From Melanie Reid in THE TIMES, 25 August 2018:

Age and experience, it’s said, impart wisdom. Age, experience and a bit of misfortune interwoven, perhaps, impart even more. Last sunny Saturday, one of my most cynical, worldly girlfriends and I drove past two wedding receptions in full swing. The flowers around the door, the lovely frocks and flocks of young, happy people – the sheer optimism of it all lifted us; and at the same time, we put up a silent prayer for the brides: “We hope you’ve chosen well, girl.”

When you’re young, you choose to marry someone for all sorts of reasons. The problem is, it’s only about 30 or 40 years before you discover if those were the right reasons for a happy life. If you’re incredibly lucky, you nail it first time round. Lots of us aren’t, and don’t. But during the long process of trying, we gain a certain amount of knowledge.

Having thoroughly tested the “in sickness and in health” line, I can honestly say the primary attribute of a husband, or a long-term mate, is humour. Forget sexual compatibility, good looks, dress sense, earnings potential or educational qualifications – if a man does not have a sense of the ridiculous, it won’t last. Well, it might, but it’ll be bloody torture.

When, if, events render you personally helpless, you need to know you can laugh about it together afterwards. It can be supreme female indignity – giving birth to a large poo just before the baby is a classic – or it can be illness or injury, when you’re distressed, vomiting, as unattractive and desperate and unsexy as it is possible for a woman to be. Either way, your relationship is doomed unless you can meet your loved one’s eye and know humour will rescue you.

The right choice of partner is the one who’s always on your side. You may fall out, but a good man will always respect you and stand up for you, whatever the circumstances. Strong women need this particularly. You can be fantastically independent, bold and successful, a warrior queen, but at some point you will need a shoulder to slump on, and know that person has got your back. The rottweiler who will defend the gates when all else have fled.

Sexual fidelity is less important than women think. Calculated unkindness or neglect is much more devastating. Life is long and we can all be very stupid. You can forgive a shag; it’s harder to get over the betrayal of the deeper things a loving friendship is based upon.

Never, ever choose a clingy man, girls. Go for those with their own interests and passions. Give them space and trust. This means they will be neither bored with you, nor will you find them boring – because you, equally, can go off and do your own thing. Besides, knowledge, prowess, skill – these are sexy attributes. Men who pursue sport, who make things, fix things, who are widely read, or make you laugh like a drain – these men remain interesting and attractive throughout their lives.

Generosity is in people’s bones: even if he’s poor, you’ll be able to tell if he’s generous. And I was going to preach about looking out for patience, forgiveness, thoughtfulness and selflessness in a man, but actually it can get really creepy if he’s too much of a saint.

Really, it boils down to this: will he still be devoted to you when he’s seen you at your very worst but loves you nevertheless? Will he be your best mate when you’re lying there whimpering, unmade-up, unwashed, broken-bodied or cancer-struck or demented, far beyond the conceit of fashion, beauty treatments and Botox? That’s when you realise it won’t matter if he farts a lot, or dumps wet towels everywhere, or eats too much pizza for his own good. He’ll still be there for me, even when I’m like that. Within the hidden chemistry of relationships, it’s the precious metal of husband material.

Melanie Reid is tetraplegic after breaking her neck and back in a riding accident in April 2010

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