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Does the perfect marriage exist?

Byline: CAROLINE BARRETT and CHARLOTTE SELIGMAN

-TITANIC star Kate Winslet shocked the world last week by announcing that her three-year marriage to Jim Threapleton is over.

-Everyone thought Kate, 25, and film director Jim, 26 - whose baby Mia is 11 months old - had the perfect marriage. But divorce is now certain. So does the "perfect" marriage exist? CAROLINE BARRETT and CHARLOTTE SELIGMAN talk to three young wives...

NO: IDYLLIC LIFE WAS ALL A SHAM

SEXY shopgirl Joyce Edwards seemed to have it all - a loving husband and two beautiful boys.

Friends thought they were the ideal couple. But the marriage was a sham and they were both living a lie.

Heartbroken Joyce, 32, says: "We argued like cat and dog at home - although to the outside world we had the perfect marriage.

"You hide it because you just don't want people to know you have problems."

The couple fell in love after meeting in a pub in Liverpool. Joyce married Roger, 38, an accountant, a couple of years later.

Joyce recalls: "For a while we were really happy. We travelled a lot. Once in Portugal we had a specially romantic time. We had a villa with a pool. It was very secluded. One evening we were drinking outside. I sat on Roger's lap and we began kissing.

"He unzipped my dress and it wasn't long before we were rolling around on the grass by the pool. It was warm and we had sex three times. We woke up in each other's arms as the sun came up. I thought it was the perfect marriage, I really did. And my friends used to tell me how lucky I was. But after our second son was born the arguments began. I started to resent the fact I was at home with the kids while he could go out to work.

"We ended up rowing about anything and everything. - from whose turn it was to cook or drive to who should pay the phone bill.

"We just found that everything we said to each other irritated the other. And if we weren't shouting at each other we were sulking over some stupid, petty argument.

"We became strangers. We'd go days without talking and we were so miserable.

"For a while I put on a brave face, but my heart was breaking. In the end, while with a friend, I broke down and told her. After weeks of pretending everything was OK, it was such a release to tell someone.

"Roger and I split up a week later. We had been married 10 years.

"I know people were shocked when they heard about Kate Winslet's split. But I did exactly the same. I told people I was happy, when I wasn't. It's very difficult to admit your marriage is over. You feel such a failure."

Joyce does not believe there is any such thing as a perfect marriage.

She says: "Perhaps I've just been unlucky - but when people think they've found their soulmate, after a year or so they can no longer disguise the cracks.''

NO: BUT DESPITE THE FLAMING ROWS HE'S MY DREAM MAN

BLONDE secretary Tanya Engelbrecht rows all the time with her husband Wern.

But she knows she has found the man of her dreams - and couldn't live without him.

Tanya, 25, who wed 23-year-old office manager Wern 18 months ago, says: "There isn't such a thing as a perfect marriage.

"But even though we argue like crazy it doesn't mean we don't love each other or won't spend the rest of our lives together.

"It just means we're human and being honest with each other. If everything ran smoothly all the time it wouldn't be a real marriage.

"We are two individual people with different minds and it's healthy to argue with one another."

Tanya and Wern clicked straight away when they met in a London nightclub.

And like Kate Winslet and Jim Threapleton, they married after dating for just six months.

She says: "The one thing that attracted me to him was his explosive personality and the fact that he stood his ground.

"I'm exactly the same, so obviously we've had some great arguments since.

"One time when we were driving in the car we started bickering about our plans for the next evening.

"It was as simple as that. But it caused an almighty row. In the end I got him to stop the car and I stormed off. It was 10pm and I was fuming. Our house was two miles away but I was determined to walk back even when it started raining.

"Wern kept coming back for me but I just shouted obscenities. I finally arrived home, all wet and dishevelled. I'd forgotten what the argument was about but I was determined not to back down.

"We didn't speak the next day but when I got in from work Wern had cooked me a really nice meal.

"We started chatting and that was it - we had made friends.

