My baby brother is getting married, although he isn’t quite old enough. Actually, he never will be old enough.

It's not always easy to paint a pretty picture of wedlock. Picture: Thinkstock

Since, like many a baby brother, he is locked in time. Suspended in history somewhere where he still has limbs like twigs and goes by a nickname that no one has been allowed to call him for decades. 

So in my head he is still Neddy, and he is about 3. It’s the middle of a stinking hot summer circa 1980 and I have had the idea of using the hose to fill our plastic bin with cold water to make him a swimming pool. Neck deep in the cool water, he is looking up at me like I am an absolute genius.

When my mobile rings though it is bristly, big-voiced Ed on the other end. He is calling from work and he wants me to speak at his wedding. At first, I suppose, I am pleased, then surprised, then concerned.

So far my experience of marriage has been inextricably wound up with the experience of numerous closely packed small children. I don’t even know what marriage without small children feels like.

But marriage with small children feels like sitting down to a dish of mental and physical deterioration, served on the tanned hide of personal freedom. I am more of a casualty than a proponent.

Hasn’t he got a young friend, still flushed from the fire of his first child-free years of marriage, with something nice to say? Or perhaps an older acquaintance, glowing from the attainment of a wedding jubilee, who can serve to remind everyone that it really can be done.

At the best of times getting me to say something nice is a bit like producing diamonds – it takes years of extreme pressure to create something very small. But in the circumstances getting me to speak at, or about, a marriage is high risk. What if bits of truth start to spew out?

Little brother, marriage is a great idea if your partner is becoming too attentive. And children, well they are perfect if you are sick of your partner treating you like you’re number one.

And if you are a geyser of desire you need to ask yourself, “How much do I like eating chicken?” because marriage is like eating chicken - for the rest of your life. There are a hell of a lot of things you can do with chicken, but it is still chicken.

No, I will need to concentrate on the pluses. Marriage is like democracy. It is the least worst option.

Most people have a layer of normality that is about as deep as the silver stuff on a scratchy, and marriage is somewhere we can safely be the person underneath the silver stuff.

Marriage is two people in front of a wall – on your own you can’t get over it, but with a leg up new things become possible.

But there’s more - when you retire you will already have a bridge partner. Your insurance premiums might improve. You’ll always have someone to pick you up after an anaesthetic.

If you ever found romance tricky, fear not because the only place you’ll find it now is between Comedy and Thriller at the DVD store.

Perhaps it’s better to just skip straight to some advice. First, always keep the lines of communication open.

My husband apparently noted to himself the other day that I had packed on a couple of winter kgs. But he is way too safety conscious to actually raise anything like this in person.

So he waited until he got to work, and then emailed me an image of the Teletubbies with the caption “Which one are you?”. What a stupid question. The only one that looks vaguely like me is Laa-Laa.

Second, handle your partner with care. My husband and I never criticise each other’s personal qualities. We just tell each other what our next spouse will be like.

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    • Craig says:

      05:30am | 19/10/12

      It sounds like you just made a couple of bucks from the speech you plan to give at Ed’s wedding. Not sure whether to congratulate you for the chutzpah or condemn you for commercializing your brother’s happiness.

    • Kate says:

      07:30am | 19/10/12

      I have to agree, Craig. What was the point of this article?
      There was nothing new or insightful here at all. I love being married and would be sad if my husband wrote something like this.

    • acotrel says:

      05:31am | 19/10/12

      I love being married.  My wife is different from many other women and I love her to bits.  She does the cryptic crossword every day in about five minutes, and she can sensibly discuss politics, religion, social justice, and the state of the economy, and she can change a babies dirty bum (most important). The Japanese have women known as geishas, they are trained to communicate and make men happy.  I’ve seen all those old playboy magazines with Hugh Hefner and the dolly birds, and it all looks good.  There is only one problem -  ‘sex takes care of the first five minutes, then you have to talk to them’ !
      Sorry ladies, some men actually do like smart women !

      ( Some of you are probably going to bite me faster than you can say ‘misogynist’ ?)

    • Slothy says:

      08:05am | 19/10/12

      Sorry acotrel, to ‘bite’ you I’d have to understand what your point is.

      Some men like smart women? Uh, yes, we know. The bit where my boyfriend and I fell in love arguing economics was a bit of a tip-off.

      Your wife is a smart woman? Well, yeah, that’s not exactly a surprise. We make up half the world’s population, so I’m not sure whey you’d be surprised that we’re able to ‘sensibly’ discuss topics as esoteric as ‘politics’ and ‘the economy’.

      So what exactly is the point you’re trying to make?

      PS: I hope your wife finds you equally intellectually stimulating.

