Two children arrived, and we settled sensibly back home, counting on stability for the kids and proximity to his family. Mike’s ex-wife remarried and had a fourth child, a son who’s about the same age as our eldest daughter. It’s been complicated working around a big extended family, but I promised Mike that I’d love and treat all his children like my own. My ex? He married the girlfriend who kept visiting him. They’re still happily together and have three sons.
Nowadays, Mike and I grab weekends away, but mostly it is family time; still an adventure even if we do not travel, our numbers regularly stretching from four to seven. The older kids are now young adults, who visit as often as they can.
Our two little ones are making the jump to high school.
When Mike turned 50 in 2015, he embarked on a bit of a solo adventure. He tracked down that bike, which he’d bought but left behind, and found it still in a garage in Baku. We hope to get it home and ride again soon,
Just the two of you, lovely. That’s what people say to couples. Sometimes, if you are a bit older and starting to take trips without children for the first time in ages, they then coyly add, Second honeymoon! And you flinch slightly. But at any age, the assumption is that it will be wholly delightful to have a break face-to-face, undiluted by family or friends, for a whole fortnight.
Will it, though? Modern couples -unless they run a business together – rarely spend 24/7 alongside one another. We meet for dinner and breakfast and weekends, maybe the odd night out. (Do not say date night – that’s even worse than second honeymoon. Creepy!) Even when dual-career couples do spend time together, there’s a fair chance of different hobbies taking up part of this time: golf, Zumba, doing mysterious stuff in the garage, or hanging out with old friends – an activity your partner can’t see the point of. If the partnership is a good one, we return to our other half full of news, keen to exchange small excitements. After all, these interludes of separateness are part of being comfortable with one another. Okay, maybe we did once find gazing into one another’s eyes was enough to feed our souls, but come on! Even then there were moments when you needed a half-hour break. Modern honeymoon couples, I’m told by my spies in exotic locations, seem grateful to have separate iPads.
So what happens when, suddenly, you are thrown together full-time with nobody else to talk to, and feel you should make a special second-honeymoony effort? Will you magically rediscover the laughing girl or romantic hero you once courted? Or will you find yourself sharing a hotel bedroom – so much less spacious than your empty nest back home – with a middle-aged grump whose annoying habits you never really noticed before. Like saying Ooof! when sitting down or standing up, walking past six perfectly good cafes before being satisfied, treating waiters with a high-handed manner left over from being boss at the office, or being ridiculously frightened of narrow medieval alleys, even in foreign towns considerably more respectable than your own neighbourhood.
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