How To Find Matrimonial Harmony

Lucy

I have a girlfriend who married a bloke who had worn a variation of the same pair of jeans with the same runners for around 20 years. When she met him he’d spent close to 15 years living and working in remote locations. He’d been saving his hard earned pennies and had squirreled away a nice little nest egg when she came into his life and changed it forever. She gave him sunshine, his eyes sparkled in her company. She updated his wardrobe, introduced him to the arts and boosted his ego. They were engaged quickly, then married, his bachelor pad was discarded for a home which she immediately decked out for entertaining. She was one of those people who seemed to have an endless supply of fresh flowers, bubbles and gourmet food. She could turn an afternoon coffee into sunset drinks which became a three course dinner followed by a huge party. Their house was the party house, their furnishings admired by many, her taste exquisite.

Often when people from his past would gather, predominantly men who had worked with him in jungles or perhaps offshore, there would be a conversation about her ability to spend “his” money. A reference would be made towards an expensive wall hanging or vintage tea set and without fail a joke would be made about how quickly she must have been burning through “his” money. Without coming out and just saying she was a gold digging leech the insinuation was made that she had found herself a great deal.

Not once did I hear anyone ask if she was missing her old life.

Last night as I sat at my keyboard with my headphones on completing an online test, G came over to my desk with a Financial Times in his hand. He had it folded in line with the columns as he placed it down next to my laptop.

“I thought you might enjoy this.” He gave me a soft smile as he wandered towards the kitchen.

It was the “Dear Lucy” column, which I would usually just link to but I’ve tried twice and it won’t let me open the link. So just incase I’ll write it here for you. This may well be the best piece of advice I’ve read in a newspaper.

The heading was “Should I forgo a house for fiancée’s career sacrifices?”

Dear Lucy,

I am a striver and my fiancé is a creative free spirit. In the five years we have lived together, I have paid off my debt and built a stock portfolio big enough for a deposit on a house in London. She has a credit-card bill and hefty student loan. To be fair, she has quit jobs and moved country twice so I can pursue my career, I want to buy a house in an unfashionable but upcoming area while she prefers to rent somewhere trendier. My primary aim is matrimonial harmony: what should I do?

Lucy’s answer:

If you have found a woman who will traipse around the world behind you while you further your career, and if, after all that traipsing, she is still a creative free spirit rather than a put-upon, resentful misanthrope, you have done well. Your investment in love has been even wiser than your investment in equities (which has also been pretty good, judging by the fact that you already have enough for a house deposit). 

You say your primary aim is matrimonial harmony. That is good. Keep reminding yourself of it. Then tell her not that you have capitulated but that you’ve changed your mind about the rent-versus-buy question. Tell her that she was right and you were wrong.

It is sheer madness to start your married life living somewhere horrible when you can afford to live somewhere nice. Maybe house prices will continue going up. Or maybe they won’t. Either way, the primary purpose of property isn’t as a place to live. And if that place makes the person who is going to spend even more time there than you unhappy, it is a very bad idea indeed. 

So rent somewhere fashionable, and do it with a light heart. It sounds as if during the day you do something quite dull, which is all the more reason to enjoy your evenings and weekends pretending to be someone cool as you flit around restaurants in Shoreditch (or wherever). As you do that, I suggest you look around  you at the other people who live there. You’ll notice that there is hardly anyone over 40. That is because everyone older lives somewhere unfashionable and has a gigantic mortgage and children and is fretting about how to get them into a halfway decent school. That day will probably come for you – maybe even quite soon. But why pre-empt it, when it is so much more fun – and so much better for marital harmony – not to?

It is possible that when you do buy somewhere you’ll have to put up with an even less fashionable area. But by then you’ll be earning more and your investments should have grown. So I think you and your new wife will do just fine.

I love Lucy. Actually, I adore Lucy. I read this sentence again this morning. 

If you have found a woman who will traipse around the world behind you while you further your career, and if, after all that traipsing, she is still a creative free spirit rather than a put-upon, resentful misanthrope, you have done well.

I am a firm believer of marrying your opposite. Yes, you should definitely share your passions and have much in common, but sometimes in our day to day it’s nice to balance each other out. I am not a morning person, G is. I forget when it’s time to go home, G remembers. I talk too much, G doesn’t. It is for these reasons that we have survived the late nights and early mornings of babies. It is for this reason that I encourage G to stay out a bit longer when he reminds me that it’s probably time to go. In every relationship we bring our best and worst qualities together, hoping to form the mosaic of a rich and interesting life experience.

I was lucky enough to catch up with my girlfriend and her husband a couple of years ago. He was telling me of a move they’d made, a transfer for work a few years earlier. How everyone had told them they’d never break into the “scene” and that the city was very parochial and unfriendly to newcomers. “I said to them – you obviously haven’t met my wife!” His eyes were shining, you could tell he was incredibly proud. He went on to explain how she had systematically invited every parent from the children’s classes to dinner each weekend. “We had a fantastic life there, we made some great friends”. I suggested he’d been a very clever man to find her, that she was perhaps his perfect match.

“No doubt there. She’s made my life more interesting than I ever could have done on my own.”

Perhaps that’s true matrimonial harmony.

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