Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Post – #Marriage – I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now! by Pete Johnson (Beetley Pete)

I am sure like me, there have been times when you have wondered what difference might have been made to your life, if your younger self had been gifted with the experience and knowledge you have accumulated over the years.

I invited several friends from the writing community to share their thoughts on this subject which I am sure you will enjoy as much as I did.

I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now – Marriage by Pete Johnson

When I was a teenager in London, I took it for granted that I would get married. After a long relationship that started in my early teens didn’t work out, I started seeing someone else when I was 22, and that developed well. We got married in 1977, when we were both 25. We had good jobs, sufficient disposable income, and bought a nice flat in a desirable area of South-West London. Both of us owned cars, and we enjoyed at least two foreign holidays a year. Crucially, neither of us wanted to have children until we were older, so we enjoyed a busy social life instead.

There was an underlying problem though, one that I was blissfully unaware of. I had entered into marriage embroiled in the male-dominated, working-class traditions I had been brought up with. My wife changed her surname to mine, as was the norm. I never did any cooking or housework, as I had never expected to have to. Instead, I worked hard, ten or eleven hours a day, six days a week, and did those ‘male-role jobs’ like putting up shelves, carrying heavy things like suitcases, and driving whenever we went out together in a car.

I didn’t know how to do much more than fry an egg or make a bacon sandwich. I had never used a washing machine or an iron, and had no interest in doing so, or even bothering to know how they worked. Unlike some men of my generation, I did not go to the pub on Friday nights or Sunday lunchtimes. I never watched sport on TV, or went to a football match. I thought, genuinely thought, that I had a ‘progressive’ attitude. After all, I had got married because I loved my wife and wanted to spend time with her when I could. So why would I go out and leave her?

Two years later, we moved to a nice terraced house in Wimbledon, close to the park and the famous tennis courts. We were going up in the world, as I saw it. The mortgage was affordable, so we still had the cars and the holidays. My wife had a teaching position as a lecturer at Putney College, and enjoyed all the usual holidays and days off provided by working in education. I changed jobs to become an EMT in the London Ambulance Service, and although I lost my company car and suffered a drop in salary, we managed well. I bought a motor cycle to commute to work on, and we traded in both of the older cars for a brand new VW Golf.

Life was good, I was happy.

But I was doing a stressful job, and working shifts. Not only was my routine disrupted, but my wife’s too. Being quiet while I slept during the day, spending time alone when I was on a week of night duty, and having to decline numerous social invitations from our wide circle of friends, because I was working two weekends out of four every month.

One day, my wife talked about having children. We had been married for five years, and had both passed our thirtieth birthdays. I listened to her for a while, then concluded that our life was very comfortable, so having a baby come into our world might be a pressure we didn’t need. I said I would think about it, but I knew I wasn’t going to.

Over the next two years, my wife started to expand her interests. She became a runner, and also started to go windsurfing with a local club that travelled down to Cornwall some weekends. As well as that she took students on field trips, and visited foreign countries as part of a British Council educational mission. I was spending more and more time alone on my days off. But I still didn’t know how to use the washing machine, or iron a shirt. Before she went anywhere, she would do all that, and leave everything I needed in a wardrobe. I bought food that I could heat up in the oven, because I had no idea how to cook, or desire to learn.

In early 1985, she was due to travel to India for three months. I presumed I would be going too, and started to talk about asking for a long period of unpaid leave from my job. Even though she would be working in an educational role during the day, we would have evenings and weekends to explore that fascinating country. I sent off for information from the Indian Tourist Board in London, excitedly planning lists of some of the wonderful things we would see. Then one evening, the bombshell was dropped. I wasn’t allowed to travel to India as a spouse. I said that was no problem, as I would travel independently and book hotels near where she would be working. She then told me she didn’t want me to go, and that when she came back we had to have a talk about our future.

Almost eight years into our marriage, and she wanted us to separate.

She listed her reasons, and I sat quietly listening to them. After I had heard them all, I had to agree she was right. So what I wished I had known in 1977 was very basic, quite normal, and had simply never even entered my head. But it was too late for us by then.

*A marriage is a partnership, and a woman is not just ‘a wife’.
*Couples have to constantly work together to have a happy marriage.
*The opinions of both people in the marriage matter, as do their wishes and desires.
*Being married is not just about being a provider and living out a traditional male role.
*Couples need time apart to appreciate what they have together.
*You don’t have to have the same interests, but must allow the interests of each other.

I learned my lesson the hard way, and have never forgotten it.

©Pete Johnson 2022

You can find Pete on his blog: Beetley Pete – Twitter: @beetleypete

About Pete Johnson

I retired in 2012, then aged 60, and moved from a busy life and work in Central London, to Beetley, in rural Norfolk. I thought I would start this blog to share my thoughts about life in general, and my new life in Norfolk in particular. My wife Julie is still working, so I am at home most of the day, accompanied by my Shar-Pei dog, Ollie.

My interests include local and global history, politics, and cinema and film. I also enjoy music; Motown, Soul, Jazz, along with many modern singers and styles.

After 22 years as an Emergency Medical Technician in the London Ambulance Service, followed by 11 years working for the Metropolitan Police in Control Rooms, it took some adjustment to being retired, and not working shifts.

As of 15th of February, 2022. Ollie is now ten years old, and slowing down considerably. But he is still a great dog to own, and my constant companion. The blog has continued to grow, and I have now posted over 4,690 articles. I currently write a lot of fiction, a bit about films and cinema, mostly short reviews and suggestions; and I did write a lot of anecdotes about my years in the Ambulance Service. I have written a lot about past travel and holidays, and also about architecture. I post a lot about music and songs, those that have a significance in my life for one reason or another. The core of the blog remains the same though; my experiences of my new life in Norfolk, walking my dog, and living in a rural setting.

Over the past few years, I have been adding a lot of photos, and they are always popular.

149 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Post – #Marriage – I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now! by Pete Johnson (Beetley Pete)

  1. A difficult but valuable lesson to have learnt, but you did learn. Sadly, too many folks don’t even try and examine the other side of the equation … it’s simply the other person’s fault. Good for you, Pete, and thanks for sharing! Hugs 💕🙂

    Sally, thanks for sharing and this wonderful series of posts. Hugs 💕🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Ah, your mother needs her bottom smacked! You learn about women from your mother and your sisters or female relations. But, as you say you came from a background where ‘males’ had certain roles. Thank God my family had a dad who mucked in and we all grew up (3 boys, 3 girls) able to fend for ourselves, my hubby too, and our son as well. There were no defined roles and whoever had time does whatever is needed, and we are a lot older than you, so our parents were born almost 100 years ago. You learned a hard lesson, but I am glad you did learn. I hope your wife is the same one as back then, I felt sad for you both reading this. Hard lessons, if only we knew then…good luck with everything and much happiness to you both. xxx

    Liked by 4 people

  3. (( Pete)) This is so much what my late, ex-husband said to me ages after we were divorced. The realization statements that you made that is. I believe that because marriage IS a partnership, it is never only one person’s fault if the marriage doesn’t last.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. You sound very like my present husband on the cooking front. He’s been known to try boiling an egg without the water! When I went to New Zealand for three months I left a freezerfull of food and instructions on how to defrost and reheat. I think he lived mostly on beans on toast.
    My first husband was a chef. There is a lot to be said for husbands that don’t cook. I’m not averse to husbands that put up shelves either, having known a period when I was required to do such things for myself.
    Hubby’s first wife kept quiet about their wedding anniversary for months so that she could give him the cold treatment when (knowing him) he inevitably forgot it. You can’t blame someone for doing something (or not) if you haven’t told them what you’d prefer. None of us are mind readers.
    Every partnership needs to be cross-negotiated. We don’t all want the same things.
    Keep talking. Situations, and people, can change.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. I’m glad you learned them in the end, Pete, for Julie’s sake! As a mother of sons myself I used to pay them to do household chores as like you, they had no interest in doing any. Now one son’s wife does everything for him, even packing his case for holidays, and the other son does absolutely everything around the house as far as I can tell.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. We got married in 1977 and I think back then girls expected to have to gradually talk their young husbands round to having a baby! Perhaps these days it is husbands who have to persuade wives in a successful career to have a baby. Whatever happens I think couples often don’t discuss it properly and no one should have children unless they are certain, it’s the biggest chance you ever take; it can complete your happiness or destroy a happy marriage! Ps I was lucky as in my husband’s somewhat unusual family his Dad apparently did the cooking, so my husband always had dinner ready for me when he was early shift.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. What a heartfelt post. Lots of men went through this, but too many blamed ‘some other reason’. The SODDI defense with a twist (Some Other Dude Did It). Now I need to visit your blog and see how the next twenty years went!

    Liked by 5 people

  8. The minute I read about your work schedule, I knew you were in trouble. My son was deployed for half of his first three years of marriage, and divorced the fourth. Couples need time together to make a marriage work. Great advice – wish the younger generation would take it to heart.

    Liked by 5 people

  9. This is a painfully honest account and it’s very much to your credit that you shared it with us. You are a product of the time. I wrote recently that when I was teaching I asked some groups to debate the motion that when both husband and wife worked it was only fair to share the chores. They all voted against it – including the girls who felt that after a hard day it was right and proper to get on with the housework and the cooking while the man put his feet up. That was in 1977. The real strength of the piece is your conclusion. I love those ‘reasons’ and wish you and your wife (and Ollie) a very happy future.

    Liked by 5 people

  10. We have so many lessons to learn in life. Insightful post. I made sure my son could cook and do everything for himself, but times were different back then as everyone grew and changed. Great post.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. My ex-husband, although a nice guy, was similar. His mother did everything for him. One day my (former) mother-in-law stopped by as my 4 year old son was making himself breakfast. She was appalled that I wasn’t making it for him. I said to her, “I don’t want to do to some woman in the future, what you’ve done to me.” My son has been a single father and shares in the meal preparation and housework in his current marriage.

