Memo to Jerry: divorce (unlike marriage) is for life

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From The Government we get nothing but depressing statistics. Children from broken families suffer far, far more, it says, than do children whose parents argue but stay together anyway. They are more likely to live in poverty, suffer from depression, fail at school and become delinquents.

From The Government we get nothing but depressing statistics. Children from broken families suffer far, far more, it says, than do children whose parents argue but stay together anyway. They are more likely to live in poverty, suffer from depression, fail at school and become delinquents.

It's a grim little sermon. For those of us already living on the wrong side of the tracks, it's not very helpful. So thank the Lord for Jerry Hall, who shocked ITV audiences earlier this week by insisting that (a) she had divorced Mick, not just for her own sake, but for her children's sake, too, and (b) it was the best thing she'd ever done. "We didn't have a very good marriage," she explained. "He wasn't a very good husband. But we do love each other. You can still love someone and not be with them and still have a family and do things with the children. Our children are happier this way. I think more people should try it."

A spokesperson from Relate was quick to issue a Tolstoyan caveat, reminding us that no two unhappy families were alike. What worked for Jerry might not yield happy results for others, in particular those "others" who were not six-foot blondes with budding theatrical careers, mansions in Richmond and £7m plus in the bank. Clearly, Jerry Hall is going to have an easier ride than most of the rest of us. But that is no reason to discount her. She still has something useful to contribute to this debate.

Or rather, she will. Right now she is suffering from a syndrome called post-divorce euphoria. It is born of the delusion that a decree absolute is an end-point heralding the start of an independent life. The delusion is exacerbated by good behaviour. Imagine, for example, if Mick had the children for the weekend just after attending Jerry's first night as Mrs Robinson. It is not so hard to imagine Jerry picking up the phone on Monday and cooing, "Darling, how nice to hear your voice, and I'm so sorry to bother you, but could you let me know if you come across a small red sock?"

But divorce (unlike marriage) is for life. Good manners wear off. Children grow older and more difficult. New lovers arrive on the scene, and often they have children of their own. Not to mention exes. Not all of them will act as if they are auditioning for Joanna Trollope, but still. Getting involved with just about any man over 30 means taking on a large number of "others", and the ones who don't like you can make your life miserable.

And how happy will Jerry be if she does less well in love than her ex does? Will she continue to be delightful about the stream of starlet girlfriends? Will she never resent their influence on her children? And how will she feel if Mick decides he just doesn't like the look of her new boyfriend and retaliates by insisting that the children go to live with him, or making her move out of the marital mansion?

And say she falls in love with someone in California and decides to move there, only to have Mick go to court to block her way. During their next conversation about that missing red sock, what changes can we expect in her tone of voice? More to the point, what effect will her change of tone and attitude have on the children in the middle? How will she feel when one of them marches in, as children do, to say that, actually, the divorce was the worst thing that ever happened to her?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to talk her or anyone else out of it. Divorce can be a positive step, not just for adults, but for children. The Jagger children will be fine in the long run, I'm sure. Jerry will still be mostly happy, and never happier than when she slams down the phone and tells the wall, "Thank God I no longer have to face that rat at breakfast!" But these luxuries come at a very high price. As she will no doubt be telling us, for years to come.

freely@rosebud.u-net.com

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