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

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ice skating in George Square, Glasgow  

How many Christmas cards have you sent this year?

Simon Kelner
 

Al-Sweady Inquiry: An exercise in greed that blights the lives of brave soldiers

Richard Kemp
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser