There are two types of marriages, the piggy back marriage or the marriage with two people side by side but each on separate paths. Side by siders can't piggy back, their paths can separate, often for very wide distances and then suddenly they flow back together. I know I'm one of them.
My parents were the piggy backers who never spent a night apart in their 60 year marriage. My step-dad always called mom when he got to work at the Treasury building. He died last Christmas in his sleep at 96 and my mother had a stroke when she saw his empty bed.
I preferred she did not attend his burial as her dementia had her living in the moment (like hippies) which is a good thing at 94, but she did not remember hours later about the ambulance that carried him away.
Mom stayed at her nurse's home for a month while I redid their room, gave away his clothes, prepared all the paperwork, but when she came home for Super Bowl weekend and when she saw her man was not glued to the TV watching football or snoring in his bed next to her, she had a stroke. Now one side of mom is paralyzed and she can't speak and tell us how she feels.
Just like the the spellbinding film, AMOUR, with Emmanuelle Riva and Jean Louis Trintinant who tenderly portray the piggyback marriage to a T, my mom is just there, and no Jean Louis by her side to put her to bed tenderly tucking the covers under her chin.
My dear friend in Paris, Christine, was a fabulous decorator married to handsome writer and film critic Gilles Lambert, 16 years her senior. When Gilles died of cancer at 83, Christine immediately "gave herself" brain cancer and died at 67 in the same year. She was calling his name,"Gillou," in the bed as she lay dying.
On the other hand the side by side marriage is two people following two paths often side by side and sometimes separating for work or travel and coming back together without any bitterness but with the same goal to remain independent and yet remain a couple.
My real dad's marriage to mom only lasted two years, the time to make me and the time for mom to take out too much money from his bank account to buy shoes (without permission). Dad never remarried as having a piggy back wife to call all the time was out of the question. Dad spent the retirement years spending his money on world cruises, falling in love with Machu Picchu and Victoria Falls. Mom happily found a Washington tax man who adored all her shoes, called her when leaving work for home, and let her paint for 60 years without requiring her to sell one piece of art.
You should choose early in life how you can live with a partner. Often we are not yet ready to know who we are and loose ourselves in first love.
Happiness is when you find out who you are and who you should marry. Do you love the three calls a day, "How are you babe"? Can you barely stand it or do you crave it? He loves me, he calls me. Do you turn down the offer to work on a film in Namibia because she can't come? Do you need to be half of a whole?
Do you want to be alone... but married? Do you have the confidence in yourself to say he loves me or she will accept me as I am, I just have to go to work but I can't stop work to call to say "I love you"and sometimes do you want to just sit in a cafe alone and think?
Do you put your career and finances ahead of him or her and wave your hand bye bye as you head to the airport. My advise is you can only do this if you married to a Side By Side kinda guy!
If you are a side by side couple, also be sure you are both non-rabbits. Rabbits, serial cheaters, do not do well in any marriage unless you are French and both of you can be rabbits. Choose your partner wisely.
Enduring relationships are hard but the best bet is to choose someone in this fundamental category first, before all other choices, sex, race or age, the piggy backer or the side by sider is a make it or break choice for matrimonial harmony.
Vicky Tiel began designing clothes 40 years ago in Paris and still owns a boutique there. See Vicky and her new collection on HSN and online. Her couture is available at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, and her perfumes are carried in Perfumania. Her memoir, It's All About the Dress: What I Learned in 40 Years About Men, Women, Sex and Fashion was published by St. Martin's Press in August 2011.