Annabel wonders what makes other people’s marriages work

I have been married for 33 years to my Other Half (OH), and I count myself lucky to have been very happy. Whilst Grace has been writing about the joys of life as a single woman after 30 years of marriage, this has made me think about my own marriage. It was particularly relevant these last three weeks as I have fractured my wrist, which meant I could not drive, cut up my food, carry anything heavier than a piece of fruit, blow-dry my hair – the list is endless. In all of this, my husband has been my right hand, apart from blow-drying my hair, and has done it all with humour and patience.

Marriage suits me. I would hate to be on my own, and though I have four wonderful children with equally lovely partners, my husband is my soulmate. Nothing is perfect; I am not a perfect wife, and we are not perfect parents, but it is a fun path that we are travelling along, and I do not regret a minute of it.

I am not going to write about what makes a marriage work, as I am sure it is different for everyone but the two things that make our marriage work are laughter which we do by the bucketload and chatting about everything.

I once read a poignant article by Hunter Davies, whose wife, the novelist Margaret Forster, died after 55 years of marriage. He really missed the general chit-chat, which I think he called ‘chackling’. You come home from shopping, and the conversation is about who you bumped into, the local roadworks that are fouling up the roads, the increase in the cost of a cappuccino from our favourite barista, nothing earth-shattering in importance but just chackle.

Watching television together and chackling about it, laughing at the funny moments and sharing your worries about some of the news you may have just heard. Right now debating about who will be our next Prime Minister. Those spur-of-the-moment chats that mean nothing to anyone else but make our world spin.

Apart from that, it is the memories you share, the funny stories that your other half tells so brilliantly that you are still laughing at having heard them numerous times (sometimes I might have to remind my Other Half (OH) of the correct ending.) I often think of the song; I Remember it Well from the musical Gigi sung so beautifully by Hermione Gingold and Maurice Chevalier.

We met at nine
We met at eight
I was on time
No, you were late
Ah yes, I remember it well.
We dined with friends
We dined alone.
A tenor sang
A baritone.
I remember it well.
That dazzling April moon!
There was none that night.
And the month was June
That’s right, that’s right.
It warms my heart
To know that you
Remember still
The way you do
Ah yes, I remember it well.
How often I’ve thought of that Friday–
Monday–
Night, when we had our last rendezvous
And somehow, I foolishly wondered if you might
By some chance, be thinkin’ of it too
That carriage ride
You walked me home
You lost a glove
I lost a comb
Ah yes, I remember it well.
That brilliant sky!
We had some rain
Those Russian songs
From sunny Spain
Ah yes, I remember it well.
You wore a gown of gold
I was all in blue
Am I getting old?
Oh no, not you!
How strong you were
How young and gay
A prince of love
In every way

Ah yes, I remember it well.

I feel like my OH, and I are just starting all the fun of a new stage in life. That’s how I choose to think about it. I don’t look back with any regrets as I can’t change the sad or bad memories I just look forward with excited anticipation.

Endless boringly obvious studies have shown how the 60-plus generation feels happier and less depressed than the youthful and the middle-aged. We are not as competitive anymore. We are more at peace with ourselves.

Of course, every marriage has its ups and downs, but that’s what makes it fun; the fact that you can make it through the downs means the ups are more enjoyable. If you can enjoy or make all the everyday things enjoyable, then as a partnership, you are a winner.

And never stop laughing or talking, and that includes the chackling!

22 Comments

  1. Love hearing what happens inside marriage – it’s always said that when husband and wife retire, they simply find they have nothing in common any more.
    Name dropping here – I had lunch with Dame Mary Archer a good few years ago – we touched on marriages – as you do – and she told me that the secret to her happy marriage was that Jeffrey spent so much time away (he was in prison at that time!) that they never had time to get bored

    • Agree about the spending time apart being essential. How can one person provide all your needs? I meet different people with different interests and this is important to keep your mind active, I think.
      Cacking is vital, one of the things I valued with my late husband was being able to cackle about mundane things – like the price of a cauliflower – and he knew I could also talk about the externaliisaing of certain costs having adverse social impacts.
      And me cackling about the price of caulifower was not the only thing I could to him about.
      Keep cackling.

  2. This is a very poignant post for me to read, having lost my husband to an aggressive cancer just a couple of months ago. We met when I was sixteen and were married for almost fifty years (that landmark is coming next month, rather painful). The older we got, the happier we got, yes even through cancer in lockdown. I don’t know what the secret ingredient was but my goodness, if they could sell it! I regard my long and happy marriage as the most enormous gift and I think of myself as truly blessed. There is an enormous gap in my life now, but OH told me it was my duty to get on and live happily after he went, but I did not realise it would be so hard. And yes, chackling is what I miss most!

    • Oh Margaret that message brought tears to my eyes. I am so very sorry for your loss and for the pain you continue to suffer. I hope that you can still find happiness but I agree, weren’t we lucky to have found our soul-mates? Best wishes, Annabel x

  3. I met my husband skiing (in a Supertravel Chalet) in 1971, and after 10 days he asked me to marry him
    As I lived in London, and he lived in Devon, I said ‘Yes’ !
    After 48 years of glorious Marriage, he died while we were on holiday abroad.
    And I cannot tell you how I miss the Chackling – and the laughter and the Post Mortems of the events of the day.

    I think you should be looking forward to those Sundowners in Corfu…………!
    This is not a Rehearsal !

    • I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I hope that you can still find happiness and just keep those memories fresh. Best wishes, Annabel x

  4. I really enjoyed your article about 33 years of marriage. I’m married 37 years and also recently had a fractured elbow. Just like you I needed assistance with lots of activities. My husband also did certain tasks with patience and good humour. The only thing he couldn’t manage was drying my hair! I read your article out to him. He roared laughing and he was delighted to know he wasn’t on his own with that particular task. I agree it’s the chit chatting about the small things on a daily basis and the laughter that makes a marriage work.

    • I will let my husband know that he is not alone with his ‘hair drying’ skills! Keep laughing and chit-chatting ! Ax

  5. What a lovely article Annabel, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Its our 25th Wedding Anniversary this year and my husband and I are still learing.

  6. Tears in my eyes reading this, my husband of 52 years and I are the same, I really love the sharing and laughter. Nothing is perfect and patience and kindness mean so much to me now. Oh yes, he remembers so well (not) at times, I just chuckle now at how the stories evolve. Long may it last, and am enjoying every precious day. Thank you for that lovely piece of your life which reminds me how lucky I am.

  7. I WAS HAPPILY MARRIED FOR 68 YEARS AND CAN VOUCH FOR THE FACT THAT A SENSE OF HUMOUR ON BOTH SIDES IS A MUST !!!

  8. A lovely article Annabel. We celebrated our 55th Wedding Anniversary this year. My husband started writing his memoirs during lockdown (and yes (not) he remembered so well) We share a passion for our Classic cars but also have our individual hobbies. We very often find that we are thinking the same things at the same time which we find spooky but hilarious. Keep chackling xx

    • I know what you mean about ‘thinking the same things’. Congratulations on your 55th wedding anniversary. Best wishes, Annabel

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