Thoughts on Being Married – or Not!
The phrase that many young people come out with before they get hooked is "I'm not going to get married" - which my own son says at times, got me thinking the other day.
Being married to my second wife for more than twenty-one years has been marvellous. I've found that it is a great experience to have such a wonderful wife as I've been fortunate enough to marry. However, being married, especially with having children, also has its downsides. The biggest negative factor about being married is that one is no longer able to do what one would perhaps like to do. One lacks a great deal of freedom once the marital knot is tied. This is largely because my spouse doesn't always want to do what I would like to do – and vice-versa.
Some years ago, a friend of mine was passionate about sub-aqua diving and was highly qualified in this sport. On meeting a new partner, he stopped participating in his passion because it wasn't something his new partner was interested in. How sad is that? In my view, to give-up on one's passion is a remarkably silly thing to do. Maybe compromise by taking part in it less, but not entirely abandon it. I often wonder what became of their relationship as a result of his sacrifice. I also wonder what, if anything, she sacrificed in return. I wonder also if he still hankers after those days of freedom to participate in his passion. I don't suppose I'll ever find out as this was about 25 to 30 years ago.
I have to admit that doing the sort of activities I enjoy is far less enjoyable when doing them alone. I had nearly eleven years as a 'single' person after my first wife and I parted company but even when I had the time and money to do certain activities I rarely did so because it felt pointless without being able to share them with someone close. I well remember that I took two weeks holiday from work. Apart from going to the local shop for essential supplies, I never ventured out of my apartment. I didn't even turn on the television. I did nothing for two weeks. What a waste of my life. On another occasion, I made the effort to take my little caravan away, parked it on a site and after about half an hour (maybe less) I hitched-up and travelled back home. Being alone really doesn't appeal to me – which I guess makes me something of a sad case.
However, in 1996 I made up my mind to change my life. I made an extremely determined effort, firstly to take a holiday abroad in the early part of the year, then I planned a whole year ahead – something I've never done before or since – so that I could attend a particular training course, complete my contract at work, save some money and fly to the other side of the world to start a new life early in 1997. My plan worked. I changed my life, met Grace, my now wife, and the rest is an ongoing history.
Even when your spouse is also your best friend, as in our case, it doesn't mean that we share the same interests or aims. For instance; I would like to have a go at riding my bicycle all the way along the 1800 mile cycle route of the River Danube but nothing on Earth would persuade Grace to even think about doing it, let alone persuade her to climb onto her bicycle and have a go. Of course, I do have the option of doing it alone but a trip like this is much better shared with the one you love rather than being away from her for, say, three months. I really don't want to go it alone – it's too good an experience not to share.
Even though we are best friends and still crazy about each other after all these years, it doesn't mean that we always sing from the same hymn sheet. Our way of wanting to live is also totally different from each other. For example, Grace likes to be settled in one place in one home for long periods of time. I'm the opposite. I'd be happy to travel around Europe and beyond on a very long-term basis, living in our large touring caravan. I'm a gypsy at heart. In 21 years, we've lived in 21 homes in 5 countries – 15 homes and 4 countries in the first 8 years we were together. Great for me, but less so for Grace. We've now lived in the same home for five years – the longest we've ever spent in one place. Time for a change of location for me, but not so for Grace. See what I mean?
Another factor is that as the 'Head of the Family', a role that is now considered to be somewhat out of date because both partners want to wear the trousers (or the men don't accept this traditional role – often because of a domineering, aggressive spouse), I have various duties and responsibilities associated with supporting and taking good care of my family. I might also add that the financial obligations of being married and having a family are, certainly in my case, huge. - I am now with my second wife and our family and have supported all of my two families for many years - something that would never have occurred if I'd stayed single - I'd be a wealthy man by now, that's for sure!
As soon as our son can be left to his own devices and way of life we'll probably compromise and spend a few months each year touring and the remaining months in our home. I'm counting the days (397 as I write this) to when we can do just that. Of course, by that time I will be almost at the age of 74 so I hope I'm still up for doing it – and healthy enough too. In the meantime, I'm looking for another car to tow our caravan and making sure everything will be ready to go – although, by that time, there may be even more travel restrictions if our tyrannical politicians get their way and control us still further. I'll probably continue working, even part-time until then to add some cash to our savings.
Our original plan was to have a second-home in another country. In fact, we almost bought a property in Hungary, however, the pandemic has knocked that idea on the head as it has caused so many problems for the folks who have homes in other countries that we've changed our minds about this – great though it would be in many ways. I'd still love to live somewhere warm, maybe Italy, but the pandemic restrictions have been so much worse in many other countries than they have here in the UK that we've decided not to bother; at least for the foreseeable future. Our caravan will be our home on wheels instead. The downside is that we don't have a home in the sunshine where we could spend much of our retirement – or even live there long-term – the 90-day in any rolling 180‑day period has put paid to that idea unless we obtained residency in a particular country. The good side of this is at least this way we can keep on the move – which appeals to me, although, sadly, Grace hates caravanning. The other problem I face is that Grace is refusing to resign from her two part-time jobs so I'm really up against a lot of opposition to my dream way of life – even with me making a compromise of reduced time away. I'm still hoping I can persuade her to retire to a home in the sunshine from where we can make shorter trips away, but it's an uphill struggle.
How about Morocco for the winter? Even though the maximum stay in Morocco is usually stated as being 90 days you can extend your stay by requesting an extension at the nearest Police Precinct in Morocco (https://visaguide.world/africa/morocco-visa/). As this country is outside the Schengen zone it also means that your stay there doesn't infringe on your 90-day limit in most of Europe, so you can travel for a lot longer than would otherwise be the case – even permanently if you plan it well (http://drivethrutours.com/Getting_Out.pdf).
However, I digress. Life is very much what we make it - or what has been pre-ordained for us. For me, being single isn't all that much fun as I enjoy sharing experiences with my wife and/or family, as I did with my son when we went on a 5-week bicycle ride together (http://drivethrutours.com/Grand_Tours/rivers/Rhine/RiverRhineBlog/river_rhine01.html). Maybe when I was a young man, as my son is now (almost 17), I would have been happy doing many things on my own, but now life is different. I wonder what life my son will choose? Will he go on adventures on his bicycle alone or find a girl who wants to have adventures with him – as a couple I once knew did when they cycled off around the world together. Only time will tell – I just hope he will be happy with whatever life he chooses.
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