Sarah Sands: Realism, not romance, keeps you in a marriage

Share
Related Topics

Like Russia, marriage is a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. It can be the source of the greatest human happiness and the cause of its greatest woes. My position on the institution is one of the purest moral hypocrisy. I believe in the sanctity of marriage and its social virtue. I am also happily divorced and remarried.

It is quite common to hold these two opposing views. For, rather like abortion, we deplore divorce in principle and find it useful in practice.

The Matrimonial Causes Act, 150 years old this month, was a masterpiece of liberal legislation. The William Wilberforce of slavery within marriage was a woman called Caroline Norton, a beaten, humiliated wife who lobbied for the right to be free. Until she did so, women were the property of their husbands, with no legal standing.

Many Conservatives regard the Act as a textbook example of the unintended consequences of liberalism, the beneficiaries of this passionately moral piece of legislation being the frivolous and the cynical, as well as the deserving.

A forerunner of the Human Rights Act in this respect, the Matrimonial Causes Act and its amendments means that you can now divorce without stigma or blame. Yet when an option is made easier, people are inclined to take it – whether it be a university subject or a state benefit.

The English have acquired a hearty taste for divorce. Rates have increased over the years to an annual average of about 155,000. That means 310,000 more people parted every year, their tears and anger spilling into schools, streets and police cells. The breakdown of marriage has been the greatest single cause of the country's social disorder.

It is interesting that it is the Conservatives, the party of individualism, which has been prescriptive about this. Divorce is like vaccination. Should you risk your own personal wellbeing for the greater social good? Or think, sod it?

It is true that the young, among whom divorce rates are highest, are disproportionately casual about marriage. The main causes of disputes are irritation and frustration. As Kate Nash sang in "Foundations": "You've gone and got sick on my trainers/I only got these yesterday/Oh my gosh, I cannot be bothered with this..."

But I am still optimistic about the gravity of marriage vows. If marriage is so demeaned and so easy to get out of, why does it still exist? It remains the highest human aspiration. Agony aunts may warn the young against an over-romantic view of marriage, but I can think of nothing more hopeful than unblemished innocents pairing off like swans.

It is romance that gets you into marriage, but it is realism that keeps you there. The report that 59 per cent of women would leave their husbands if they could afford to did not alarm me.

It is sensible to consider the economic consequences of divorce. You spend, say, 10 years building a home, only to smash it all up like a sandcastle. Most say they stay for the sake of the children. Good. But it is a reassuring lie that children "just want their parents to be happy". A stable and comfortable home is a much higher priority.

In other words, there is no logic to divorce. It makes you poorer and your life far more stressful. It inflicts misery on the very children you are programmed to protect. The spirit of Caroline Norton's reforms holds true. But you are a bloody fool if you think you can leave a marriage lightly. The foundations of your future happiness are built on a fault line. Divorce itself, however quick and blame-free, is Hades. What sanctions can a government inflict that are worse than your conscience?

React Now

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

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Take a moment to imagine you're Ed Miliband...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Letters: No vote poses difficult questions – so why rush?

Independent Voices
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments