Janet Street-Porter: If only more couples could be as honest as Gwyneth and Chris

Marriage is a practical solution to bringing up kids and finding companionship, but if it doesn’t work out, don’t beat yourself up

Share

Supreme Court judge Lord Wilson of Culworth, an expert in family law, says that marriage is “an elastic concept, entirely capable of embracing people of the same sex”. Easy divorce had resulted in many more remarriages, leading to “blended” families. In a speech last month entitled “Marriage is made for man, not man for marriage”, Lord Wilson talked about the “uncomfortable mismatch” between vows taken in church and the high rate of divorce, reflecting that every era and every culture produce a different version of marriage.

Today, we shed partners and move on, and guilt is a thing of the past. The number of couples who cite adultery as grounds for separation has halved in the past 40 years, replaced by “unreasonable behaviour” – just one step away from no-fault divorce, which we seem too timid to adopt in law. About 39 per cent of marriages end in divorce (the highest in the EU, which averages 26 per cent), but couples married since 2000 seem to be better at staying together, partly because they are older, and also because many have lived together first.

We sneered at Gwyneth Paltrow’s pompous statement about her “conscious uncoupling” from Chris Martin, but she is only reflecting a trend: that it’s better to cut your losses and try to stay friends when a relationship has ended and there are kids and property involved. Gwyneth is a product of the Me generation, every aspect of life documented on a website to “help” followers emulate her charmed existence. Although she presents her separation (and subsequent joint holiday with the kids) as a modern solution, in fact she’s just following everyone else.

Emma Thompson said last autumn that monogamy is “an odd state” for today’s women. I couldn’t agree more. Why we pretend that one version of marriage will suit everyone, I can’t imagine. The judge is right. It must be an elastic concept that adapts to suit our lifestyles. Religion and dubious concepts of morality should not come into it.

Marriage is a practical solution to bringing up kids and finding companionship, but if it doesn’t work out, don’t beat yourself up. This whole notion of “making sacrifices” to stay together is a load of cobblers. When it becomes about adapting and blending on that scale, look for an exit. Life’s too short to suppress your true personality.

I’ve divorced four times. Each marriage was the right decision at the time I took the vows. They just ran their course. I’ve never had kids, just partners who were projects – demanding, difficult, inspiring and very annoying. When we talk about domestic abuse, there’s a very subtle form which starts with your partner telling you that no one else would “put up with” you. It’s brainwashing.

You’ll probably never find Mr or Mrs Right, but you might find someone who is fun for a while. In fact, three million more of us live alone now compared with 10 years ago. At least Gwyneth and Chris have had the guts to admit they are better apart. If only more couples could be this honest, it would be better for the kids and far better for adults.

When people tell me I’ve “failed” at marriage, I point out that I’ve “succeeded” in spending most of my life living with seven men and deserve a medal. When prenups become law, expect the divorce rate to soar because breaking up will be easier and hopefully cheaper. My friends who have stayed married say it’s a struggle. But some would be better opting for “conscious uncoupling” and spending the final third of their lives alone.

Give England another chance, Jan

What’s got into Jan Morris? The acclaimed travel writer told an audience that England “depresses me greatly”, adding that “it’s become such a nasty country”. At the Oxford Literary Festival last week she added that politicians were materialistic, the police corrupt and “the public seem to think only about spending money. Kindness is not there any more.” She described the Last Night of the Proms as “embarrassing”.

For God’s sake, Miss Grumpy Drawers, lighten up. I might offer to take you to the X Factor musical I Can’t Sing! because its sheer silliness is guaranteed to put a smile on anyone’s face. Morris describes herself as half-English, a Welsh nationalist and republican, claiming she is making no more public appearances. She’s competing with our other super-opinionated senior, Vivienne Westwood, who recently revealed that she doesn’t wash much – “just bits” – in order to save water.

Could Jan’s demeanour be the result of prolonged exposure to Welsh weather? I’m also half-Welsh and spent every summer holiday there as a child. Six weeks of unbroken rain combined with a diet of laver bread ensured that I looked forward to the autumn school term in London, even if it meant minor bullying and a horrible uniform.

England is fabulous, Jan. The Last Night of the Proms reduces me to tears, and I’m never happier than walking across the moors in a gale. I’ve been to Venice and the Himalayas, and give me London every time. I ran into another opinionated senior, Yoko Ono, the other night in a great neighbourhood restaurant (A Little Bit of What You Fancy) in Hackney, before she performed a secret gig. Yoko loves England. Jan, let me show you what you’re missing.

The defence brief could do with a woman’s touch

Listening to Defence Minister Philip Hammond on the radio the other morning was the aural equivalent of Complan – utterly anodyne. Isn’t it time we joined the trend for female defence ministers? There are now five in the EU, yet we have Mr Mogadon opining on how to respond to President Putin’s aggressive posturing.

Women definitely have a different approach. Under Defence Minister Ine Marie Eriksen Soreide, the Norwegian army is adopting unisex dormitories following successful trials. The women said they felt “part of a team” and incidences of sexual harassment dropped. Last summer, the Norwegian army allowed male troops to grow their hair long, as long as it was securely tied up. Vegetarian food is served on meat-free Mondays, to reduce the army’s carbon footprint. In military spending, Norway is ranked seventh per capita in the world, and troops are deployed to Libya and Afghanistan. I can’t see Mogadon Phil going for meat-free Mondays, can you?

Can’t cook, won’t cook – but will watch it on TV instead

MasterChef is back, with Gregg shouting at John that “cooking doesn’t get any tougher than this”. I’m still having nightmares after my stint in the celebrity version last summer. I recently judged some famous contestants in the new series when they were being secretly filmed, and I felt sick for two days afterwards. Sadly, you won’t see the yucky results until later in the summer. Now we can watch would-be serious chefs “deconstruct” dishes. In the current series one bloke tried it with beef Wellington, only to be roundly abused.

Fans love MasterChef, and when I reached the final the feedback was tremendous. So I can’t understand why we cook less. New research shows that in 1980 we spent an hour toiling over dinner, whereas now it is just 34 minutes. Our favourite evening meal is a roast, followed by pizza, sandwiches and then Indian food. No filo pastry, no steamed sea bass, no fish pies. On average, we cook only four different recipes.

Jamie Oliver sold 117,000 copies of his 15-Minute Meals in just one week, so what are we doing with all these manuals? Seven million people watched Bake Off in 2012, but the skills on screen haven’t translated into anything more substantial than a boom in sales of pastry tins at Lakeland.

Twitter: @The_Real_JSP

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Forget charging by the page - with books, heart matters more than heft

Katy Guest
George Osborne likes to think of himself as the greatest political mind of his generation  

Budget 2015: It takes a lot of hard work to be as lucky as George Osborne

John Rentoul
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'