The washing line – an analogy for long-term relationships, shamelessly in time for Valentines Day

11 Feb

A family of fourI was at a brilliant wedding this weekend just gone. It was really touching to be part of such a joyful celebration, and it got me thinking about marriage; and not just marriage, but any long-term committed partnership between two people, whatever the nature of the vows or the spectacle, or otherwise, surrounding their taking.

So I spent a lot of time yesterday and this morning trying to figure out the best analogy for working through life together, and making it work. Now I’m a renowned old romantic – honest guvnor – so naturally the idyllic concept upon which I lit to describe my views on long-term commitment and what I believe it takes to work out is… a washing line.

Yup, I honestly think that alongside the rose, the diamond and the heart, the washing line deserves to feature as one of the most romantic symbols of long-term togetherness.

A fair enough question is ‘why’, and I suspect it will be the question posed to me by my own partner in washing line display when he’s read this. So here goes.

Committing to someone and navigating a long term partnership is like being two shirts hanging on the same washing line. The washing line is the marriage. The shirts are the people. This took me ages. They hang through harsh winds, shiver in snow and bask in the sun, together, on the same line (yes, I have anthropomorphised the shirts; yes, I am assuming this is the washing line of someone like me, who prioritises – wrongly – other things when the washing’s out and it pours with rain. But if neither of these things take place, the analogy fails. So bear with).

Sometimes, during the harsh winds or the snow one sleeve may become detached from the line. The peg of connection, you see, comes loose. One shirt is adrift from the line of the commitment. Then it’s a question of two things: how tightly the other peg holds; or (and I accept the analogy falls slightly at this point, but it is rough-hewn) the shirt-owner (or shirt-carer) comes out and reaffixes the peg to the line, so the shirts hang tight again. Stretching it (analogy, not washing line), one could say – and rest assured, I will – that the shirt-owner /carer is here an embodiment of the determination to sort things out, when things have gone wrong.

I haven’t gone much further than that on the washing line idea. I don’t necessarily know if I can, but as a concept, it does work for me. Whether or not it works for my other half, I’ll soon find out, but to give him his due, he does tend to take responsibility for the washing in our household…

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