Demise Of A Marriage: A True Story - Part 1:2 The Inner Yearning

Posted at 08:00am on 4th November 2009

Less than a year into Megan’s marriage to James, with her baby born and motherhood now a reality, the cracks which were apparent from the outset, are beginning to widen. As the swinging sixties begin to make themselves felt, the over-riding question is: can Megan find, in James, the love she craves?

Catch up with the story so far in Part 1:1 The Inner Yearning. It will be posted, in parts, two or three times a week. You may wish to subscribe (for a free prompt) to follow the story to its conclusion. Simply click the button on the right.

MOTHERHOOD

James laid his newspaper down.

“I’m going out for a while.” He made to rise from his chair.

Instantly, I hurled myself across the room and plonked myself on his lap. A year or more had passed since our wedding day, during which time a baby daughter had been born to us. I had just finished feeding her, had settled her down for the night and was now looking forward to some time with my husband.

“Do you have to?” I asked, twisting a lock of his fair hair around my fingers. “You’ve not been in long.”

“I’ve arranged to meet Tony at the pub,” he replied in his usual affable tone.

Wriggling into a more comfortable position, I put my head on his shoulder.

“Z-Cars is on TV.” A slightly petulant note crept into my voice. “You said you enjoyed it last week. I thought we could snuggle up on the sofa.”

“For goodness sake, Megan!” James struggled awkwardly to his feet, throwing me from his lap. “I can’t stand all this smothering! It makes me feel hemmed in.”

“You just don’t want to be with me!” My petulance turned to jealousy. “No doubt Tony’s girlfriend will be with him at the pub, and you’ll enjoy her company.”

Exasperated, James pulled me into his arms and we stood, for a moment, until the tension eased from my taut limbs.

“Come on, love,” he pleaded. “I can’t help having to see Tony. We’ve business to discuss.”

His voice changed to one of encouragement. “I know! We’ll try to get a babysitter on Saturday and go out together then. Okay?”

Still holding me with one arm, he leaned back and raised my downcast face.

“You do love me – don’t you?” I asked, tearfully.

“Course I do,” he said, and released me.

Hindsight, they say, is a fine thing. Alone that evening and many others I had plenty of time on my hands to scrutinise its merits. And the conclusion I have reached with maturity was that had I known then what I now know, I might better have understood the duplicity of middle-class aspiration in that halcyon post-war era. Here we were, on the cusp of the sixties’ hedonism, and marriage was still being sold to girls like me as the pinnacle of womanhood. So much so, that my mother – and doubtless countless others – discouraged any serious consideration of further education or a career. Men, I was given to understand, didn’t like girls to be too clever!

It all seemed so simple. Your expectations were formulated by the silent acquiescence of your own mother, and those of your friends. You shopped and cooked and cleaned and raised children. Your husband worked, paid the bills, went to the pub, and waited to be waited on. And everyone was happy – or so the theory went. Certainly, so my mother-in-law assured me.

But my parents’ marriage was unconventional in that my father adored my mother and tilted the balance of power in her favour. Consequently, my expectation was skewed! Domestic bliss was certainly evident in my childhood home, but it was based on equality, whereby chores were shared and free time was gladly spent in one another’s company. True there were fights! Ding-dong battles which had me, and my sister, cowering in our beds, certain that divorce was imminent. But within the space of a few tears and tantrums (my mother’s) there was reconciliation and lavish displays of affection (my father’s).

It was all so different with James! We had been married no longer than a few months before disappointment set in for us both. For a while the social whirl in which we lived had kept us going, but the birth of our first daughter, Sarah, marked, for me, the beginning of the end. My desire for a hectic social life had never been more than a desire to be with James. It had never occurred to me that for him the real business of life revolved around the pub and working was merely the means to achieve that. It appeared that my dream of domesticated bliss was utterly alien. Yearning for the companionship and affection which had been so evident in my parents’ marriage, I was quickly made aware of the brutal reality of its lack in my own.

Used to the free expression of emotion, both physical and verbal, in my own family, I took James’ inability to demonstrate or vocalise his feelings as rejection and began, increasingly, to feel unworthy. Where was I going wrong? What was it about me that failed to captivate my husband’s attention in the way that my mother enthralled my father?

James and I began to have rows, but they were not constructive, neither of us gaining any further insight into the other’s feelings or values, and the only remorse and affection shown afterwards came from me. In trying to convey my feelings of inadequacy, I merely incited James’s exasperation. Educated in a public boarding school, he had been brought up to suppress all emotion; I doubted, now, that he had the capacity to recognise his feelings for what they were. Our words became more wounding, torn from us both in a frenzy of mutual disappointment and frustration. Unable to stand the unending war of attrition, I knew we needed help. Tentatively, I suggested that we seek it, together, from the Marriage Guidance Council, whose offices I had located during a shopping trip in town.

“There’s nothing wrong with us,” James insisted. “At least, nothing we can’t put right ourselves.”

He would not be shifted. And the following week, recognising that such action might well be perceived as tantamount to failure to the male ego, I made an appointment to go alone.

“You’re too much of a clinging vine,” the counsellor told me as I poured out my woes. “You both need room to breathe.”

In the dingy room, I struggled with tears of self-pity.

“But I love James and I don’t want to be with anyone else but him.”

“Then let him be himself,” the woman said, gently. “And you must make a life for yourself.”

It was all very well, I thought, on the journey home – but how did you go about making a life for yourself when you were so isolated? Few of our friends were married, so it was difficult to ask anyone round for a coffee or a walk in the park, since they were tied to jobs. I adored my lovely, chubby, Sarah, with her big blue eyes and dimpled smile, but her arrival had curtailed my outings with James, and he was rarely at home to babysit even if I were to find some evening activity. What can a young mother find to do to make a life of her own?

It was a vicious circle: the more I clung to James the more he struggled for freedom. Desperately lonely and already pregnant again, my once robust health deteriorated. I became increasingly fretful and tearful.

“Couldn’t we go out together occasionally?” I pleaded.

But we saw no more of one another when we did. Extrovert and gregarious, always a leader in the social whirl, we were never alone and James obviously preferred an audience rather than a tete a tete. Still barely twenty years of age, I began to feel dull and middle aged, never now having the energy, time or concentration even to read a book.

Although James frequently brought me flowers or a plotted plant, it was as a sop to his inability to give me what I craved: his time; his companionship; verbal affirmation of his love. By the time Victoria was born, my energy was badly sapped and my doctor was concerned that there should be no more pregnancies for some years.

“You must take care,” he told me, gravely. “Your body needs a good rest!”

It seemed that it was not only my mind that had closed down on me, but also my body. Burying myself in the needs of my growing family, I took stock of my situation. In an emerging world of psychedelic delusion, was my own reality to be one of defeat? And with the bright promise of youth behind me, had the future nothing to offer me but an empty sham of a marriage?

Not if I had anything to do with it! Things could change; people could change. Love, peace, and harmony were there for the taking if you were prepared to work at it. I had only to do so, I thought.

Now read on: In Part 1:3 of Demise Of A Marriage, Megan and James move house. Can this be the answer to her Inner Yearning?

© Mel Menzies - All Rights Reserved

Author of a number of books, one a No 4 Bestseller, Mel Menzies is also an experienced Speaker at live events, as well as on Radio and TV.

All proceeds from Mel’s latest novel, A Painful Post Mortem, are for charities benefiting children worldwide. Buy a copy here and help raise cash for children like Rachel, overseas, or this project in the UK

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