‘The couple has become the central unit,’ she says.‘Once, we were surrounded by people who knew us and comforted us.
It’s a breathing space, a change of scenery and a chance to miss each other.
I’m so grateful to Geoff for helping facilitate this; I can already feel the goodwill growing between us.’For Wendy, a ‘marriage sabbatical’ appears the ideal solution.
‘I’d fleetingly questioned whether Geoff and I were going to make it. Half my friends feel the same about their partners. It’s all we needed.’The marriage sabbatical is more common in the US, bolstered by the publication nearly a decade ago of American writer Cheryl Jarvis’s seminal book The Marriage Sabbatical: The Journey That Brings You Home. (‘Another fine book on how to screw up a marriage,’ posted one Amazon reader, while another, an Ivy League graduate struggling with marriage and motherhood, declared it, ‘The hope at the bottom of Pandora’s box’.) In it, Jarvis describes her own decision to take a marriage sabbatical at the age of 48, after more than 25 years of marriage.
She spent three months on a writers’ retreat and interviewed 55 women who also put their marriages on hold, some for more than a year, to study, teach, volunteer, climb mountains, find fulfilment and refresh.
She also discovered that many others had made a similar journey.
‘Many famous married women in history have taken time away from their marriages.
The writer Harriet Beecher Stowe stayed at a Vermont water cure for one year, then returned to her husband and five children.
Artist Georgia O’Keefe spent many summers of her married life painting in New Mexico while her husband stayed in New York.
‘But after 21 years of marriage, things haven’t been good recently. Geoff comes in late and I’m at home all day staring at the end of my career.
Nearing 50, you think of the roads not taken and look around for someone to blame.
‘I’ve booked on to a Spanish course – something I’ve meant to do for 20 years – and I intend to write,’ she says.