I watched two films recently on Netflix .
One was titled “Our souls at night “ and the other was “The Leisure Seekers”. They both filled me with wistful thoughts for reasons I will explain later but the crux of both films was that old age can be a curse or a blessing depending on whom you spend it with.
In one of the films, the main characters had lost their spouses to death and although they knew each other’s children and late spouses from a distance, they both lived alone, their children having grown up and left the small town. One day the widow knocked on the widower’s door with a simple proposal. She wanted someone she could spend her nights and maybe days with. She was quick to add that she didn’t want sex but someone she could hold a decent conversation with , share meals together with and in time probably share her day with, enjoying what was left of their time on earth. The main reason for the proposal though, was that she needed a physical presence other than herself especially at night when the loneliness was overwhelming in the house she had lived in for more than 45 years; the man thought about it for a while and agreed to the plan.
In the other film , the main characters were a couple that had been married for over 40 years. The husband had a mild but worsening case of Alzheimer and the wife had just been diagnosed of terminal cancer. They both stole away from the care of their adult children for a long dreamed about road trip to places they had visited when they were younger and places they had planned to visit when they had time but never did get around to.
I will not spoil the films by revealing more but if you are a not so starry eyed romantic like me you might be interested in watching them .
Both films especially the last one spoke volumes about the ease and comfort that comes with knowing someone for a long time, it spoke about shared glances, finished sentences, an intuitive knowing that your partner will like or dislike something. It spoke about the frustrations one feels with a partner that one may love but not like at times, about our penchant for hurting the ones we love the most , of how you can be mad, frustrated and angry at each other and still care for one another and how friendship is or should be the core of our marriages.
I googled compassion in relationships and it came up with a term “companionate marriage” which is defined by the American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 as “A marriage based on the mutual consent and equality of the partners for the purpose of companionship rather than with the expectation of child-rearing or financial support”. I further learnt that marriages such as this have been in existence as far back as the 1920s and it is growing in popularity.
According to Immanuel Wallerstein an American sociologist “It reflects the social changes of the last two decades. At its core are friendship, equality, and the value system of the women’s movement, with its corollary that the male role, too, needs to change. Partners in companionate relationships often call one another their best friend”.
The reason the films filled me with wistfulness is because if there is anything I have missed about Mr Aisi’s passing it is the fact that I don’t have anyone to grow old with and furthermore the fact that I find myself wondering if anyone would know me intimately and for as long as he did. It’s the same feeling I have when I see couples who have been happily married for long. People who have an history with one another and it makes me wonder if I would find someone like that again.
Most times when we get married, the most important things on our mind is the love or sexual passion we feel for each other and whilst passion in a marriage is a very good thing we soon find out that it doesn’t sustain the marriage . A lot of us when getting married don’t think of growing old with one another in concrete terms relating to our shared values , likes and dislikes mainly because we tend to think they will grow on us but sometimes the reverse is the case.
So what really is a companionate marriage. It is a marriage based on friendship , a deep connection between two people which transcends just enjoying each other’s company. It being comfortable with someone with whom you share the same values and ideals, it’s based on the understanding of equality and need, it allows us to be free to be ourselves even though we are part of a pair. The major feature of this kind of marriage is the fact that romance/ sex is not as high on the list of criteria as it is normally.
By this I do not mean the satisfaction gotten from sex which is huge and plays a big part in any relationship but it’s the fact that love -the feeling is largely downplayed. People who are in companionate relationship still feel passionate about one another, but the intensity typically feels less overwhelming and urgent. This type of love involves caring deeply for the other person, truly knowing the other individual, and is committed to the other person through both good, difficult and bad times. In order words companionate love, is about intimacy, trust, commitment, and affection.
The advantages of companionate love are plenty but it’s main disadvantage is that the partners may fall into a passionless rut and since we all desire love , romance and passion , the stability of the relationship may become its albatross as partners may look for adventure outside the confines of the relationship.
I will let you know that a lot of single matured women are looking for relationships such as that described above. A relationship where the main focus is friendship and companionship not necessarily a traditional husband and wife setting. I speak for myself when I say that I want a relationship where I do not have to prove my worth as a wife material or be cast in the mould of what a wife can or should be or do because I have already paid my dues in my youth and my first marriage. I am looking for marriage on terms that will allow me be me within the marriage, where the main objects of consideration will be my partner and I not our children , siblings or in-laws or the dictates of society. Where my heart safely trusts in my partner and his in mine, we both having sown our wild oats and know what our priorities in life are.
You may say I have my head in the clouds but I am beginning to hear of several of such marriages in which both partners keep their homes, have their different lifestyles, stay from time to time in each other’s homes and have the freedom of being individuals and a couple as it suits them. I know of a couple in their late 70s who though not married spoke daily , had meals together and were very much part of one another’s life with their children and relatives being aware of their relationship. Why they never officially married I do not know but when he died the man bequeathed the woman with a large sum of money in his Will stating therein she was a great source of his happiness.
I know relationships like this may not work for most people but I also know of a fact that many are considering and wishing it would be a reality for them. Whatever choices we make in our relationships the foremost should be that we spend our last days in good company .
We all deserve that much.