My friend and colleague Jenny announced or rather stumbled through the desperately sad news that her husband was leaving her. Gathered in the staff room, she told us, in painstakingly slow sob infused words asking us for help to get her through this heartbreaking time. She was honest, and it was the raw emotion of bewilderment, guilt and fear as two giants of passion; love and hate clashed deep within her, openly evident to all.
Tears flowed freely around the room; hugs came free with the tea, as we all reeled with the shock of Jenny’s news and the force of her grief. We gathered round her; in a united tirade about the fickleness of men, how he would regret his decision and how could he do that to her.
“He has taken away my security and my future and that of our child. How could I have been such a failure?” She sobbed.
It is easy for us to be pragmatic. We are not suffering the conflict of love against hatred inside us. We know she will pull through this; she is strong and clever, inspirational and definitely not a failure. She doesn’t know this; she cannot at the moment, find a way to get over the hurt that is ripping through her.
Her eyes have gone past the red rimmed stage of crying and have lost their huge playful sparkle. Still wide; they are haunted and touched with an inner grief which is heart rendering to those who watch. My response was to hug and hold her; but what I would love to be able to do, is gather her up and cocoon her, in beautifully soft clean white clouds until all her pain has subsided.
Of course the irony of the interwoven fabric we call life was; one other person in that staffroom had news to tell. She kept very quiet and did not join in with the diatribe of hatred that poured around the room against Jenny’s husband. She, I guess has already spent time and emotion on this situation.
Although it has not been announced, in an ironic twist; Hetty has become engaged over the summer holiday. Her beau to be; with an unexpected act of romanticism, whisked her away to a hotter sunnier climate to propose to her. A most wonderful moment in their lives except; her beau and Jenny’s husband not only work together, they are best friends.
So what happens now to the outer circle of friends which include Jenny and Hetty? Most of the staff are very much anti Jenny’s husband. Is the same scene being played out in her husband’s staff room with his colleagues all standing by him in solidarity understanding why he had to leave the wife and fall for someone else.
If by some wonderful prophetic turn of events he realises how foolish he is being, how much he will be losing and begs to come back to Jenny; the crowd of friends and colleagues will open up their welcoming arms to take him back into the close knit inner weave of friendship. This little episode would be forgotten until some tiny misdemeanour in the future. For now though, friends will be wary of their comments, husbands and wives will take opposing views as to who was right and who was wrong, things will be said in the heat of a moment or in support; that in the future will take a lot of bridge building before being able to reach that previous status quo.
It is inevitable that I will come across Jenny’s husband, but the friendly jokey banter we shared in the past has gone. Jenny will, I hope, remain in my circle of friends but I will feel disloyal and uneasy next time I meet her husband, just as he will avoid any friendly repartee we would have otherwise had. I will be looking over my shoulder checking no-one can see me talking to “him” and reporting back to Jenny, that I was colluding with the other side!
Whatever the tragic reason he felt he had, to leave his marriage, his child; I doubt he ever realised quite how large the ripples of his actions would be, particularly in a small provincial town like ours.
What is the recipe for a happy marriage?
I read only this week how second marriages are failing at a higher rate than first. Are we, as a society becoming too self-centred and unable to commit to the ups and downs of relationships? Marriage vows still say for “better or worse” not “when things go my way or else I’ll walk”. In life there will be “better”; times will be good, happy and financially stable. As we all know there will also be “worse” times; sad times and difficult times, financial difficulties and children issues. Are these not the times when couples need to stand together against the complications of the outside world and fight together rather than packing a bag and saying “I’m off”?
Is monogamy the answer? History has a colourful view of marriage and expectation. Henry VIII and his Tudor courtiers all believed in the sanctity of the actual marriage until someone else came along. The king and high placed courtiers were expected to have beneficial arranged marriages, often when they were very young. A blind eye would be turned on secret night time adulterous trysts; so secret that families battled to have their daughters be the latest mistress, bringing glory and untold riches to the family during her popularity.
Men in power and the spotlight have always had mistresses throughout the ages. The primal male psyche still lives within other cultures. The animalistic pride-like custom of taking a wife and then another is still accepted in Arabic culture. Even today, leaders such as Bin Laden and Gadaffi had multiple wives and children. Throughout history and religion, characters such as Jacob had many wives; the son of his favourite wife was his favourite son to whom he gave a multi-coloured coat; Joseph. Hugh Hefner founded a financial empire by surrounding himself with glamorous young playthings.
Does this polygamous lifestyle really lead to harmony or happiness? Joseph was hated by his brothers, who sold him into slavery. In our liberal westernised culture, a report recently told of Lord Bath with his polyamorous lifestyle and the night time disputes resulting in one wifelet calling police following an altercation with a fellow wifelet.
It might work for the male ego, but Henry got bored and changed wives nearly as often as he changed mistresses. Madam de Pompadour was the third but not last mistress of Louis XV of France. Whilst J F Kennedy’s legendary conquests are well documented particularly Marilyn Munroe and Jayne Mansfield. Men find it so difficult to commit to one person; why?
If Jenny, who puts 110% into everything she does, including her marriage can love one person so much then why; is it not enough? Why do men need to stray? What more do they want?
Jenny has her friends; her child and can hold her head high, knowing she gave her marriage everything. It will take time, for her husband to realise quite what he has lost and then sadly it will be too late.