel like home, do you want to choose them as your family? My sensible advise to my children would always be to choose a life partner based on life morales and outlooks on what you want your future to look like; but just as important is that feeling. The one we can’t explain, the one that makes someone feel like family.
So comrades, whomever you choose to spend your life with, hold on tight when the rollercoaster give us bumps and drops and let yourself adapt without worry. And wherever your journey in life takes you, hold your head up high, slap on a smile, and enjoy!