One love to last us our entire lives. Isn’t that a beautiful thought? And isn’t it what we’re brought up to believe, right from earliest childhood? It might be influenced by our own parents as role models, if they had a happy marriage (they should be so lucky!) or, more likely, by fairy tales and legends of romance and valour. Sleeping Beauty revived by a kiss, Cinderella by a glass slipper. Tales of happily ever after. But how many people who fall in love and pledge their lives to each other actually end up staying together and living happily ever after? As in remaining with the same person, day in day out, from their heady twenties or thirties, through their child-rearing or career-and-home-building years, through to middle age, and even old age, and still remain constant to their love? Even after they’ve got used to unglamorous bathroom routines, unattractive ailments, bad moods, insecurities, doubts and all the rest.
My mother, Molly Williams, met the love of her life, a certain Peter Fox, when she was nineteen, and he twenty-four. They fell in love, got engaged, and had a passionate but rocky relationship for the next seven years, never quite tying the knot but always meaning to – until one fated December day, when it all came to an end. No, they didn’t fall out of love and end their relationship by themselves, but rather, FATE ended it for them. Peter was murdered at the age of thirty, robbed of the life that he’d expected to spend with the woman he loved. It’s all in my novel, For Some We Loved. I sincerely believe that my mother never fully got over it. She always used to tell me, “The day Peter died, something in me died as well.” Well, she met my future father the following year, tied the knot with him, and had a disastrous marriage that my brother and I were obliged to put up with until our teens, when our parents finally split up. But here’s the thing. Had Peter never been killed, and had my mother married him (which they were on the verge of finally doing just before his untimely death), I’m pretty sure that it wouldn’t have worked out. The reality and daily grind of living together, day in day out, for the next x number of years, would have slowly but surely maimed their spontaneous, turbulent, youthful passion.
It’s the same with Leah, another character in my novel, For Some We Loved, also based on a real person. Leah met and fell in love with a dashing Benedictine monk when she was sweet seventeen, and held a candle for him for the rest of her life. The memory of her bitter-sweet, unrequited love tainted all other, more realistic chances for love. She eventually married but, predictably, it didn’t work. How could it, with the candle she continued to hold for her beloved Brother Matthew? Almost an identical situation to Leah’s mother, Molly. How could any other man ever compete with the ghost of a dead love, or with vows made to a demanding God? I feel envious of both women. They believed that their ‘true love’ was snatched from them unfairly. Had this not happened, they surely would have lived happily ever after with the man of their dreams. But, sadly, I now have to say to that, bollocks! They wouldn’t have lived happily ever after. Their love would have waned, once the practicalities of day-to-day life set in; then they would either have settled for less than what they once had, or they would have rebelled, wanting more. One or both of them would have been unfaithful. There are endless possibilities and probabilities. Perhaps a mathematician could work them out. But it wouldn’t have worked. So I consider them lucky. They held a candle to a perfect but impossible love, and were never let down because they never married.
Quite frankly, the way I feel at the moment, I’m tempted to say marriage sucks. If anyone out there disagrees with me, and can prove otherwise, I’d love to hear it! Even if it didn’t work out for my mother, or for me, I need to know that it is possible to work out, for some unbelievably lucky people. Because at the end of the day, having a deep, meaningful, long-lasting relationship is the most important thing in life, isn’t it?