If your marriage is way past the point of no return (aka those save-your-marriage books in the self-help section of your local bookstore aren’t going to cut it), Sarah Hampson’s memoir Happily Ever After Marriage might just be the book for you. The book’s sub-title is “A reinvention in mid-life” and if the book had nothing else to recommend it – that would probably be enough. I was, however, standing in Hampson’s shoes.
After 18 years of marriage and with three sons, Hampson and her husband called it quits. I wasn’t actually ever convinced that they were a good match to begin with, but then it’s nearly impossible to judge standing on the outside. I know this for a fact.
I liked Hampson immediately because she and I shared (albeit at different times, but not by much) a university and a degree. (We both studied English Literature at UNB.) What I appreciated about Hampson’s story wasn’t so much that it mirrored my own because unlike Hampson I never dreamed of being a bride and I married relatively late, at age 32, not young like she was. Hampson’s situation is different from mine in another important way, too: she was the leaver and I was the leavee.
I liked Hampson self-deprecating humour, her willingness to indulge in the occasional sulk and her honest accounting of her own part in her marriage’s demise.
Hampson offers her own pithy wisdom on aging and dating post-40, on colouring your hair, on the demise of the body, on letting go. It’s not going to be easy – being over 40 and along, but there are rewards to be had you just have to be open to them. That’s Hampson’s advice anyway.
When she reflects on the institution, her vision is clear not jaded.
I have lived in a marriage. I have passed through what they are now entering. I would never warn them of its dangers. Why? Its promise is so beautiful, and for many, it is fulfilled.
Reading Happily Ever After Marriage for someone who is in those self-reflective post married days is the equivalent of a cup of tea on a blustery day. Hampson’s book offers a quiet respite from the emotional storm….without milky sentamentality or bitter lemon.