"After six months of us being together, Wern took me to an expensive hotel in London and proposed over dinner.

"I said Yes straight away. He was the man for me - and I wanted us to spend the rest of our lives together.

"I'd previously been in two long-term relationships. But I felt so differently about Wern that I knew he was the one.

"The night he proposed was so romantic.

"After celebrating with champagne, he told me he had booked a room at the hotel.

"We were both quite tipsy by then and couldn't wait to be alone.

"We started kissing as we unlocked the door. But when we shut it behind us we were ripping each other's clothes off. Wern led me to the bathroom, where a huge Jacuzzi was bubbling.

"We had the most fantastic sex in the water - and stayed there for several hours.

"Afterwards, with both of us wrapped in big fluffy white towels, we fell asleep in each other's arms."

While Tanya and Wern - of Enfield, Middlesex - enjoy a passionate relationship, she insists it's the turbulent times that makes their marriage work.

She says: "Our friends and relatives know how good our marriage is - even though they know it's not 'perfect' because we argue.

"Mates often ask me for advice on what they should do - and most of them say how jealous they are of our marriage.

"When Kate Winslet used to gush about having the 'perfect' marriage, I always had my doubts.

"It's not possible to live with someone without having a spat now and again.

"You have to work at a marriage and that involves understanding each other.

"I'd hate it if Wern agreed with everthing I said and he feels the same.

"We're both different characters and you should never lose that - even when you get married."

YES: IT'S HEAVEN ON EARTH FOR US

DEBBIE Freeston was only 17 when she fell in love at first sight.

A year later she was married - and it was the best decision she ever made.

For waitress Debbie and her husband Ian have been together for four years now and she reckons that their life together just keeps getting better and better.

Debbie, now 21, says: "I met Ian at a club. People might think I'm too young to know what I'm talking about, but Ian and I are soulmates and best friends.

"Even three years on we've not had a massive row. We may argue for a minute over the tiniest thing, but it's never about anything important."

Debbie, of Spalding, Lincs, adds: "We both crave stability and we love coming home knowing someone else is there waiting for us - that's what keeps our relationship alive.

"I never thought I'd marry at all because I always got bored easily and couldn't commit to a relationship.

"But then I met Ian and was instantly smitten. I knew being with him felt right. I can't tell you exactly how, but I just knew he was the one for me."

In fact, they first made love within a week of meeting each other.

Debbie recalls: "There's a little pub down the road from us and Ian and I went for a few drinks. But all through the drinks we had other things on our mind and we couldn't wait to get back to Ian's flat. He took me by the hand and led me up the stairs to his bedroom.

"We couldn't wait to get our clothes off. Our love-making was so passionate. It was so intense I knew it was more than just sex."

Four months later stock controller Ian, 28, proposed. Debbie says: "People used to see us touching and kissing and say we looked like the perfect couple and how well matched we were - and they were right.

"Every married couple faces pressures. People would be lying if they said they didn't. But our relationship has got better.

"We've learnt so much, we've become more tolerant and appreciative of each other. We're more together now than ever."

And she is absolutely adamant that marriage CAN be a perfect way of life.

Debbie says: "I take my vows very seriously. If you don't, what's the point to it all? People like Kate give up far too easily when they hit a tough patch.

"They've got a baby to think about. They should be working at repairing the marriage.

"If they do that, they may find they have a pretty perfect relationship after all."

FAST FACTS

-NINETY-eight per cent of marriage proposals are made by men.

-SEVENTY per cent of the 144, 556 divorces last year were first marriages.

-WOMEN are now initiating 78 per cent of divorce proceedings.

CAPTION(S):

SAD SPLIT: Star Kate; SPARK OF LOVE: Tanya believes arguments with Wern keep marriage alive Picture: SIMEON FRANCIS; SOULMATES: Debbie and Ian Freeston; HEARTBROKEN: Joyce was living a lie
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Sep 9, 2001
Words:1647
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