This painting’s title was taken from the gist of Philip Larkin’s poem “Self’s The Man” which contains the lines:
“He married a woman to stop her getting away,
Now she's there all day.”
In this painting the woman is looking at her man and wondering why she’s married to him.
I wonder how many people have this thought about their spouse. I read an article about life’s biggest regrets (listed at the bottom of this) and near the top was staying with the wrong person for far too many years. I remember someone telling me there’s nothing lonely than being with the wrong person (he’d had three wives.) He said people’s needs change from ages 18 to 40 before reaching a sort of plateaux and the person you want at 18 is, like a tattoo, something you certainly don’t want at 40.
I’m extremely happy in my own company so it puzzles me how eager people are to get so intimately and quickly bound up with someone. I’ve heard people say, “When I got married I knew - just knew - in the back of my mind it wouldn’t work,” or “I set up home with him because I didn’t want to be the last one at home with my parents,” or “I don’t like coming home to a dark empty house so she’ll do.” I remember being surprised once when a woman colleague said to me (as we queued by the fax machine), “You need to get a girlfriend so people don’t think you’re weird.” Is that how she thought?
I remember a young temp working at the office told me she wanted to be married with three children by 25 (she was single and 18). I said she was very young for all that and asked, “What happens if the man works out to be a complete dick?” She said something like, “Well so long as he’s got one - I want a minimum of three children by the time I’m 30.” I heard about a year later that she was engaged.
I suppose its easy looking back at how naive we are when young and it doesn’t help that Nature seems to be a cruel beast. It dazzles and dazes people so they’re thrown together to perpetuate human life but doesn’t care a jot if they stay together. It doesn’t even have to wait for men and women to come into season like some animals; they can just breed all year around from young years.
When I’m out I observe couples all the time and sometimes wonder what glues them together. Usually its obvious but sometimes not. Only you know the state of your soul and partnership. I’ve known people split up and would not have forecast it.
Growing up I naively thought people were bonded by love (all those films, songs, poems, paintings all tapering down to that bubbling crucible of love) but over the years I’ve developed a poor view of love. Of all the married couples I suppose 60% are there for love and its magic. The other 40% seem to be there due to fear of being alone/the unknown, worry of what others think, fear of getting ill alone, companionship, children, money, inertia, or lack of money to escape. I’m sure if people of this group came into massive riches they depart the relationship for something better. Yes, a fairly wretched view of it all, eh?
So here’s a painting of a woman looking over her husband as he slobs on the couch. As you can see I took a photo of myself on a couch and just painted that. I dabbed in some Y fronts and bits of food about the place.
I was going to have the woman holding a drink or something but that would have been a distraction. I tried to make it obvious she was wondering why she was with him.
25 Biggest Regrets Of Life
1. Working so much at the expense of family and friendships. How do you balance meeting that short-term deadline at work and sitting down for dinner with your family? It’s tough. There are always worries. “What will my boss and co-workers think? It’s not a big deal if I stay late this one time. I’ll make it up with the family this weekend.” But the “making up” never seems to happen. Days turn to months and then years and then decades.
2. Not taking care of my health when I had the chance. Everyone doesn’t think of their health – until there’s a problem. And at that point, we promise ourselves if we get better we’ll do a better job with our health. It shouldn’t take a major calamity to get us to prioritize our health and diet. Small habits every day make a big difference here over time.
3. Wasting too much time with the wrong partner. Many open up their heart, set up home, take on massive financial commitments and have children with the wrong spouse. They more they get entangled in these commitments the more difficult it is to escape. Some feel escape is too difficult or the fear of starting again can be daunting but more long-term couples are getting divorced than ever before.
4. Standing up to bullies in school and in life. Believe it or not, a lot of our biggest regrets in life have to do with things that happened to us in grade 4 or some other early age. We never seem to forget – or forgive ourselves – for not speaking up against the bullies. We were too scared. We wish we had been more confident. And by the way most of us have also met up with a bully in our work life. Maybe he was our boss. We remember that one time we wish we’d told him off – even if it cost us our job. We usually take some small solace in hearing that that bully later on made some unfortunate career stumble.
5. Stayed in touch with some good friends from my childhood and youth. There’s usually one childhood or high school friend who we were best buddies with. Then, one of us moved away. We might have stayed in touch at first but then got busy. Sometimes, we thought to pick up the phone, but maybe we don’t have their number or email any more. We always wonder what it would be like to sit down with them again for a coffee.
