Have you ever been to a wedding and on the surface, everything has been perfect? The venue, the dress, the food, the guests all look gorgeous; the bride and groom are blissfully happy, and their bridesmaids and flower girls with baskets of posies are enchanting? Could you, for example, imagine a better start to any marriage than the stunning, funny YouTube Wedding Entrance Dance (above)? Isn’t it fabulous? Isn’t the music wonderful? I don’t know whether or not that couple is still happy, but I certainly hope they are. They deserve to be, with friends and family like these.
In other cases, fortunately fewer in number, do you have that feeling that something isn’t quite right? Do the bride and groom want the same things for one another? Do they have similar goals and values? Do they come across as a couple who will stick together through thick and thin and, in 50 years, be celebrating their golden wedding?
When a divorcing couple finally meets up in the divorce process, whether at a meeting or in court, it’s amazing to me how most appear to have absolutely nothing in common with one another. There is nothing about them that makes them seem as if they could ever have been a real-life couple. It sounds awful to admit but sometimes, at a wedding, that is exactly how I feel about the bride and groom.
Don’t get me wrong: there are many marriages I attend that I am certain will remain rock solid. But there are others about which I have been less certain – and the outcomes have been sadly predictable. Unfortunately, as I don’t seem to have been proved wrong yet, a word to the wise: it might be better not to invite me to your wedding if you don’t want a candid opinion, by which time it will be too late.
I recall acting for one bride who expressed considerable misgivings and wanted a prenuptial agreement in place. When I suggested that she might be better off not getting married at all, her parents both piped up that they had spent too much money on the wedding for her to back out. Three years and one child later she returned – and that prenup was successfully enforced.
So why do some couples get married at all, when they have so little in common with one another? They are chasing something, but are they chasing the same thing? Are they blinded by lust? Lust is a powerful emotion, but it fades. Marital breakdown occurs when the couple who should never have married realise there is nothing left to save.
There is another, similar type of lust: the lust for power.
The General Election and a hasty wedding
In this latest General Election, we appear to have voted for the people, rather than the party that we want to represent us. Given the background – politicians’ sleaze, the nightmare of the recession, ordinary lives ruined and healthy businesses and jobs that collapsed overnight – if we didn’t like you, we chucked you out, or you never even made the cut. If we didn’t want you, we got rid of you; if we did want you, we returned you to power. The outcome: a genuine People’s Parliament of our chosen legislators and government.
However this has created a problem. Because we voted for people and not parties, there is no overall majority. So in order to govern, two of the people who lead our parties must now dive headlong into an arranged marriage.
In my view, such a marriage has no prospect whatsoever of success. No marriage succeeds when the partners have nothing in common except lust, be it physical desire, or the hunger for power.
What is particularly satisfying about this situation is that for at least 15 years or so, I have been fed up to the back teeth with politicians grabbing headlines by stating that married couples in broken relationships should be stuck together with some sort of “magic glue”. It is clear to me that in truth, such a couple should never have married in the first place. By the time the decision to divorce is made, there is not the remotest prospect of resurrecting the relationship.
Experienced professionals in the field, including family lawyers, have been roundly criticised when we have sought to reform divorce legislation with dignity and speed. Despite the many sound arguments there has been no legislation for swift, economical, pain-free divorce. For millions of couples and their children who live together rather than marry, nothing has been done. Instead, we learn of plans to raze the family legal aid system, remove whole areas of family law from the court system and bring back failed legislation – the Family Law Act 1996 – to force couples in clearly broken marriages to stay together.
Will their “magic glue” stick?
How amusing it is that the politicians have now, unwittingly, become divorce lawyers’ very own experimental guinea pigs. The politicians are going to demonstrate to us how the most predictably disastrous marriage can be made to work… They will show us how to stick together through thick and thin and if heaven forbid, the unthinkable happens, how to end the marriage.
But (ahem) presumably a split will happen only after months or perhaps years of a “period of reflection” such as that recommended by MP Iain Duncan Smith’s Centre for Social Justice think tank. You will recall that during such a period, the parties are powerless to get on with their lives, but are encouraged to get back together again and are expected to go through a compulsory “mediation” process.
That is the type of situation in which certain politicians would be only too happy to land real-life couples in real-life divorce cases. Now they have the opportunity to demonstrate how their proposed initiatives will work perfectly.
That’s the theory, anyway. But what do you think will happen in practice..?