MAYBE it was my fault. It was probably the way I put it. I said to my friends: “It’s my birthday on Saturday and where do you think my husband will be? At my side, devotedly plying me with chocolates and flowers? Not a chance. He’s going to bleedin’ Barcelona for the weekend, to see his favourite band.”
I was only kidding. Not about the band and Barcelona – that bit was true – but I probably overdid the mock outrage regarding my spouse-free birthday celebrations. Yet although my outrage was mock, that of my friends certainly wasn’t. “He’s leaving you all alone? On your birthday? To go to a gig in Spain? Aren’t you worried what he might get up to? Why doesn’t he take you with him?”
No, I wasn’t remotely worried and that final question should have been worded: “Why don’t you go with him?” The answer being: because I’d rather have gouged my eyes out with soup spoons.
From my point of view, the weekend simply wasn’t tempting. The band…meh. And Barcelona…meh. Husband and I have been married long enough to know that I wouldn’t enjoy it and he’d enjoy it less, knowing I wasn’t enjoying it. So we did our own, separate things.
This has always been our strategy and it works for us. It’s about knowing and accepting each other. We know we’re very different and we both accept it. However, not all people are as fine with it as we are.
One of my husband’s friends said: “I can’t believe she’s allowing you to go!” Like I was his mum, or something, and he was a naughty teen.
I was nonplussed by these reactions, until I saw the results of the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, which has just been published in the Lancet. Of the 15,000 Britons who were questioned, 70 per cent said that they believed in total fidelity within marriage.
At first, I thought, oh dear, only 70 per cent? Then I realised that the figure was a measly 53 per cent back in 1991, when the first of these national surveys was carried out.
So, although it may not feel like it, especially when you’re watching a Miley Cyrus video, we’re actually becoming more moral. Certain attitudes are becoming much less acceptable, and without realising it, I’d innocently wandered into ambiguous territory.
Perhaps because my husband and I have always known that we are in the 70 per cent, it never occurred to us that anybody would ever consider our behaviour to be a cause for concern. It was a pity the gig clashed with my birthday, but it wasn’t a problem for me. He could be trapped in a lift with Dita Von Teese and it wouldn’t be a problem for me. I trust him.
But I was still curious, so I chatted some more with those friends who thought I should be “worried”, and it turned out that the idea of a man going somewhere alone made them deeply suspicious. Apparently, if my husband had gone on a stag weekend, or done something with “the lads”, that would have been more reassuring. As though safety was guaranteed in alcohol-fuelled, kilt-swinging numbers.
But what about me, left here all on my own? Did nobody think that I might be getting up to wild shenanigans, as I celebrated another 12 months on planet Earth? Apparently not. Although we’re getting increasingly sensitive about how our partners are behaving, double standards are still rife.
A spokesman for the survey reckons these results show that more people are recognising “the importance of respect and trust” in their relationships.
Well, I respected my husband enough to let him make his own decisions, and trusted him enough to not do anything I wouldn’t do, and what did I get? An array of raised eyebrows.
Ah well, at least my man and I understand each other, which is all that matters. They say that if you love something, you should let it go free, and if it comes back to you, it’s yours forever.
Of course, if it comes back to you with a T-shirt that reads: “My husband went to Barcelona on my birthday and all he got me was this lousy T-shirt”, you’re allowed to have a proper hissy fit.