Like a lot of guys who find themselves in relationships, I’m always asking myself one thing, “How easy would it be to get out of this if I needed to?” A decade ago, my dad helped me get out of a relationship when he realised that my then-girlfriend would always screw her nose up whenever she saw me in a pair of sand-coloured desert boots she considered well past their sell by date.
With his help, I was able to extricate myself from a relationship that was dying on its knees. Banned from the then-girlfriend’s birthday bash for failing to give assurances I wouldn’t be turning up in the boots (I said I would leave the boots at home if she lost the ridiculous toe-ring), Dad persuaded me that by turning up in the boots, the relationship would come to a very abrupt end on what was a special night for her. He just needed me to trust him, he told me, and he would get me through it. And you know what, he called it right. I timed my appearance with the desert boots to coincide with her cake being brought out by one of the waiters, and she caught sight of them whilst she was blowing out her candles. I think one of her friends had to blow out the last two or three as she started hyperventilating. It was a birthday she would never forget, one that probably haunts her to this day. I continued to wear the boots for another couple of years, never forgetting that they were largely responsible for me getting my life back.
Dad taught me that in relationships you’ve always got to think outside the box. Think long term. If there’s something your girlfriend doesn’t like about you, that’s your exit route right there.
“Always have half an eye on the break up”, he’d tell me. “Don’t swap too many cds, or lend too many books. If you do, always have a friend ready who can step in and collect them on your behalf when things have come to an acrimonious end.”
But he wasn’t done there. Oh no. “Always keep the relationship on edge just in case your woman has an accident and ends up with hideous facial injuries. If that happens, you can walk away and say ‘well, we weren’t getting on anyway’”.
You would not, as Dad told me, want to be in the pub with your mates when this girl turns up looking like something off a Channel 5 documentary and plants a smacker on your lips. You want your mates to think, ‘yeah, I’d do her’.
Don’t get them used to a good thing. Don’t give them something to fall back on.
Dad’s no longer around but his spirit continues to guide me through the rough terrain of relationships. He’d be so proud of what I’ve now become.
Because of dad, because of this journey he set me on, I know not to propose to a lady if she’s diagnosed with some terminal illness. I wouldn’t make that mistake. Taking your vows in a hospice is all heartbreakingly romantic, but she’s going to die, just like Ralph Fiennes in ‘The English Patient’, and I don’t want to end up a widower who’s then got to somehow explain to my next woman that I was once married for three hours.
I’ve learnt also not to take a partner on holiday too early on in the relationship. That would be making a rod for my own back. Once the relationship settles into the inevitable mundane routine of ‘couple life’, she’d take any opportunity to hark back to the halcyon early days and how I used to always take her away. Don’t get them used to a good thing. Don’t give them something to fall back on. Keep it boring. That’s the key to a good relationship. Boring.
And if I outlive my wife, I would go easy on the eulogy. At the funeral, I wouldn’t pay too great a tribute to her. There might be women present – younger, much younger, than my late wife - who fancy stepping into her shoes, but if I went overboard on the tribute, these women would find the prospect of filling her shoes daunting. My wife might have been a great woman, but I would exercise restraint and perhaps throw in a few of her failings into the eulogy so my prospective suitors don’t think making me happier would be too hard a task. I would be aware that I would have a whole new and exciting life to lead once I get through the grieving.
I think Dad would be proud.
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