Editor’s letter: In praise of difficult wives

I think it was on our 17th wedding anniversary that I wrote in a card for my husband, ‘I don’t know how you stand it.’ It had the desired effect in making him laugh but for me the joke was funny because it’s true. I can be bad-tempered, I’m prone to catastrophising and getting hysterically worried about terrible, imagined scenarios that may never happen, and then it’s his job to spend hours listening and calming me down. I’ve always had jobs that often involve tense, shouty phone calls at unsociable hours of the night. I often launch into my favourite ‘hilarious’ anecdotes which he gently points out I’ve already told him 25 times before. He’s a vegetarian and I really like frying fish. I tend to leave my shoes wherever it is I happened to have been when I kicked them off my feet. Seriously: I think I must be exhausting.

This is why I very much relate to our cover star Ruby Wax this week when she tells Louise Gannon that she thinks it must be hard being married to her. By her own admission, she is, as my daughter would say, ‘a lot’. Her big, bold hurricane of a personality, coupled with well-documented mental health struggles, is a combination that she readily admits can be challenging.

So I’m fascinated by how she and her husband Ed have found their own ways of really making it work. More recently, it seems that involves living miles apart from each other. I think the current fashionable description is ‘living apart together’. Next year she will go travelling without him. For how long, she doesn’t know. I’m sure this distance between them would raise eyebrows in more conventional households. But what I’ve learned as I rapidly approach being with the same man for 30 years is this: in any long-term relationship, the people you were when you got together are not the same people you are now. You’re both shaped by growing, ageing, by the decades of experiences you have as individuals and as a couple. Some relationships can weather that push and pull, others can’t. I don’t know what the secret sauce is, other than just accepting it as part of the process of being together.

In a long-term love, you do lose that giddy glow of romance, where you can’t imagine being apart at all, ever, let alone living largely separate lives like Ruby and Ed. But you gain something better: a deep bond, shared history, the respect and understanding you need to let a person you love live their own life as well as the one with you. I remember our columnist Liz Jones looking aghast when I told her I think the key to an enduring relationship is compromise. I’ve watched younger colleagues look at me with a mix of pity and horror when I say marriage can have weeks of being boring, or that sometimes you really must plan a (wink wink) ‘date night’ or it’ll never ever happen. You just know they’re thinking, ‘Shoot me if my relationship ever gets like that.’ But if you’re exceedingly lucky, you will get exactly that kind of bond, the kind that no problem or distance can break. This is why Ed and his difficult wife Ruby’s arrangement feels hopelessly romantic to me. Enjoy the issue.

Editor’s picks

Nomad NoéEven rebels like a candle. Candle, £55, Nomad Noé, selfridges.com

sole bliss trainerComfort and platform joy. Trainers, £179, solebliss.com

Beck bagIt’s my favourite colour – I was powerless to resist. Bag, £250, shopbeckbags.com