How does it work?

With all my recent questioning and hand-wringing over relationships, which never comes to any satisfactory conclusion, I thought it time to look at those who get it right. Or appear to get it right in front of friends and onlookers.

Some couples just seem to make it work with very few problems – no pots and pans thrown across the room, no trial separations, not even one of them getting out of the car at the traffic lights and saying “right, that’s it – I’ve had enough”.

These case studies are based on real people, but with some details changed to avoid any future litigation.

Couple one – bovine woman and ant man

She spends many mornings lying around in bed, taking it easy, while he’s up at seven, buzzing around the house. He’ll be cooking a five star breakfast, putting on a machine wash and giving the lounge a quick vacuum.

Meanwhile bovine woman is still in bed, reading the papers, sipping coffee and totally oblivious of the outside world.

Yet still, bovine woman and ant man are very much in love after nearly 20 years together. He loves looking after her, keeping the house together and being the main provider. She revels in the pampering care she receives from her devoted lover and servant.

This couple understand each other completely and will be going strong long after many others throw in the towel. There is also a hint of an exciting sex life when the curtains are drawn. She won’t say any more to me, other than “he’s a total perv” and suggested there was a box of toys somewhere in the house. Maybe that’s their recipe for success – he serves her in return for unadulterated bedroom action.

Conclusion: I couldn’t be waited on hand and foot all the time without feeling guilty. I would prefer to share the work. Although right now, a foot massage and cup of tea would go down a storm…

Couple two – chalk and cheese

I don’t really know how these two have lasted over 15 years. Nothing outwardly about this relationship could even suggest there was ever an attraction in the first place. Him: overweight, spends much of his time playing video games or horizontal on the sofa, drinking cans of cider. Her: petite, avid yoga enthusiast, busy social life and friends who regularly outpour their problems to her or entrust her with their secrets.

But yet, nothing will ever tear them asunder. They have had their rough patches – family bereavement, work worries – but still they carry on in their separate worlds, under one roof, only coming together for certain TV programmes or bedtime. I then picture him snoring and her curled up in a foetal ball on the edge of the bed.

Conclusion: I am mystified by the success of this union. It’s fine to have different friends and interests, but leading virtually separate lives with no overlap is taking things a bit far.

Couple three – Sporty couple

These two have been together since they were 17. They have grown up, gone through their 20s and 30s together, been best friends, almost seem related to one another after almost 25 years’ exclusivity.  Except for one thing many would envy: They still fancy the pants off each other.

Even now, if they are sitting side by side, he puts a protective arm around her shoulder, or she rests her hand on his thigh.  This must be one of the 21st century’s miracle couples – no exaggeration.

Both are athletic, sporty and probably fit the same clothes they wore in their teens. They run, walk, rock climb and mountain bike. And to complete their perfect partnership, they have two sons who do the same. The four of them make an attractive team in their hoodies, gilets and cargo pants.

Sporty guy is rather quieter and more serious than sporty girl, who is confident and outgoing. This pair probably have their five a day, sex at least three times a week and a family session of sit-ups and squats each morning.

The only hint of mutiny seeps into the outside world when she is out with girlfriends and sporty guy is home with the kids. One of our group asked if she ate healthy food all the time, to which she looked a little sad and said “yes, I’m afraid so.” On very rare alcohol-fuelled occasions, she has also been witnessed partaking in a sneaky cigarette. “Don’t tell X – he’ll kill me!”

Conclusion: While I envy this enduring commitment and still-present spark, there are small signs that he is in charge of the health regime. He needs to loosen up a little or quiet frustration may turn into out and out revolt.

Couple four – Like and like

Stress is a foreign word in this partnership. Granted, Bloke is a worrier while Bird goes with the flow a little too much, but their level of calm is quite breath-taking.

These two make having a house full of children – charging about, eating buns on the stairs, spilling drinks on the sofa cushions and bouncing on beds – look like a carefree past time.

They are so serene and in tune with one another that they are almost like the same person split in two.

Most Halloweens, Christmases or Easters, they organise events that bring dozens of their children’s friends to their house. Bird will have a big pot of casserole or chili bubbling on the stove, while Bloke idly reclines in his armchair, or plays the clown with the kids. And all the time they are unscathed by the pandemonium around them.

