Helen Mirren

Pencil Portrait by Antonio Bosano.

Helen Mirren Pencil Portrait
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Helen Mirren married American director Taylor Hackford,(her partner since 1986) on 31 December 1997, his 53rd birthday. By her own admission, marriage had never previously figured amongst her personal ambitions. On page 242 of her autobiography ‘In the Frame’, she writes about past male relationships and why she did not marry any of them:

‘I don’t mean to be flippant, but I think a part of that was that I did not need to wear the dress. Maybe a lot of women get married because they are longing to wear that big white dress and the beautiful tiara, look lovely and get their makeup done. They crave to be the centre of attraction for a day at least.

I had the opportunity to experience all that by being an actress. I had beautiful dresses handmade for me, make-up done on me, people looking at me and so forth as a part of my profession. So that particular reason for getting married was not pertinent. I was also happy not to be particularly responsible to anyone or for anyone except my work and myself’.

One of Mirren’s fellow actresses, Emma Thompson, star of ‘Howards End’, ‘The Remains of the Day’ and ‘Love Actually’, hinted in 2013 that there could be ‘other models’ for romantic happiness, since relationships are ‘very hard work’.

Speaking during a webchat for parenting website Mumsnet, the actress suggested there could be “another model that is three relationships over the three stages of your life”.

‘I do think that monogamy is an odd state, and actually I think it’s an odd state for women. I think that we’re locked into certain ideas and certain romantic ideals that have shaped our thinking about relationships for some time. And I do sometimes wonder about whether there are alternatives, and about whether our fury and rage and disbelief and horror about infidelity is quite realistic. I, of course, have got the t-shirt (her one time partner Kenneth Branaugh was unfaithful to her and the couple split in 1995) so I understand the feelings very well but I think as I get older and think about long-term relationships, I do see that they can change’.

Thompson said she had watched “lots” of friends in changing relationships, adding: ‘We all live so long now!’

‘I sometimes wonder whether, whilst there is of course a completely wonderful monogamous model, that we\‘d all love because it feels safe and secure and there\‘s probably less work than say another model, that is three relationships over the three stages of your life – Your young life, your middle life, and your late life. All I’m suggesting is that there are other models and I\‘m also suggesting that we’d been a little bit caught by the happy-ever-after ideal. All the fairy stories end when people get married and go off into the sunset, there are very few stories that deal with the nuts and bolts and actualities of serious relationships’.

She added:_ ‘I think that relationships are very hard work, that we can take our eyes off the ball very easily, I think that children can be a huge strain on relationships – it depends on what kind of relationship you have’._

Interesting views indeed and whilst I respect her right to air them, I believe they are fundamentally flawed. Thompson suggests that the ‘once only’ monogamous model involves less work. Please tell me that she’s having us on.

I read from time to time, that success in relationships is built on ‘compromise’. However, the very use of this word implies continuing to behave ‘unthinkingly in a certain way’, albeit with less frequency. The fundamental flaw in this approach is aptly illustrated by the example of two men; the first who reduces his number of weekly gym sessions in favour of quality family time, and the second who continues binge drinking whilst miraculously halving his domestic vomiting. Since, cleaning up a mess of this type is amongst the very worst tasks imaginable, reduced behaviour of this nature is not an example of ‘compromise’ but merely a curtailing of unacceptable ‘excess’. The fact that it occurs even once a week will still be repugnant to the other party.

No – in my infinite wisdom, (or should I say my bungled attempts at greater understanding), I have come to appreciate that a partner’s uniquely distinct priorities or ‘issues’ – no matter how much at variance with one’s own feelings – must be respected and accommodated.

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