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
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.