6. Turned off my phone more/Left my phone at home. Many of us can’t get off our phone/email addiction. We sleep with it next to us. We carry it with us constantly. It’s right next to us in the shower, just in case we see a new email icon light up through the steamed up shower glass. We know constantly checking email and Twitter in the evenings and on weekends takes us away from quality time with family and friends. Yet, we don’t stop.
7. Breaking up with my
true love/Getting dumped by them. Romance is a big area of regret for most of us.
Maybe we dumped someone that we wish we hadn’t. Maybe they dumped us.
Most play a never-ending game of “what might have been” for the rest of
their lives. It is tough to simply be happy with the love that you’ve
found and takes away from the special moments you have today, if you’re
constantly thinking back to what you once had — which actually might not have
been half as good as we think it was.
8. Worrying about what others thought about me so much. Most of us place way too much importance on what other people around us think about us. How will they judge us? In the moment, we think their opinions are crucial to our future success and happiness. On our death beds, none of that matters.
9. Not having enough confidence in myself. Related to the previous point, a big regret for most of us is questioning why we had such little confidence in ourselves. Why did we allow the concerns of others to weigh so heavy on us instead of trusting our own beliefs? Maybe we didn’t think we were worth having what we wanted. Maybe we just thought poorly of ourselves. Later on, we wish we could have been more self-confident.
10. Living the life that my parents wanted me to live instead of the one I wanted to. Related to that lack of confidence, a lot of us get sucked into living the life that we think a good son or daughter should live. Whether because we’re explicitly told or just because we unconsciously adopt it, we make key life choices – about where to go to school, what to study, and where to work — because we think it’s what will make our parents happy. Our happiness is derived through their happiness – or so we think. It’s only later – 1o or 20 years on – where we discover that friends around us are dying and we’re not really doing what we want to do. A panic can start to set in. Whose life am I living any way?
11. Applying for that “dream job” I always wanted. Maybe we didn’t apply for that job we always wanted to because of a child, or because our spouse didn’t want to move cities. It might not have been the perfect job for us, but we always regret not trying out for it. Do you think Katie Couric regrets giving the nightly news gig a shot? No way. Sometimes you swing and you miss, but you have no regrets later on.
12. Been happier more. Not taken life so seriously. Seems strange to say, but most of us don’t know how to have fun. We’re way too serious. We don’t find the humor in life. We don’t joke around. We don’t think we’re funny. So, we go through life very serious. We miss out on half (or maybe all) the fun in life that way. Do something a little silly today. Crack a joke with the bus driver – even if he ends up looking at you weird. Do a little dance. You’ll probably smile, on the inside if not the outside. Now keep doing that, day after day.
13. Gone on more trips with the family/friends. Most folks stay close to home. They don’t travel all that much. Yet, big trips with friends and family – to Disney World, to Paris, or even to the lake – are the stuff that memories are made of later in life. We’re all thrown in to some new unfamiliar situation together. We’ve got to figure it out as a group – and it’s fun, even when it rains. We really remember trips.
14. Letting my marriage break down. Back to romance now. More people will divorce than stay together. If you ask these folks, they’ll tell you that it was for the best. They couldn’t take it any more. And, of course, there are some marriages that shouldn’t go on and where divorce is the best for all parties involved. However, if you talk to many people privately, they’ll tell you they regret their marriage breaking up. It’s never just one thing that ends a marriage – even if that one thing is infidelity. There are usually lots of signs and problems leading up to that. The regrets most of us have is that we didn’t correct some or most of those “little things” along the way. We can’t control our spouse but we can control our actions and we know – deep down – we could have done more.
15. Taught my kids to do stuff more. Kids love their parents, but they love doing stuff with their parents even more. And it doesn’t have to be a vacation at the Four Seasons. It could be raking leaves, learning how to throw a football, or cleaning up a play room together. We learned all the little habits that we take for granted in our own behavior from mimicking our parents. If we’re not making the time to do stuff with our kids, we’re robbing them of the chance to mimic us.
16. Burying the hatchet with a family member or old friend. I know family members that haven’t talked to a brother or sister for 30 years. One’s in bad health and will probably die soon. But neither he nor the other brother will make an effort. They’ve both written each other off. And there’s blame on both sides – although I take one’s side more. But these were two guys that were inseparable as kids. They got washed in a bucket in their parents’ kitchen sink together. Now, neither one will make a move to improve things because they think they’ve tried and the other one is too stubborn. They think they’ve done all they can and washed their hands of the relationship. They’ll regret that when one of them is no longer around.
