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Location: Barnoldswick. Nearer to Heaven than Gloria.


Post by Stanley »


At some point between 1973 and 1978 I came across the Diamond Theory of Marriage. It made a lot of sense to me then and twenty years later I haven’t changed this opinion. Basically, the theory says that at the point where two people form a partnership they must be compatible, otherwise they wouldn’t bother. As time goes on their relationship doesn’t stay the same, they both change, mature, modify their views and develop. In some cases these changes do not lead to divergence but in most cases they do. This can be seen as a force driving the two apart and, in effect, putting pressure on the relationship. At the same time there are forces at work acting as opposite pressures. These can be internal, the bonds of shared financial struggle and interdependence, the urge to preserve a family life for children, fear of failure or life alone and social values militating against breaking up that were imprinted as a child. There can be external pressures as well such as the influence of parents and friends. The theory says that in many relationships these divergent pressures increase gradually to a maximum value and then start to decrease with age and experience and the partners converge to the point where they are wholly compatible again. If you draw a schematic representation of this you have a diamond, hence the name for the theory.

There is a lot going for this. If you accept the factor of natural divergence and the opposing forces you can see an explanation for the fact that as financial pressures lessen and social mores change, lessening the stigma of separation and divorce, so many more relationships break down today than say thirty years ago. In addition, more enlightened views of a woman’s station and aspirations increases the divergence factor. Consider the case of a woman with a career who’s husband has to move in order to forward his career. Thirty years ago there would have been very little question as to whose career prospects were seen as more important. I don’t think it’s as simple as that nowadays.

Looking back, I think that Vera and I were very lucky. We had all the requisite internal bonds and external buttresses to give us the best chance of withstanding divergent forces and these proved effective for over fifteen years. It gave us the chance to rear children in a good environment and give them stable lives. It would have been nice if the Gods had given us another five years say. This would have made it easier for the children but as an eminent cleric said to a friend of mine not long ago when she was facing a similar problem, “Life is messy!” When you hit the buffers you have to make choices and that was what Vera and I did.

I have no quarrel, and never have had, with the choices made by either of us. Marriage is a fine institution and can produce wonderful benefits but it can never be more than an institution. It is essentially a gloss placed by society on a situation that already exists and has its roots of success and failure in factors which are nothing to do with a church service beyond the public commitment and the value placed on promises made by the individuals concerned. As such it can be a valuable aid to the bonding of a relationship but, if a point is reached where the strength of the divergent factors exceeds the strength of the bond, failure is inevitable. In my opinion, the biggest mistake that anybody can make at this point is to preserve the outward shell of the relationship and accept a lower quality of life. Thoreau described it well as “People leading lives of quiet desperation.” In 1978, Vera and I decided that this was not what we wanted.

I’ve re-read my description of how we came to separate and eventually divorce and on the whole I think it’s an accurate picture. If there is an omission it is because I am very conscious that not everybody is as willing as me to address what actually happened and come to terms with it. I haven’t fully described my anger at what was happening and the problems it caused me. From my point of view, I had worked hard for the better part of eighteen years as the major bread-winner to build us a life at Hey Farm. I am not suggesting for one moment that I wasn’t sexist, overbearing and had to have control. In today’s climate of thought, I was definitely not a New Man but then how many of us were? I was a product of my generation and was schooled in a hard environment where you worked or you went under. We tend to forget nowadays how hard it was. Jobs that weren’t literally damaging were thin on the ground forty years ago and Vera and I survived and prospered on levels of real income that would seem impossibly low in today’s terms. This took its toll in terms of leisure time, disposable income and standard of living but we never let it affect our quality of life or that of our children. They never came home to an empty house or a sparse table and as far as was within our power never wanted for anything. I was conscious of all these things then and my anger stemmed from the fact that due to no initiative on my part, all this was dissolving round me.

