“When you marry your mistress you create a vacancy” the late great philanderer Sir James Goldsmith is reputed to have once quipped. During my professional career I’ve had cause to quote Sir Jimmy to many a second wife in floods of tears after they discover that their philandering husband has found yet another woman to entertain. “How could it happen again?” they ask, “Didn’t we go through enough when he divorced his first wife?” Apparently not.
Leopards never change their spots, and neither do those men, those players who seek secret thrills and pleasures away from the marital home. It’s actually the mindset of the women who marry them I don’t understand. They have often bagged their man in the same way – beginning an illicit affair, after which they’ve both divorced and set up home together, the woman at least under the impression that her charms will render him impervious to other women. And for a time that may be the case. But then along comes another…and those men find it all too easy to succumb to temptation yet again.
Emotional involvement can make fools of us all.
In divorce, however, there is always a payday, and second wives are all entitled to a financial settlement. Ironically, in many cases it can be a bigger pay off than the first wife received, even if the marriage was shorter. Second wives often get to enjoy their husband during his heyday, unlike first wives, who may have struggled with little to show for it with a man who hadn’t yet made it to the big time.
So should we be surprised at the current media furore surrounding the President of France and reports that he is once again enjoying the pleasures of life with another? Not at all. Some may say it’s because he’s French and the French are known for their attraction to the ladies. But surely its more basic than that – surely it’s simply because he’s that type of guy?
François Hollande never married his former partner and mother of his four children, the French Socialist politician Ségolène Royal, but that’s apparently only because both of them considered marriage “too bourgeois.” Neither did they enter into a PACS (Pacte Civil de Solidarité), a common law cohabitation arrangement which exists in French law. They did live together however, from the late 1970s until 2007 when Ms Royal finally asked him to leave following his liaison with journalist Valérie Trierweiler, now his current cohabitee, and since he became President, the First Lady of France. Quite a title, one that Ms Royale never had.
Like a real life French film however, reality has since become more complex and Mme Treiwaller is currently unwell in a Paris hospital as a result of the shock caused to her by the news of his relationship with French film actress Julie Gayet.
But why? Didn’t she ever think history might repeat itself? It’s fair to say that clients who find themselves in the same boat often find the situation even harder to accept than wives experiencing their husband’s infidelity for the first time. Some bitterly describe it as payback for what happened to the first wife, while others feel genuine incredulity that it could have possibly happened to them, after all they went through during the first divorce. All the feelings lawyers recognize as typical symptoms of marital breakdown kick in – shock, anger, bitterness, rage, but even deeper and more painful those experienced by first wives.
And the situation is even worse for Mme Trierweiler. The couple are not married, so now her own position is open to free for all debate across the media. Not just on the potential permanent loss of her man, but because she has no legal status in the eyes of the law, no power base to argue from. If any relationship in the world demonstrates the absolute power of marriage, it is this one. Had she been married, her position would have been unassailable. As it is, Mme Trierweiler can be required to pack up and leave the Élysée Palace at any time.
To the world’s media, gleefully anticipating François Hollande’s next escapade – will he move one girlfriend in and the other out? – this story is the stuff of the most glamorous of soap operas a tale that could never have been foreseen. But for the world’s divorce lawyers, it was all so predictable. The woman who took her chances with him and now finds herself completely unprotected lacking the protection of marriage may see this story as something closer to tragedy.
Marriage, so unfashionable, so “bourgeois”, might even have saved the President of France from himself and damage done to his country’s reputation.