    • Rebecca says:

      08:26am | 19/10/12

      On the contrary it sounds like you’re a man who can respect smart and engaging women. Your wife is a lucky lady.

    • Markus says:

      08:34am | 19/10/12

      “We make up half the world’s population, so I’m not sure whey you’d be surprised that we’re able to ‘sensibly’ discuss topics as esoteric as ‘politics’ and ‘the economy’”
      Because 90% of people cannot.
      I’m not sure how pointing out that women make up half of this 90% disputes the rarity, being born or giving birth are not immediate indicators of any level of intelligence.

    • Testfest says:

      10:14am | 19/10/12

      Today’s use of the word “misogynist” has been brought to you by Acotrel on behalf of the Australian Labor Party.

      Vote Labor in 2013, because misogyny.

    • Slothy says:

      01:02pm | 19/10/12

      90% of people can’t sensibly discuss politics or the economy? Really? I don’t know who you spend your time with, but one of us must be an outlier because I think it’s closer to 90% of people can – whatever impression the various incoherent partisan commenters here may give.

      And if that was really acotrel’s point, he could quite easily have said that his wife is not like most ‘people’ rather than fapping himself over having that most unique and elusive of creatures – a smart wife.

    • Markus says:

      01:21pm | 19/10/12

      @Slothy, acotrel, to the best of my knowledge, only goes for women, so the male half of the sum that makes up the collective ‘people’ did not factor into the equation when looking for a life partner.

      And yes, odds are likely you are an outlier. Like most people, I am sure you have chosen to associate with like-minded types.
      Doesn’t mean the rest of the population that you have chosen not to associate with regularly have stopped existing.
      Try having a civil, intelligent discussion on economics with a stranger next time you visit the local Westfield food court, or TAB, or tavern.

    • Bill says:

      01:44pm | 19/10/12

      “I think it’s closer to 90% of people can [sensibly discuss politics or the economy]” ~ Slothy

      Perhaps we have different definitions of ‘sensible’, Slothy.

      The last time I went to get my hair cut, my barber and an earlier customer were discussing the economy. According to them, everything is in shambles, we’re heading towards being a third world country, and it’s all because of the bloody boat people and that clown Gillard.

      When it was my turn, I pointed out to him that we actually have one of the best economies in the world right now. It didn’t go down well; he gave me one of the worst haircuts of my life.

      Suffice to say, lots of people -think- they’re able to sensibly discuss politics when, in fact, they’re not.

    • acotrel says:

      06:32am | 19/10/12

      I was just reading you comments about kids and marriage.  Due to a family situation we currently have a glorious year old baby living with us four days at a time.  I never previously realised how manipulative they are.  It must be part of the survival strategy which is genetically programmed into them.  Our girl seems to know who will fight for her and look after her interests.  She has grabbed my heart with both hands and is gently squeezing it for her own purposes. I know when I am being suckered, but it is not all bad.

    • OchreBunyip says:

      07:00am | 19/10/12

      Marriage for men is the worst financial and emotional risk they can take in their lives - which is why women continually try to dress it up with romantic fluff. How many people would invest all of their savings in a fund that has a 60% chance of them losing their house, 50% of their current wealth and their children? There are no legally enforceable exit penalties from this contract, it is grounds for any false allegation made by your ex-cupcake with no actual investigation and no penalties for perjury on her part.

      Hopefully your baby brother has some aware male friends who will let him know the risk he is willingly entering into; certainly no-one in the marriage industry will.

    • marley says:

      07:50am | 19/10/12

      @ochrebunyip - the divorce rate in this country is about 30%.  Where do you get the 60% figure from?

      And if you’ve got your head screwed on right, you marry someone with a similar earning capacity to your own, and with some basic integrity.  Then, if things go belly up, you walk away with an equitable division.  Of course, if you marry some bimbo for her boobs and not her brains, things may not work out so well.

    • Rebecca says:

      08:31am | 19/10/12

      I don’t think you need to stress too much about that, OchreBunyip. With an attitude like that, I don’t think any of those evil, money-grabbing women will want to marry you in the first place.

    • andrew says:

      08:34am | 19/10/12

      It’s true that marriage is the worst financial risk a man can take. Things would be much better in that respect if we had laws where the assets you brought into the relationship remain yours in the event of a break up. Keep in mind that staying single is probably the worst health risk a man can take too, there are plenty of statistics that suggest married men are happier and live longer lives.

      As for marrying someone with similar earning capacity - good luck with that. It’s a fact that men tend to choose higher paying professions. Also men tend to marry younger women, so the men have had more years in the workforce to accumulate assets. Earning capacity doesn’t count for much once your wife drops out of the workforce to raise kids anyway, men are much better off to look for a woman that will make a good wife and mother than one that can match the $ you bring home each week.

