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My advice for a good marriage? Dont start with a dream wedding

Omar Sharif and Barbra Streisand in the 1968 film of Funny Girl Data taken from more than 350,000 people in two UK surveys, analysed by researchers from the Vancouver School of Economics, informs us that married people are happier than single ones, that those in committed relationships, even without the paperwork, are as happy as those who have put a ring on it – and that the middle-aged are the most happily hitched of all. There’s a cognitive dissonance here. When we think about marriage, it’s mainly about two pretty young people, splendidly dressed, floating up the aisle. We are replicating the mistake my friend and I made so long ago, of confusing marriage with a wedding. Prenuptial bliss has about as much to do with long-term commitment as a New Year’s Eve party with the 12 months that follow: one is all promise and champagne, the other is – everything else. If you consider that a lot of the young (and by young I mean 20s and early 30s) are either uncoupled or loved-up on hormones and honeymoons, and that many of the old are divorced or widowed, a truth becomes obvious: marriage, particularly good marriage – the kind that improves your life, the kind that lasts, the kind that couldn’t care less for rings or presents or altered surnames, the kind that inspires someone to refer to their life partner as their best friend – is predominantly the province of the middle-aged. I’m 45 now and very happily married, although we have never bothered with either the legal shenanigans or the big party. As for that man I did officially marry – reader, I divorced him. My clear-sighted friend is also divorced.

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