Unlike Greg Wise, I don’t need constant therapy to keep my marriage alive

Emma Thompson and Greg Wise
Greg Wise says that therapy has 'enhanced' his marriage to Dame Emma Thompson - Dave Benett/Getty Images

If there’s one question that flummoxes married interviewees, I’ve noticed, it’s “what’s the secret to a successful marriage?” At this point actors, musicians, writers or politicians will always struggle – which is understandable.

It’s hard to define why any relationship works, and even if you do know, there’s a superstition around saying it out loud. The second you start preening away about how you’ve mastered the art of conjugality, you can bet your life that your other half will run off with a co-star, a backing singer or an aide.

Greg Wise is a rare exception. In an interview at the weekend, The Crown actor confidently put the success of his 21-year marriage to Dame Emma Thompson down to “therapy”.

“Whether it saved our marriage… I don’t know if we were ever going to rush off and start new lives elsewhere, but it’s definitely enhanced our marriage,” he said, adding that: “I think, honestly, for everyone it is sort of essential.”

Fifty-eight-year-old Wise and 65-year-old Thompson – who met on the set of Sense and Sensibility in 1995 – clearly have something special. But I’m surprised by the number of married friends I now have who “enjoy” weekly therapy sessions, viewing them much like dental or physio appointments: as a form of marital hygiene.

When I asked one girlfriend why she had instigated these, given there were no specific problems in her marriage, she explained that it was useful to air all the petty resentments and buried frustrations “in real time”. That coming clean about these things once a week “helped diffuse them”.

I’m inclined to think the opposite might occur, that giving minor irritations oxygen might turn them into major issues. Whoever came up with “better out than in” can’t have been married.

Greg Wise and Emma Thompson
The duo appear to be happily married, but our columnist isn't so convinced about the benefits of therapy - Karwai Tang/WireImage

And don’t we all secretly know what drives our spouses insane? In my case it’s pillows thrown on the bed, Amazon deliveries (which I am invariably not there for) and my pathological inability to remember to buy milk.

And there’s something else: what if there were some grenade hurled during a routine marital flossing session? While I might be able to deal with generalised critiques such as “you can be profoundly selfish,” how do you get over: “I hate the way you chew”?

Not only would you never be able to eat in front of your husband again, but that would stay with you to your deathbed.

With husbands, or indeed any close family member, isn’t the healthiest approach to keep day-to-day irritations buried, to allow them to mushroom like tumours within you, until some deeply inappropriate (usually public) moment when, out of nowhere and with a disproportionate level of vitriol, you’ll blurt them out?

If therapy works for Wise and Thompson, more power to them.

But I’m more inclined to agree with Sir Michael Caine, who when asked what the secret to his 51-year-marriage to glorious Shakira was, had only two words: “separate bathrooms”.