    • Fiona says:

      08:49am | 19/10/12

      Bitter much? If your primary concern is about money, then it’s almost guaranteed you’ll attract the money hungry. Seek some counselling to get over your failed marriage and get some peace.

    • Economist says:

      09:38am | 19/10/12

      Marley, you can have the best of both worlds. I married my wife for her boobs and brains.

      But this article is a little pessimistic, but possibly practical. Marriage is easy if you regularly self reflect on you’re own role in the marriage; that you don’t sweat the small stuff, and you give one another the illusion that they have power in the relationship over things that matter to them, even if it is not the case.

    • PsychoHyena says:

      09:55am | 19/10/12

      Seriously, if you’re worried about losing your finances then you’re not with the right person to start with, however you could always go with a pre-nup agreement that entitles each partner to a nominated share of the money earned between marriage and divorce.

      Once again though, male or female, if you’re looking at a pre-nup agreement then you’re not with the right person.

    • Simon says:

      11:38am | 19/10/12

      @Rebecca you are right for the wrong reason. OchreBunyip has nothing to worry about not because of his attitude, but because he is forewarned. Evil moneygrubbing manipulators most definitely exist, but they tend to target the naive..

    • ByStealth says:

      11:39am | 19/10/12

      The negative consequences of marriage speak for themselves. OchreBunyip doesn’t have to convince you. Marriage rates will rise and fall based on the attraction of marriage.

      I’m in line with what andrew is saying. The biological nature of attraction will mean there is more demand for higher earning men, but there will be limited women who also earn a similar amount (due to women’s choices, not discrimination).

      And out of these women who earn more money and with the personality traits to succeed in high powered careers, how many will be fit nurturers for both the child and the marriage itself?

    • AdamC says:

      09:06am | 19/10/12

      I am quite a fan of marriage, which is probably why I am keen to protect it from unnecessary innovations like gay marriage. It is not perfect, of course. It is a little old-fashioned for one thing, and far too dressed-up with silly sentimentality. No fault divorce has also undermined its effectiveness as a contract between two people and the rest of society. What kind of legal agreement can one party unilaterally abrogate without any kind of penalty?

      In any event, marriage is certainly better than the alternatives, as the author contends.

    • St. Michael says:

      12:40pm | 19/10/12

      “What kind of legal agreement can one party unilaterally abrogate without any kind of penalty?”

      An employment contract.  In all but the tiniest minority of cases, an employee can quit on Monday, and be working for the employer’s immediate rival on Tuesday, taking all of his knowledge with him.  And Fair Work Australia will try its damnedest to make the employer pay for the privilege of being screwed over.

    • andrew says:

      01:01pm | 19/10/12

      No, I’d have to give my employer 2 weeks notice - or a penalty of them keeping 2 weeks pay would apply. And if they make me redundant a significant penalty will apply to them too.

    • BJ says:

      01:19pm | 19/10/12

      I think that treating defacto relationships as though they are the same as marriage is a bigger threat to marriage. Agreeing to marry someone means making some large commitments to another person, such as agreeing to financially support them. Agreeing to move in with someone is a much smaller step.

      Why do organisations like centrelink assume that someone else will financially support someone, just because they live together?

    • Markus says:

      02:02pm | 19/10/12

      @BJ, the question I have regarding the campaign for marriage equality (as long as it is same-sex), is will they apply the same treatment to same-sex defacto couples.

      If so, it could result in some strange classification for some people’s living arrangements. All of a sudden your average student sharehouse has become a same-sex polygamist defacto relationship.

    • AdamC says:

      02:17pm | 19/10/12

      St Michael, yes, but the employer cannot do that. The contract is therefore one-sided in terms of committments, rather than lacking them entirely.

      andrew, good point. My comment stands!

      BJ, as half of a gay couple, de facto recognition is the only kind we get, so I am keen to keep it. However, I take your point. Maybe there needs to be some kind of ‘civil unions’ to help distinguish between ‘marriage-like’ de facto couplings and more casual co-habitation? The marriage-averse, but committed, de factos could sign up to being treated like a marriage, while the more independent pair could stay as mere lovers.

      That makes sense to me.

    • Tubesteak says:

      10:19am | 19/10/12

      Marriage is nothing like a democracy. It’s more like living with an irrational despot who can shut off access to all important resources by nationalising them and furnishing their own place with all the good stuff whilst the citizens starve to death. Sort of like Robert Mugabe. Even though the citizens get no benefit from it they are still expected to bow and scrape or face severe punishment. So maybe like North Korea.
      Marriage is not like standing in front of a wall with someone to help you over it. It’s like swimming whilst wearing concrete boots. It really does very little for you and you’re better off without them. You have more freedom and less responsibilities.