I have never heard a cross word between them in these situations or when they are on a night out without the kids. Bloke will tease Bird affectionately while she jokes about his little foibles, like insisting on reading three Sunday papers or still struggling to work the DVD player and they playfully elbow one another.

They do both, however, have difficulty knowing when to stop drinking on a night off and are the two most likely to be stumbling along the pavement, dodging lamp posts and litter bins, gurning through their slurry sozzled faces. I imagine they wake up in the morning after such a night, half-dressed, face down on the bed, not knowing whether they ‘did it’ or not.

Conclusion:  This is bordering on the kind of partnership most of us would want, but I do worry that these two reach the bottom of a bottle too quickly on their nights off. I like a drink, but sex is far more enjoyable and orgasmic when you are not completely paralytic.

So, readers, as usual I have gone around the houses and come back with very little – aside from a pint of milk and packet of biscuits. There are probably bits of each of these relationships which make them a success – but the reality of how they work is probably a secret recipe known only to the cooks themselves.

Over and out?

Apparently there is no point going on the internet to find a potential partner, if you are a woman in her 40s – so says a newspaper article I found during a casual internet browse.

I won’t disclose the wording I typed in my search box, but it included the words “is there any point…” And the computer said “no”.

The writer had interviewed a range of women over 40, some divorced, some widowed, some who had never had long-term relationships, some who had. But all had tried online dating, as it was probably the best option when the number of fish in the sea are depleted or damaged and they have been saddled with full custody of the kids/ailing parents.

And what is the problem? Why aren’t these attractive, experienced and interesting women not getting anywhere? Because, we are led to believe, men of the same age are all looking for younger women. They don’t want the crow’s feet, mummy-tummy, comes-with-kids-and-elderly-parents package. They want nubile, bouncy young things with pert boobs and bums, who still have an optimistic, non-cynical approach to life and are not weighed down with personal baggage.

One woman said something like: “The only way forward is to go for someone older. But I don’t want to meet someone in their 60s, I want a man my own age.”

So, men, here’s your right to reply. Is this true? Do men in their 30s and 40s just want fresh meat?

At least one of the women interviewed said she was so disheartened by the whole thing that she had given up entirely on ever finding that special someone.

I am not saying this article was completely accurate, but a recent foray into online dating suggests that it wasn’t far from the mark. In my mind I divided the profiles offered to me as matches into three categories – the hotties (probably totally out of my league), the oks (not Brad Pitt, but had nice smiles/eyes/hair and something good in their testimonials, e.g. they could spell) and the no-ways.

Not one hotty approached me, but I wasn’t surprised by this, as I am fully aware that I am probably a six out of ten. But what was more disheartening was that very few oks bothered either. I seemed, instead, to be inundated with ‘likes’ and messages from the no-ways, the majority of which appeared to have knocked at least ten years off the age they actually were. Just about all of them claimed to be at the top end of my specified age range, but I would wager, from the white beards and turtle neck jumpers, that at least a quarter of them were a few years older.

I am not one to discriminate on age (although I can see why one would think so from the tone of this post) but I do value having some common ground with a guy – whether its enjoying the same music, having watched the same children’s TV programmes, being able to go on a bike ride together etc. There may be men of 60 who have boundless energy, but how much would we really have to talk about? And what would the sex be like? I have supported senior sex in earlier posts so maybe I should keep an open mind, but I’m sorry older guys – I want a chance at hooking up with someone closer to my own age.

But here’s the hypocrisy – and I am certain other ladies are guilty of the same thought: If I was offered the chance of a short-term fling with a 25-year-old fella, I would struggle to turn it down. But I do say fling – I cannot envisage a long-term relationship with someone so young. I would expect him to get bored and make off with a bouncy young thing at the earliest opportunity. Yes, there are relationship s like this that work, but they are in a minority.

So, should we all just give up if we end up single in middle age and throw our energies into career, kids, craft and cats – and try to find alternative fulfilment? Do men always have the lion’s share of the dating world? I want someone to come up with a counter-argument that dispels this theory.

Encore une fois

Ever make a decision, then ask yourself whether you were too hasty and should have thought it through a little more first? Ever think that aspects of your life seem to have progressed like merry-go-rounds, with you just returning to the same thing again and again?

Does this intro sound like the start of a self-help book?

I cannot be the only one to be guilty of cyclic/’Oops! I did it again’ relationships – the ones where you split up, get back together, split up and get back together again.

