There was a magnet on our refrigerator when I was growing up, I imagine my Dad probably got it as a Christmas present one year, it had that desperate last minute gift shop look about it. "Old golfers never die, they simply lose their drive" it said. I remember seeing a few of these at the time, bankers never died, they just lost interest. Then there were the doctors who just lost their patience. About 10 years ago a seasoned expat woman said something to me about marriage that I thought might have made a good fridge magnet.
I noticed at the beginning of our travels that I rarely met anyone who was divorced. There seemed to be an inordinate amount of people around me who had been together for ten or twenty years. When I made the comment to a friend who was probably the same age that I am now, her reply was "expats never divorce, they simply relocate".
It may surprise you to hear that I live in a country with an extremely high divorce rate, in fact Qatar has one of the highest divorce rates in the world. I think there's often an assumption made of arranged marriages and muslim women that they are somehow stuck in their marriages for life, this is definitely not the case here. I remember earnestly asking a Qatari woman so how did you end your marriage? I was waiting for a huge explanation on the difficulty of it all and the terrible hardship she had to endure, she looked at me like I was a little bit simple and said slowly "I told him, I don't want to be married to you anymore?"
So, here I am on my 12th wedding anniversary living in a country with one of the highest divorce rates. It's got me thinking. What's kept us married?
Last year while on a girls weekend one of my oldest and dearest friends told me that the reason I was still so in love with my husband is I had the chance to miss him. She believed that all of the travel he did made him more attractive. She was comparing our situation to her own marriage, in her words "sometimes I'd just really like my husband to go away so that I could have the opportunity to miss him". We all giggled as she exaggeratedly said "he's just there ALL the time!"
I knew what she meant but I had to bite my tongue. She was right, absence does make the heart grow fonder especially when life is going well. Perhaps when you fondly hang up his shirt in the wardrobe and smell his after shave or glance at a picture of the two of you laughing together. How about if you've been awake on your own with vomiting children all night in a remote and desolate location? Imagine after sitting for roughly 2 hours at a medical clinic with 3 children nursing buckets, your husband rings from Paris to tell you he's eating the most amazing foie gras and can see the Eiffel Tower? It's then that an absent husband can also fill the heart with toxic bile.
On the night before I got married my mother in law (who was an expat) gave me one of the best pieces of advice for a successful marriage. She said "wherever you are and whatever happens, don't blame each other, blame the situation".
This advice has got me through some terrible housing, long stints apart, wedding anniversaries spent on my own, disastrous medical appointments and sole parent/teacher interviews on many occasions. The advice is perfect for finishing the blame game, it's no ones fault, it's just the situation we find ourselves in, but that's obviously not the only reason I'm still married to G.
I'm still married because I can be in the shower in the morning and G will pop his head in, pinch me on the bum and say "I've just marinated the chicken and cut up some vegetables, don't worry about dinner I'll bbq it when I get home after work". I'm still married to G because when we were seriously poor and I reversed our uninsured van in to the moving truck and rang him at the office, he laughed and told me not to worry about it. I'm still married to G because when I bought the nightie with the bow on the back last week he said "hey look at you, you're like my own little present".
Mostly though, I think it's all about the little travelers. We're not married just because of them but when I think of every different country they were born in, I think of G being there with me on the journey, holding my hand through the process. Last week after back to back parent/teacher interviews we left the school with G commenting on how "lucky" we were to have got our interviews all on the one day, he'd noticed that other parents were having to come back the following day. I had one of those moments you have with your partner where you just nod and smile to yourself, but you're actually thinking of course they did because I was the one who sat online waiting for the very second that interviews were able to be booked, to make it all happen seamlessly.
The next day I received an email from G it was only a few lines it said:
Just wanted to say how proud I felt of the kids after all of the parent teacher interviews.
It made me feel really great when we received such positive feedback about all of them.
It also made me reflect on what a wonderful job you do as their mum.
See you tonight.
That's why I'm still married, because you don't get much better than G.