Saturday, 8 November 2008

Trouble in Paradise

One of the joys of my job is that I get to watch people. See them interacting and going about their daily business. The young couple, hand in hand, seemingly without a care in the world. Little families with their cute kids. Sometimes the parents are so obviously in love, whilst others are clearly in that cold, dark, confused place. Some kids with a different adult every day - one day it will be a grandparent, another with their female guardian, and sometimes with the male and the different dynamics that exist within those relationships because some of them are obviously not biologically related.

Bearing in mind my own situation, I often wonder about the nature of relationships. What is it that we want from them? If one that is working is different to those that have gone before, does that make this relationship wrong? Especially when previous more socially acceptable partnerships have not lasted the distance. Does being different to what you expect something to be, mean that it isn't going to end up being amazingly right? Because everything doesn't fall immediately into accepted boxes of standard behaviour, should you give up on it and look for something that will not invoke judgemental comments from acquaintances?

I can't help but think of all the different types of relationships that exist, besides the archetypal boy meets girl and falls in love. They certainly don't all fall into the stereotypical Garden of Eden creation with Adam and Eve being similar ages.

Younger man with older woman

You can just hear the gossips can't you. Often, after many years of apathy from a partner of her own age, she cannot understand what he can possibly see in her but, from the way he looks at her, he is quite smitten.

Older man with younger woman

Ditto the above and this one with accusations of 'Sugar Daddy' to add to the general Spring/Autumn suspicions.

Man with kids plus woman with kids

I know couples in this position and I really don't know how they cope. Suddenly having four children where once there were two and having to provide enough bedrooms.

Man with kids plus ex wife/partner and woman without kids

A couple of close friends come under this category. One friend continued to work full-time, even when they had children of their own, in order to be able to finance the man's older children although they did not live with him. Another friend has been a weekend and often full time mother to her husband's children since they were small. Their relationship with the ex is pretty good but, having to deal with the children in their teens, my friend is convinced that she doesn't want to have any babies of her own.

Single, unattached man and woman with kids and ex husband/partner

This was Ruf in his previous relationship. He loved having the kids around but acknowledges that it was hard to deal with a lot of life's ups and downs when there were two very hands-on male role models with differing approaches.

Single woman with older married man with kids

The mistress/other woman/homewrecker. Or the woman who falls in love with the man and will wait for him in the hope that he will eventually choose to be with her full-time.

And then, of course, there's Ruf and me - single man with older married woman with kids

For people in this situation there are several options - for the woman to leave her children, for the woman to take her kids and leave her husband or for them both to wait until the children are old enough to be so engrossed in their own lives that they will not be unduly affected by any divorce. So, five years of waiting before I can become Mrs Ruf or some approximation of it. The personification of the Proper Girlfriend. Five years before we can even do the things that lovers do to ascertain whether the amazing thing we have would actually survive in the real world.

And, of course, that's before you get to the various permutations of same sex partnerships, with or without kids; mixed gender and ethnicities, which perhaps should be included amongst the various headings above but bring their own cultural and religious problems.

I think what Im trying to say is that there is no accounting for the power of attraction. It happens between the strangest of people. And we should never try to stifle it so that it fits into the constraints of Society's mores.


Wild Cat said...

A great, insightful, post x

Helga Hansen said...

You and me both, Ms Cake xx

Z said...

Society still dictates that the nuclear family, complete with suitable age gaps, is the norm, when this is patently not the norm any longer.

Last weekend, the family Sunday lunch at my best-friend's house consisted of: her mother, her father, her step-mother, her ex-husband, her ex-mother-in-law, her kids, her sister, her sister's daughter and present partner, and me :) on other occasions, there have been various permutations including half-siblings, the sister's ex, the best friend's boyfriend, etc., etc. Family is what you make it, and so are relationships.

having my cake said...

WC/Helga - Thank you

Z - That sounds lovely. I think they must be a pretty extraordinary bunch. Too often people bear grudges and wont let bygones by bygones. They cant shake hands and accept that something just went wrong and that it was no one's fault; cant try to forget the water that has gone under the bridge and retrieve their enjoyment of another person's company without the dragging constraints of day to day domesticity. Or at least accept that, although they may see the flaws in another's character from close-up, others do not, particularly their children. They live on their anger and resentment and sense of what is proper and make life so much harder for everyone around them.

Polar said...

I knew I liked you for a reason...You are so wise!!!
While reading your insight, I was taken back 40 yrs to what my Grandmother said..."To marry a man your age or older always condemn the woman to widowhood. If she marries a man younger, by a few years, at least there is a chance she might go first or not be alone so long, before her time is up."
It turns out my mom is 3 yrs older than my dad. After he left, and she remarried, my step dad is 10 yrs younger. They will be married 32 yrs in December.

Uncle Norman said...

J - You wrote a post last week that made me think about telling a story and then I got cold feet. This great post of yours I think has made me change my mind.

having my cake said...

Polar - Ah Michael, I wish I was that wise x

UN - I'm looking forward to reading it. And trying to work out which post triggered the memory :)

justme said...

I think a lot of people limit their chances of happiness and miss out on great experiences by being too narrow minded about what is a 'normal' relationship! Maybe we should all think outside of the box a bit more.
Nice post!

Ro said...

A very thought-provoking piece ...

My current relationship isn't exactly "normal" either but one lesson I was able to bring to it is that whatever works, works.

Besides, as my old mum said to me once, the best things in life you have to work for :)

Jackie Adshead said...

And thats when the magic works, when the chemistry is right! We don't get to choose who it works with, or doesn't work with, it just "is" ! But at least nowadays most variations on it, are acceptable for society.