I put it like that because although you can get close to someone, you can't read their mind. You can't BE the other person, get into their skin.
If my partner in life has ever had big doubts they've come and gone. I'm 99.9% sure there aren't any doubts at this moment in time.
I mention marriage in relation to fostering because fostering has changed our marriage.
Lots of things impact a marriage. I use the term 'marriage' to cover all types of long-term live-in partnerships, by the way.
Children are the number one influence on a marriage, it's fair to say that's a no brainer. They bring you together enormously, and push you apart a bit too. Suddenly there is someone in your house who your other half loves as much as you. You are not as important as you used to be, in your own house. You are not as important as you used to be to yourself even. You have someone in your life who is totally dependent on you, whose happiness is more important to you than your own.
Marital differences of opinion range from minor to major. Normal. If the Queen hasn't thrown a rolling pin at Philip at some point or another I'm a monkey's uncle, but they soldier on, like we all do in our relationships. We have to find ways to soldier on, mend bridges, sometimes mainly for the children (see above).
Finality is the ultimate body blow to us all, and it hits marriage hard. Each marriage has a minimum of four parent-figures looming over the partners, and they drop off their perches, dammit. And the marriage is beset. Death can snatch a child away; the hugest impact. A miscarriage is a death. Your children grow into adults, and in that sense you lose your children. Then there's serious illness, general health worries. The finality of life, when it deals us a blow, makes us re-assess our lives, and that impacts on marriage.
- Growth and Personal Development
We don't stop growing when our body stops growing. Our personalities and our take on life undergo subtle changes down the years. I sometimes look at a photo we have on the wall of us on our wedding day, and as I look into my own eyes as they were those years ago I know I'm quite different from that wide-eyed young thing. In a good way, fingers crossed, but different for sure.
I use the word 'fortune' in two ways; luck and money. They can stand alone, but can be joined at the hip. Luck plays a ridiculously large part in our lives. I've yet to meet a couple who haven't noticed that the odds against their ever meeting were a million-to-one. Someone asked Napoleon what he looked for in a man when appointing his generals and he replied "Ones who get lucky". Then there's money. Wealth doesn't mend a broken relationship, but hard times can strain a happy one.
Here's the thing: all of the above are rolled up in fostering, plus one big thing I haven't mentioned yet because it only applies to fostering.
Fostering is all about children, obviously.
There is also a finality about each foster child you take on, because the day will come when you say goodbye, for good.
If you don't grow and develop when you foster something is seriously afoot, because you are sharing your life with someone whose troubles make your own look like anthills.
Fortune is the name of the game in fostering. Fostering is Forrest Gump's box of chocolates; you never know what you're going to get next. And you receive a nice cheque every fortnight.
- Professional Support
If your marriage gets rocky, you turn things over in your mind. Maybe talk to someone close, a friend. If it gets serious people sometimes turn to counselling, though I've not heard of any great outcomes from the Marriage Guidance fallback.
In fostering you have professional people all around you who are working with you on your fostering. The foster child is their priority, that's the golden rule for everybody. Their next priority is the foster parents, and if they are in a marriage or partnership of any kind, then the welfare of that relationship comes next.
They are aware of the pressures in your fostering before they become problems. Take for example a common issue, which is that the foster child shows a distinct preference for one foster parent over the other. It's so common it's almost universal, yet the reason for it is usually very specific with each child.
We had one child who worshipped my husband and was really dismissive of me. It hurt, but I didn't want to make a thing of it, for fear it made me look like I was needy. But our Blue Sky social worker saw it coming over the hill and rode it to a standstill. Spotted it from the weekly records we have to email in, which really help by the way. Our social worker asked about it first question every time she pitched up for our monthly meeting. Made me feel so much better, and better about my other half who hadn't really twigged it was getting on my wick.
The bottom line is this; fostering is all-round good for your marriage or partnership, I can just about offer that as a promise, based on the fact I've yet to meet a couple who are in fostering who say it's come between them. They usually say it's strengthened them, as it has for us.
Fostering is also good for you if you're single, if the woman carer I meet at Blue Sky events is typical.
Maybe it's good for her relationship with herself, there's a thought.
Maybe it's good for my relationship with me, come to think of it.
Cue another mug of tea, and chew on that one waiting for the family to wake up, it's 5.30am in the kitchen and I'm up and happy, and more awake than I've ever been in life.