17. Trusting that voice in the back of my head more. Whether it’s as simple as taking a job we weren’t really thrilled about or as complex of being the victim of some crime, most of us have had the experience of a little voice in the back of our heads warning us that something was wrong here. A lot of times, we override that voice. We think that we know best. We do a matrix before taking that job and figure out a way to prove to ourselves that, analytically, this makes sense. Most of the time, we learn later that voice was dead right.
18. Not asking that
girl/boy out. Nerves
get the best of us – especially when we’re young. We can forgive
ourselves that we didn’t screw up enough courage to ask that boy or girl out on
a date or to the prom. But that doesn’t mean that we still won’t think
about it decades later. Sometimes people regret seeing someone famous or
well-known in real life and not going up to them and telling them how much they
inspired them in our lives. It’s the same underlying fear. We
always we could have just said what we really felt at that moment.
19. Getting involved with the wrong group of friends when I was younger. We do dumb stuff when we’re young. We’re impressionable. We make friends with the wrong crowd, except we don’t think there’s anything wrong with them. They’re our friends and maybe the only people we think that truly understand us. However, we can really get sidetracked by hooking up with this group. Sometimes it leads to drugs or serious crimes. We never start out thinking our choice of friends could lead us to such a difficult outcome.
20. Not getting that degree (high school or college). I’ve spoken with lots of folks who didn’t graduate with a high school or college degree. When I met them, they were already well-known at their job. And there are many examples I can think of where their jobs were very senior and they were very well-respected. However, if the education topic ever came up in private conversation, almost universally, you could tell they regretted not getting their degree. It made them insecure, almost like they worried they were going to be “found out.” Most of these folks will never go back to get it now. Whether they do or not, they’re great at what they do and don’t need to feel bad about not having that piece of paper.
21. Choosing the practical job over the one I really wanted. I was watching CNBC the other day and one finance guy was being asked for advice on what college kids should major in today. He said: “It sounds corny but they’ve got to do what they love.” He’s right. Of course, as a country, we need more engineers, scientists, and other “hard” science folks. But, at the end of the day, you’ve got to live your life, not the government’s. There are many who think they need to take a “consulting job” to build up their experience before settling in to a job they love. Although there are many roads that lead to Rome, you’re probably better off just starting immediately in the area that you love.
22. Spending more time with the kids. I had an old mentor who used to tell me, “when it comes to parenting, it’s not quality of time that’s important, it’s quantity of time.” When we get so busy at work, we comfort ourselves knowing that we’re going to stay late at the office again with the idea that we’ll make it up by taking our son to a ballgame on the weekend. As long as I spend some quality time with him, we think, it will all balance out. It probably won’t. There are lots of busy executives who take control of their schedules in order to either be at home for dinners more or be at those special school events with the kids. Kids do remember that.
23. Not having the courage to get up and talk at a funeral or important event. I remember at an old Dale Carnegie class I attended, they told us more people were afraid of public speaking than dying. They’d rather die than give a speech apparently. Yet, when you’re close to death, you’re probably going to wish you’d gotten over those fears on at least a few occasions, but especially at a loved one’s funeral or some important event like a wedding.
24. Not visiting a dying friend before he died. I had a buddy I went to high school with who died 3 years ago. He was in his late 30s with a great wife and 3 great boys. He had cancer for the last 3 years of his life. We’d talked off and on over that time. Two months before he died, he called me and asked if I could come by to visit. I was in the process of moving and too busy with my own family. I said I’d come soon. A month later, it was clear he had days to live. I rushed to the hospital and did get to visit at his bedside before he passed, but he was a different guy from the one I’d spoken to only a month earlier on the phone. He was just hanging on. We hadn’t been best friends and we hadn’t seen much of each other since high school, but I know I’ll always regret not going to visit him earlier when I’d had the chance. What I’d give to have one last regular chat with him.
25. Being a better father or mother. There’s no bigger legacy than our children. Often, they turn out great. When our kids struggle though, there’s nothing bigger than makes us feel guilty. Yet, when they start showing signs of problems – with school, or friends, or otherwise — there’s often been many years that have passed in which we could have and probably should have been spending more time with them. No situation is ever lost though. There is always time to improve our relationships with our kids. But, it can’t wait another day, especially if it’s a relationship that’s been neglected for years.