Sunday, 22 November 2009


Consider a marriage.

The woman involved is unhappy and as her friend you want to give her the best possible advice.

She started seeing the man some years ago and, though not spectacular as romances go, it seemed solid enough at first and she became ever more hopeful about it. The man was charming and respectful towards the woman’s interests and needs, and though he didn’t share them all with her, he allowed her a great deal of freedom to so her own thing; such as spending time with with her family and friends and he never insisted, as some boyfriends do, that she organise her entire life wholly subordinate to his. He was kind to her children from a previous relationship and he always allowed her time and space in their shared home for those kids to play and grow and entertain their own friends.

It looked good, and they cohabited for several years happily enough while waiting to see whether something deeper would be a good idea. And it was fine, it really was. They lived their lives together quite harmoniously and with self-restraint when the inevitable disagreements about laundry and what to eat tonight and so on occurred. They never wholly merged their finances – she always kept most of her earnings and paid for clothes and toiletries and transportation and suchlike to fit her busy lifestyle while he lived within his means as well as any man can do such a thing. Only a few bills were paid in common: rent; a monthly food budget; shared utilities costs and a modest property insurance policy against fire and theft, though it was the woman’s best friend (and niece) Sam who got them a very good deal on burglar and fire alarms and he even let them share her emergency link to the police station in case of a break-in.

Eventually, they took the plunge and decided to get married. Well, she’d known him her whole life as they grew up in the same neighbourhood and though he had been an unruly youth and had, indeed, been involved along with his family in a series of lengthy property quarrels against the woman and her family, he was obviously a reformed character: well-educated and peaceable, sociable and gentle.

It all started to go wrong soon after the wedding. Right after the honeymoon the new husband suggested they set up a shared fund from their earnings to cover the regular daily and monthly household expenses, and as they were now husband and wife she readily agreed to this, hearing no alarm bells at this stage – or ignoring them in her happiness and her optimism and her relief on having no longer to share the full burden of parenthood and household management alone. He never quite accounted for where all that money went to, and often she saw very little in return for her monthly payments into their new joint account, she was still very much in love and she had a tender heart and was prepared to overlook much to keep the peace and stay as happy as she felt a new bride ought to be.

But it kept on getting worse. He never finished the tasks around their home that he promised to do. He’d take large sums out of the joint account and soon paint trays and rollers and wallpaper would appear (and wallpaper not always to the woman’s taste), but he never did a proper job and rarely completed anything. He had never undertaken his share of the household tasks from the start even when they were just living together, but back then he was trying to make a living in a new venture that was only just getting off the ground after a series of spectacular business failures, and she was a generous soul and had forgiven him much in return for his continued love and companionship. But as soon as they were married he found ever more complex and implausible reasons why he shouldn’t do the washing up or pay for the week’s food, and he insisted that she sort out the trash in a finicky way that hurt the poor woman’s back and exposed her to nasty weather and wasted time and energy she could have been spending with her children.

He started socializing and doing shady business deals with dodgy friends and relatives from the seamiest underside of town.

On one occasion she discovered to her horror that he had passed most of their holiday savings in bits and pieces to a notorious thug who lived at the far end of town: a self-destructive wastrel and wife beater with a history of brutal assaults and housebreaking and who was a menace to his friends and neighbours alike, but her husband explained that the man had hit hard times through the spite and envy of his own neighbours and that she should shut up and think of the hooligan’s poor wife and children and not be mean about quite trivial sums of money. One associate he acquired and spent time and money on was an out-and-out gangster who had recently served his parole after convictions for murder, grand theft, blackmail, demanding money with menaces, kidnap and unlawful imprisonment. He had recently come into money and was rebuilding his reputation as a person of influence about town by flashing his cash and muscling in on other peoples’ business - including resurrecting an ancient and now pointless feud with Sam.

She just couldn’t get through to him. She pleaded with him to mend his ways and act responsibly, and several times they went to counselling together and each time he would promise to reform and to take their relationship back to the way it had been in the early days, but each time it seemed that he had lied and each time his behaviour grew worse. He had long since managed to banish her children from their home – they were old enough to stand on their own feet and had children and friends of their own now, but she resented her husband’s unreasonable and harsh criticism of them and his insistence that she cut all financial ties with them. It soon came about that Christmas and birthday visits were pretty much all she was allowed to make to their houses or them to hers. Her husband began to talk about Sam being a bad influence on his wife and the whole neighbourhood and he did all that he could to estrange the two women from each other. he talked about replacing Sam’s shared anti-theft system with one of his own. He even bought part of it but never actually installed it and it sat in its box in the spare room: useless, paid for on credit, as an ever-present reminder to her that her husband might cut her off from whatever security she still had.

One day he came up with a new and extensive list of demands. He ranted for hours about their life and how if she really loved him he’d let her take ever-tighter control of their home and finances. He demanded that she put still more of her earnings into their account and insisted that he should from now on decide when and how it was spent and he pompously declared that from now on he would tell her about it open and above board – but that he and he alone would have the right to decide on the money’s fate, though he would consult her if he had time. He also came up with a list of her treasured hobbies and friendships that he wanted her to curtail or abandon altogether.

That was the last straw.

She argued furiously with him and refused to agree to anything else without getting the advice and support of her own family and the more reasonable members of his. Faced down, he agreed to this, and for a while it seemed good again – even some of his most loyal friends and supporters actually sided with her, and in the end he backed down.

The woman was much relieved and even believed for a short while that shared happiness would be theirs again…until she heard that he was rearranging her life on the sly exactly as he’d previously demanded: stopping direct debits to her favourite charities and her gym club subscription and cancelling a family holiday she’d arranged with Sam and her own children. She found out that he’d even visited the mutual friends who’d originally taken her side and he’d browbeaten and bribed them into agreeing that his demands over her life were reasonable and that she should put up with his controlling agenda now that their own misgivings had been overcome. He did concede that he’d buy her own front door key to come and go as she pleased - but he alone would keep that key and letting her use it would be at his sole discretion.

Now, if you care about this woman and want what’s good for her, you can only have two realistic choices.

You can either encourage her to stand her ground in her own home and draw some line in the sand and say "So far and no further," and hope that she can wear him down over the years, bring him around to her point of view and hope he lets her live her life with a little bit more as she wants to despite his long record of almost unbroken duplicity and backsliding and which therefore might not work... or you can advise her to cut her losses, realize that he’s never going to treat her right, get the hell out of Dodge and get a life.

Vote here for becoming a nag or a doormat.

Vote here to ditch the bastard.


Sue said...

Already ditched!

Did you make that up? It's a horrible analogy :)

North Northwester said...

Sue, I did indeed.
Being screwed without love or issue or pleasure spring immediately to mind during thoughts federastico, doesn't it?

Goodnight Vienna said...

Very clever NNW - looks like I'm UKIP material!

North Northwester said...

Thanks, GV. Well, I'd like to think so. you know where they are if you feel that way.

I just can't go on bellyaching and doing nothing practical about it all, because this way when the caponservatives or Labour or - worse - the Lib Dems allied with one of the above gets in, I'll be able to say that I tried to offer my fellow citizens something different.


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