A few of us had gone away to Sark, camping overnight and making the most of the fine weather and a friend and I got talking about the nature of relationships, marriage and the like.
The first 'thing' was in the form of a question by a friend who first made a comment that [paraphrased] 'things were simple for his parents. They met each other (fairly young) and got married.' He then asked me if and why I thought things were generally different nowadays.
Initially, I commented that it was the added stress of modern life, largely driven by the pressures of an increasingly consumerist society, saying that people were influenced by elusive, mythical images or love, perfect partners and lifestyles, all of which could be theirs for the right price and if they worked hard enough. And quite apart from that they were offered fairy tale endings at every turn only to realise these false dreams evaporate quickly when faced with the banality of everyday life.
The following day, when I woke in my tent in Sark, I switched on my clockwork radio (after a bit of winding) and stumbled upon an programme called 'Broadcasting House' on Radio 4 which was essentially on that very theme. The host was interviewing Linda Kelsey who, like Dawn French and Lenny Henry, was preparing to divorce after more than 20 years of marriage.
The discussion was very compassionate and there was no acrimony, simply a recognition that the two had drifted apart and that there was responsibility to be taken on both sides.
But the comment that stuck me most was this:
'The difference between our generation and, say, our parents generation is that we have this great sense of self-entitlement; we believe that we have the right to be happy and that if we're not happy we have to go and seek happiness, whereas our parents thought much more in terms of loyalty and longevity.'
There are of course many reasons for the shift in attitudes towards marriage and more generally what people expect out of life, but I particularly find her comments about self-entitlement and the 'right' to happiness very interesting...and challenging. I do not believe she meant it as a criticism, but it did make me realise that
'It is much more important to be content than happy... and I am much happier now for having realised that'
The interview with Linda Kelsey can be heardhere. 31 minutes in.