    • Debbie says:

      10:34am | 19/10/12

      I think you should stay single. Some people are just not suited to anything that involves the sharing of anything.

    • Tubesteak says:

      10:47am | 19/10/12

      I like single. It works for me. I see very little value in what someone else has to offer. I don’t share; I transact. Marriage is the perfect encapsulation of the Law of Diminishing Returns. Especially for men.

    • Debbie says:

      11:52am | 19/10/12

      Some men perhaps (and some women as well). And I imagine that for those who think they get little in return from a marriage maybe its because they put very little in. Or they have very poor judgement in choosing a suitable partner. Many men have very happy and successful marriages.

    • Nikki says:

      01:36pm | 19/10/12

      Tubesteak: “I don’t share, I transact”

      Translation: I enjoy unprostitutes

    • Markus says:

      01:53pm | 19/10/12

      unprostitutes? Are they the women who actually pay you for sex? I enjoy them too.

    • Admiral Ackbar says:

      03:34pm | 19/10/12

      That is arguably my second or third favourite type of prostitue.

    • ramases says:

      10:46am | 19/10/12

      Marriage is nothing like a democracy as I see it. My wife and I had words the other day but I didn’t get to use mine.

    • Fred says:

      01:51pm | 19/10/12

      Many a true word is said in jest.

    • Evalee says:

      11:52am | 19/10/12

      Some nights I don’t have dinner, or it is cheese on toast.  Some Sundays, I don’t change out of my nightie and lounge around reading all day.

      Were I still living in a marriage (still married but no longer co-habitating), these would not be options for me.  Why, when married and co-habitating, there seems to be an entire lexicon of unwritten and unspoken rules about what it is permissable and acceptable to do as a married person?

      God forbid you should be interesting or have other thoughts outside of your domestic arrangements.  Your entire life is subsumed by other people’s wants/needs.  How is it that both people managed to live spearately (successfully) before marriage eating beans on toast and sometimes wearing the same underwear two days running but once that contract is signed, such behaviour is obviously abusive and not becoming of a married person?

      Perhaps it is not the marriage which is the issue but the relentless monotany of living with someone.

    • Mother Duck says:

      12:46pm | 19/10/12

      “We just tell each other what our next spouse will be like.” 

      When we got married we made a few rules, one is that we never joke about infidelity, divorce, cheating, etc.  Fidelity requires discipline as well as love.  Beware statements like the one above, as it may be a self-fulfilling prophesy.

      We did a marriage preparation course which was fantastic and taught some basic rules for arguing - which we have incorporate in our 25 year old marriage.  One is: “never say ‘never’, or always” (in an argument)  another is: “stick to the subject”, another “do not deconstruct the foundations of your marriage in an argument - stay on the topic”.... “set aside time to argue it through ... to talk a subject through properly”....

      These rules presuppose you WILL fight about stuff, but you can learn skills to argue in a way that actually results in a better relationship.

      My advice - as someone who runs marriage preparation courses - is take the time to learn some of these skills before you get marriage.  “Being in love: or “finding someone attractive” is not enough to ensure a lasting marriage.  Some basic preparation, makes all the difference… and make marriage fun.

    • Cairns Rebecca says:

      01:31pm | 19/10/12

      I was married for many years, then I was in a non-marital relationship for many years. Both were good relationships for 95% of their existence. They both held equal importance to me.

      While marriage exists I will support gay marriage. Anything else is simply biased, unfair and unjustified anywhere outside of a theocratic state.

      But quite frankly I think its time that any government or legal structure for ‘marriage’ ended. Let people have a wedding in a church or enjoy a civil wedding of whatever type rocks their boat. But its time to get rid of the legal document entitled ‘Marriage Certificate’. The original reasons for the creation of ‘marriage’ no longer exist, or are at least ignored by the majority.

    • Esteban says:

      05:25pm | 19/10/12

      On behalf of my wife I am outraged at the blatant sexism displayed in the photo which displays the man outpainting the woman which suggests that men and women are not equal in their capabilities to paint.

      Of particular concern is that it appears the man is thinking, talking, breathing and painting all at the same time which is contrary to feminism studies on male multi tasking.

      If it was a video the next scene would probably have the man looking at his watch because “apparently” a woman has painted too long and should get back in the kitchen to prepare the man’s lunch.

      One of the keys to a successful marriage is for the man to do the cut out work and leave the glory of the roller to the wife. This equal roller time marriage is doomed and they will split up and be faced with selling their house with yellow walls.

 

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