Research shows the impact of unhappy marriages on health. Sometimes it’s better to walk away than to stay
“Mend it, don’t end it” has long been the conservative mantra governing many a struggling marriage. But now, the research we’ve long needed to shoot a cupid’s arrow through the stultifying notion that any marriage is better than none is here.
Divorce, miscarriage, career knock-backs – the big moments in life often come through crisis and make us who we are, so don’t airbrush them out, says Elizabeth Day
A few months ago, I spent an evening sitting on the sofa in my flat, cropping my head out of a series of wedding photographs. It was a fairly surreal experience excising my smiling face from the pictures taken outside the chapel. It was not something I had ever anticipated, because you don’t think about divorce when you’re walking down the aisle. You don’t imagine it will happen to you. You don’t believe that one day, you will be digitally altering your wedding photographs so that you can sell your mermaid-style gown and long-sleeved lace bolero to a stranger on eBay.
And yet this is where I found myself. The dress had been hanging in my wardrobe for three years since the end of my marriage. It had been pressed up against the winter coats, shrouded in its dry-clean carrier, and although I tried to forget about it, I never could. The dress took up residence like an unwanted tenant, a constant reminder of my failure.
I am, I suppose, objectively successful. But it doesn’t always feel that way
You’ve shown courage and impressive resilience – have faith in yourself, says Annalisa Barbieri. It’s going to take time to rediscover who you are
I am a 68-year-old woman and separated from my husband four years ago, after being married for 42 years. We have children and grandchildren. My ex-husband was a serial adulterer but this time I was so hurt and angry I had the strength to ask him to leave.
Our marriage had not always been easy and we didn’t communicate well; I had often felt lonely. There was a lot of acrimony in the divorce proceedings. I shouldered the burden of sorting things out, including selling our home. I don’t feel I was being difficult – I wasn’t looking for any more than our finances to be halved, but he thought I was being controlling.
A friend’s marriage has broken down after she discovered her husband was having an affair. He offers no financial support, or help with their children. Should I get involved?
A friend of mine is married to an old school friend, and they have two small children. She discovered he was having an affair two years ago, and his refusal to acknowledge the hurt and betrayal of this has led to the permanent breakup of the relationship. He is now barely supporting her, although he earns much more. He won’t do school runs as his job is “too important”.
He’s now living with his parents and has little contact with friends, hardly any of whom know what caused the split. He is making her move out of the apartment they shared, and forbidding her new partner having contact with the children. The question is, should I be helping her find a pitbull of a lawyer, or is it a) advisable and b) morally OK for me to talk to him in the hope of making him realise what his awful behaviour is doing? I am afraid he might take it out on her if I approach him, but I can’t help remember what a reasonable and lovely person he was previously. Part of me hopes he might wake up. Am I wasting my time?
Introducing a no-fault system for divorce would free partners from apportioning blame for the breakdown of their marriage
This week has seen the unedifying spectacle of a wife who wishes to exit her marriage, Tini Owens, taking her fight to be able to do so to the highest court in the land. Many have questioned why the state should have any say in such personal affairs. In England and Wales, there were about 107,000 divorces in 2016. The legal test for whether someone is entitled to a decree of divorce is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. That must be established by reference to one of five grounds, two of which – adultery and unreasonable behaviour – are fault-based. About 60% of divorces are based on one of those grounds.
There is a groundswell of opinion that it is time the law changed so that fault-based divorce need not be the norm. Lady Hale (who presided over the Owens hearing this week), the outgoing president of the high court’s family division, Sir James Munby, and Sir Paul Coleridge of the Marriage Foundation are among high-profile supporters of change. The family law organisation Resolution, of which I am a past chair, has campaigned on the issue for years. The fact that Tini Owens has not (so far) been able to prove that her husband’s behaviour has been so bad as to meet the legal test and remains locked in an unhappy marriage, adds weight to these views.
Hugh Owens does not consent to dissolving his marriage so Tini must return to court for the third time. No-fault divorce would cut conflict between couples, say family law experts
The strange case of Tini Owens, who cannot escape her loveless marriage, comes before the UK’s highest court on Thursday as pressure grows to legalise no-fault divorce.
Owens, 67, who lives in Worcestershire, has applied to overturn a ruling by the court of appeal that her union with her husband Hugh, 79, a retired mushroom farmer, has not broken down irretrievably despite her having an affair.
The current process for ending a marriage is demeaning and painful. Owens’s experience of a contested divorce shows it’s time to overhaul the law
In many ways, the case of Owens v Owens is not exceptional. The couple married in 1978, built a prosperous business together, bought property and had children. However, Tini, 66, and husband, Hugh, 78, have lived separately since 2015.
What is unusual is that Mrs Owens’s petition for a divorce has been contested by her husband – something that happens in just 1% of divorces. In this case, Mr Owens refutes the 27 allegations of his “unreasonable behaviour”. More unusual still, Mrs Owens’s divorce petition has been rejected by the high court and the court of appeal, where she was told that her husband’s behaviour was “to be expected in a marriage” and that “parliament has decreed that it is not a ground for divorce that you find yourself in a wretchedly unhappy marriage”.
Dress from a charity shop, no cake and a midweek ceremony – but don’t think my second wedding is a joke
We arrived, my betrothed and I, at the register office to give notification of our marriage. It was the last possible moment we could have done it, because my divorce took so long to come through and his was so long ago that he’d lost the piece of paper. It was also the emergency walk-in morning, so everyone else needed an urgent death certificate, or was a too-old baby who’d missed the registration deadline. Tensions were high and everyone seemed on the point of tears, because they were bereaved, or they were seven weeks old.
I gave notice here the first time I got married, when the registrar was a Guardian reader and said merrily, “Well, I can’t see anyone coercing you!” I was hoping we didn’t see the same guy, though I’m sure they have a protocol for that, like waiters in restaurants when you go in with different dates on consecutive nights.
I observe the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle with a profound fellow feeling
The youngest wants to dress as a member of WICKED, which I think is the best idea I’ve heard