I admit to my humanity and at first blamed Vera because I saw her as the instigator of the circumstances that were ripping the family apart. However, it didn’t take me long to get past this stage and I began to ask myself what the influence was that convinced Vera that she would be better off with another man than she was with me. This is where the real seat of my anger lies, I can’t see how I can excuse Cyril Richardson for taking advantage of the situation. He certainly did and my reason for asserting this is a conversation I had with him in the engine house when he came to visit me for some reason of his own after it had become obvious that Vera had transferred her affection to him. I think that in his mind he was working on the ‘good sportsman’ principle where after you have beaten someone in a game you go and shake hands with them because you are going to stay friends and after all ‘the better man’ won. Unfortunately I didn’t see it like this and I told him in no uncertain terms that he had exploited Vera’s vulnerability, used his influence and his access to funds (he had just sold his farm) in a dishonourable way and the consequence was that he had smashed a perfectly good relationship that had every chance of surmounting its difficulties if left alone. I have to report that my anger advanced to the point where I had him by the throat and up against the wall, I think I would have hit him but Newton Pickles came in at the right moment and persuaded me to put him down. I’m not proud of that incident but I’m trying to explain honestly what was happening at the time. The last thing I said to him as he was going out of the door was that whilst he might have stolen my position as Vera’s preferred partner, he hadn’t removed my right to watch out for her interests and that if I heard one whisper of anything wrong I would drop on him like a ton of bricks.

It might have occurred to the reader that there was another side to this equation, Cyril’s wife Elsie. At the time I did consider going to see her but on reflection decided that this could do no good as it had been obvious for some time that her relationship with Cyril had collapsed and it would simply be two scorned partners massaging each other’s bruised egos. She died a long time ago and so the temptation to do this no longer exists.

Writing all this down is excellent therapy I suspect. I can see things very clearly now but I know that it took me fifteen years to come to terms with what had happened. I finally came to the conclusion that I had never allowed myself to grieve for the loss of the relationship. I buried myself in work and did some good things but I never allowed myself to think too much about what had happened. I think that the basic reason for this was that I blamed myself for the break-up and didn’t want to expose my own shortcomings. After all, it was me that induced the stress in the first place by trying to look ahead and carve out a new life for us in fields that were less demanding of physical energy and more to do with the brain. It’s not an exaggeration to say that my life was blighted. I lost my ability to trust people for a long time and it was a slow recovery. My eventual change in attitude came when I eventually realised that I was being too hard on myself and that there was nothing buried to expose.

This paragraph is inserted a couple of weeks after I wrote the above. I was right about the therapy and incidentally, so was Mo Jex, she will pop up in the narrative in a couple of years! I was talking to her the other day about the cathartic nature of the process of writing my account of the break-up of the marriage and she surprised me by saying that she knew most of it from conversations I had with her fifteen years ago! She also said there was more to come and was she ever right. I think I have finally nailed down what my problem has been for the last twenty years! I knew I was angry, I also knew that the healing process would start when I admitted that the anger existed still and identified a focus that fitted the logic of the situation. My problem was that I knew that Vera wasn’t the focus. Sub-consciously I must have worked out that if this was true, there was only one other candidate, myself. I was in denial about this because I didn’t believe that I was the perpetrator and the fact that I denied it meant that I couldn’t completely trust my motives in absolving Vera from blame because if it wasn’t me it had to be her. The logical conclusion was that I was lacking in courage or objectivity and so the fault that was causing me the problem was mine after all! I know this is complicated but read it again if I’ve not managed to make it clear. What broke the log jam was the realisation that the perpetrator was actually Cyril when he took advantage of Vera’s insecurity. There are only three protagonists and he is the only one who, I am quite sure, knew he was doing wrong. All right, I might still be rationalising and getting the wrong answer but this is as near as I have got in twenty years to it and it feels right, it explains logically all the inconsistencies that were causing me the problem and, whilst the whole world picture hasn’t changed, I feel better about it all now. Perhaps I’ve regained control?