    Liked by 4 people

  12. My ex believed that I should be submissive, and more, like a slave! He had never learned until the day he died though. My husband, on the other hand, does chores, cooking, and dishes. He trained himself and did that for years before we got married.
    Thank you for sharing your experience, Pete.
    Thank you for this post, Sally.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I never once thought of my first wife as submissive, Miriam, almost the opposite in fact. But I had been brought up to believe that I had to work hard, and leave the day to day routine to her ‘natural feminine inclination’. I was wrong, and admitted it readily when challenged.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

      • In a way, you did what you thought was right. In a relationship, we grow as a couple as well as individuals. It’s hard on a relationship when you don’t have the similar schedules to allow time to nurture the growth of togetherness. It’s sad that the growth of the individuals pull the relationship apart. I counselled a couple once. They never had a date with each other during their marriage. My assignment to her was to have a date with her husband. She loved it.
        It’s wonderful that you’re happy now, Pete.

        Liked by 2 people

  13. I was lucky enough to be raised with a brother and two sisters. Since both of our parents had full time jobs, my siblings and I shared the chores at home: cooking, ironing, etc., and my brother and I washed the cars. Consequently, when I got married I found it normal that my wife and I would share the housework. Sorry you had to learn the hard way, Pete, but you did learn. Bravo. Unlike me, you were a victim of the time. Thanks for sharing your insights.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Fantastic share from Pete. It’s nice to hear that Pete realized what some men never get. Sadly, the damage was done, but Pete learned an expensive life lesson. Thanks to Pete for sharing this part of himself here. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Pete, this was honest and straight from the heart. Thank you for sharing your story. Your advice, your ‘words of wisdom’, should be pre-marriage 101, mandatory for couples getting married.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Some of the most valuable lessons we learn in life are the hardest ones to swallow. It sounds like you learned from your first marriage and hopefully, you parted on good terms and remained civil (or friends).

    Liked by 3 people

  17. Thanks for re-sharing this very difficult lesson you had learned, Pete! Its a very good advice, as in younger years individualism of two people meets in a nearly glorious way, and is enriching boths lives, even as a couple. But there is also real life, and many influences from this outer life. xx Michael

    Liked by 3 people

  18. What a great post and such a valuable lesson to learn.
    My dad was a Liverpudlian who came from a background where that was the opinion BUT my mum changed him, and, maybe his four daughters too?
    Indeed a marriage is a partnership and I’m glad my husband shares so much with me.
    If anything I’m the one who doesn’t do much as he loves to cook, he does a lot of things in the house like the washing because he has worked a lot from home.
    I don’t know how the washing machine works!
    And I rarely use the hoover! He does that and I suppose I let him as I often work in schools… or play with my grandson when I can.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Such a hard lesson, Pete, but you learned from it, and that’s the best thing you could do for yourself – not make the same mistake twice. Gender roles are slow to change, including for women who have aren’t prone to expressing themselves until its too late (the lesson of my first marriage). Congrats on all your life’s successes since. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  20. A very honest post, Pete, and I have known many men from your generation like that. I am not surprised your first wife decided to move on. It sounds as if she had grown into a different person but you hadn’t. Thankfully you’ve learned and you are in a happy relationship now. Thanks for sharing this.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Weekly Round Up – June 20th -26th 2022 – Garden, Roberta Flack, St. Barts, Culinary A-Z, Stories, Book Reviews, Bloggers, Health and Humour | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  22. Thank you for sharing so personally, Pete. Time helps us grow up, but the hurdles are not easy, as you’ve pointed out. Through it all, you’ve become a compassionate man. 💗

    Liked by 2 people

  23. I was also a product of my time (raised in the 60s, but I’ve learned so much during my 39 year marriage to the same guy. We’ve had our ups and downs, I’ve been so angry and disappointed I thought I’d never be able to forgive, but we evolved, learned about compassion, and moved on. I’m not sure you ever resolve everything in life we just learned to live in and through our differences. I’m grateful for his love and companionship through the years, but I’m certainly not the girl he married, and he’s no longer the boy. Thank God! Loved the post Pete, thanks for sharing Sally! 💕C

    Liked by 3 people

  24. A difficult one to share Pete but you did and well done for doing so. Marriage is a tricky business no doubt about that. My hubby loves to cook, so I am very fortunate! But yes, it’s a partnership with give, take and respect. I also have made some mistakes, as has he, but we are still together. We met when I was eighteen and have both changed a lot since then!

    Liked by 2 people

    • It was an accumulation of all of that, Robbie. Added to issue that my wife had diferent interests, and the fact I worked hard and brought in most of the money was changing, as she progressed in her career and started to earn as much as me.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. I admire Pete’s honesty and openness about this experience. I also admire his ownership over what happened. I may be wrong, but it sounds like he has made peace with those events. Thanks for sharing his story with us, Sally! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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