There are a number of celebrity relationships where it has happened – Elizabeth Taylor married and divorced Richard Burton twice, as did Melanie Griffiths with Don Johnson – so clearly it’s not an outlandish thing.

But, I have only been married once, so luckily not all my cyclic relationships have had the expense of a wedding or divorce – imagine the cost of all the dresses!

No, this has largely been strictly boyfriend/girlfriend or ambiguous sexual relationship situations.

The first was in fact my cherry picker – referred to here. He was my first boyfriend at uni as well as the first to go where no man had gone before.  He was 26 and I was 18, so while I was idealistic and waiting every day for him to show some emotion or commitment, he was very cynical and probably just hoping to get into my knickers, and then bed a few more girls on my course to show off to his friends the benefits of being a (slightly) mature student.

Tired of his non-committal ways and cynicism, I realised there were plenty more willing fish and cast him aside. He actually got very drunk, tearful and begged me to take him back shortly afterwards, but I didn’t.

We did, however, remain friends and a year or so after I left uni, took a trip to Prague together. We travelled as friends, but after a few cheap beers on the first night, the inevitable occurred. It occurred several times – and he observed that I had picked up ‘some new moves’ since the last time. For me, though, the only thing that stuck in my mind was him accompanying me to the hotel toilet after we returned from a night out and wanting to wipe my ‘front bottom’ like a small child…

My next cycle was rather a torrid one. Another from uni was D, with whom I had shared a rather tempestuous relationship. There were lots of rows, door slamming and shouting, but also good times when we could block out the world, alone together.

Things eventually came to a head and we split after about a year, but continued to live in the same house, which was painful at times. He started seeing other people, as did I. But I still found him irresistibly attractive and he must have still felt something for me. So after ‘talks’, we gave it another try. It lasted a few months, but was never quite the same again. The magic had died. I was glad when it was time to go home for summer and I could finally get away from him.

It was years before the yo-yo effect struck again.  I got through various relationships and added a few notches to my bedpost for around five or six years. This had all left me rather world-weary and sceptical about ever meeting ‘the one’. Then I ran into a very cute younger guy at a work event. One thing led to another and we ended up getting married.

But after a few years, things were not so happily ever after. We seemed to rub each other up the wrong way – both physically and metaphorically. We didn’t seem to be able to get through an evening without having a row at some point. So, we parted. Having a child meant we could never make a clean break and we remained friends.

All the stress and pressure of our relationship dissipated after several months. I tried out a few other men, fell in love with one, but it didn’t work out, while he remained single. So, one evening I invited him over for wine and a takeaway ‘as friends’.  But the drink, the familiarity and ease with which we could sit together on the sofa led to a small kiss, then a mad dash upstairs.

And somehow we ended up in the bizarre situation of being married, separated and dating. Not very easy to explain to concerned/curious friends.

So we tried living together again. But it seemed we were programmed to repel like two north or two south poles on a magnet. The same arguments began, the same stresses emerged. He announced that I was ‘doing his head in’ and he was going to move out – which was funny in a not-so-funny way because the first time we split up I had told him he was doing my head in…

The only positive from this sorry saga was that we could both say we were 100 per cent, totally, utterly certain that we could not be together because we had tried it twice. It was not a seven-year itch it was a ten-year burning, painful, weeping wound.

So, do ‘oops! I did it again’ relationships teach us anything? Could it be that really good books or films have to be experienced more than once so that you can pick up more minute details the next time around? That sometimes one chocolate isn’t enough? You have to eat the whole damn box before you are satisfied or feeling rather nauseous?

We are constantly evolving and learning, no matter how old we are. Sometimes ending a relationship is a hasty, rash decision, and something you thought was right at the time, but later regret. If you are a bit annoyed with your partner, sometimes it needs to be talked about, before it pushes you apart. But obviously 80 per cent of the time, if it’s not working, life is too short to be unhappy, and you need to walk away.

Of course, your plans are scuppered if the other person won’t go back. I will always feel a pang of hurt about a gorgeous barman I was seeing and stupidly cheated on. We broke up on these grounds. I tried to get him back by calling him to arrange to meet up and he spoke to me like I was a nuisance caller/something nasty and brown he had accidentally trod in.

So, why this topic? I am just pondering something at the moment and feel I may have made a hasty and incorrect decision. The trouble is that I know that taking me back would be the equivalent of betting on a three-legged horse.