Shortly after we had separated a friend told me that there were some fairly lurid tales circulating about me and that I should say something in my defence because my daughters would be getting a very bad impression. I said at the time, and I believe events have shown it to be a good decision, that I would do no such thing. My grounds were that the my detached family needed space to sort things out for themselves, that truth would out in the end and the time to worry about gossip would be in twenty years if they weren’t speaking to me. I’m happy to report that all my daughters speak to me, that Vera and her husband David are on good terms with me as well and that Cyril never gained any advantage from what I saw as his betrayal. There is one thing I am proud of above all else in the whole sorry affair, nobody ever heard me utter anything but praise for Vera and they never will, she was a victim just as much as I was. I get a lot of satisfaction nowadays from reflecting on the most important things in my life, they are the family we reared and the solid life we had at Hey Farm. Anyone who has had a relationship that could produce three fine daughters and six grandchildren is well ahead in the game, and how could this have been possible without Vera? It’s a funny thing but true to say that the Graham family apart is more firmly bonded than many families living under the same roof. That’s a success story!

Whilst I am looking at these fairly esoteric but none the less important matters it’s probably as good a time as any to look at what part early influences played in all this. I remember a few years ago when I was working at Rochdale Welding, a young friend of mine, David Sterricker came in and told me about the Dunblane Massacre. This was a terrible event in Scotland when a deranged man went into a school with two guns and simply mowed children down, killing many. David was very upset, he had a young family at school, and I sat him down and made him a pot of tea. After a while he asked me why I wasn’t as upset as him, he knew I had kids and also knew I wasn’t a dispassionate man. I had to think for a moment or two before I gave him an answer. I told him that what he had to realise was that my frame of reference as regards sudden death, danger and the capacity of human beings to act savagely and murderously towards each other was entirely different than his. For the first nine years of my life I had been exposed to levels of fear, violence and death that he couldn’t even imagine and during my years on the road I’d seen some terrible sights. He had never seen a dead body and both his parents were still alive. The reality of death hadn’t touched him so something like Dunblane hit him worse than me because I had more practice.

I really do believe that anyone brought up during the war was de-sensitised to a certain extent, it was a natural defence to what was going on around us, nobody counselled us and ‘post-traumatic stress’ was way in the future. We had to deal with the reality of the world using our internal resources and this induced a certain toughness of approach which can be disconcerting to younger people who, thank God, haven’t been so exposed. I remember Janet, my youngest daughter saying something to me last year when I was staying with her in Australia. She told me how frightened she had been of me at times when she was young and that sometimes she saw the same hardness and it still frightened her. She was obviously very upset just by the memory and it gave me pause for a good deal of thought. I realise that incidents like this force me back on the back foot and I have to start defending myself but after giving it a lot of consideration I am sure that much of what she feared then, and obviously still does now, is the result of scar tissue from pressures in childhood that we should never have been asked to bear. Earlier on in this memoir I was talking about the load that people like Bill Robertshaw and Ernie Roberts were still carrying round 50 years after the Second World War finished. They had a far more concentrated dose of stress than we children had but we may have to carry the consequences further into the future.

As I write this memoir I become more and more convinced that there should be a government health warning attached to writing life stories. This paragraph is added three months after I wrote the above and I have had very good evidence that the process of examining your life is an excellent form of self-therapy. I realised earlier this week after conversations with Janet, Susan and Margaret that there was one influence on my life that I have never really analysed. This is the fact that I was bullied at school. I have always remembered the bullying and who did it to me and it still makes me angry to think of it. What I hadn’t done was connect it to other events. The first thought that came to me was that it was the reason for a terrible pain I used to get in my side first thing in the morning before I was due to leave for school. The pain was real but I am convinced now that the reason for it was rejection of school because of the bullying.

Thinking about this led me to form a definition of bullying and it seems to me that it is a situation where someone denies you control of your own life. I’m sure that I have always attached too much importance to control and I think it may stem from the fact that I was bullied. In a strange way I shy away from this explanation not because I don’t believe it is true but because it smacks of an excuse or a defence against criticism from my daughters. I’ve had a close look at this and on the whole don’t believe this is the case. It is simply the nearest I have ever got to an explanation of traits in my character that I don’t like. Who knows, in a few years I might come up with a different theory. For the time being though, I am satisfied and feel comfortable with what I have come to.

None of us is perfect and perhaps the best dividend of all this introspection is the fact that I am more tolerant of other people’s foibles, even my daughter’s! I think that what we have to report is progress.

Stanley Challenger Graham
Stanley's View
scg1936 at

"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!
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