I saw a report this week stating that over 50% of marriages in the UK end in divorce. As I have been divorced twice myself, my own strike rate is a little higher in that regard. But I woke up today wondering if the institution of marriage is something that may one day be consigned to history.
In 1970, I was Best Man at a close friend’s wedding. The bride and groom (and me) were just 18 years old, and some people suggested that they were too young to get married. They defied the odds, had five children, and are still together today. They are the only couple I know from that time who didn’t separate, or get divorced.
I don’t suppose any of us get married believing it won’t last, or intending to just ‘give it a try’. For most people, it is a huge emotional commitment, as well as an expensive day. I didn’t get married in 1977 expecting it to last only eight years, that’s for sure. I anticipated raising a family, retiring outside of London, and celebrating my silver wedding anniversary with family and friends.
But that was not to be.
When I married again in 1989, I was perhaps more cautious and realistic, but still felt the need to show the commitment by having a proper wedding. No prenuptial agreement, and no talk of children by this time. We were both mature, and with both of us working in well-paid jobs, we could afford to live in a nice house, and enjoy a very comfortable life. But that didn’t work either, mostly because I became disillusioned with life in general, and marriage in particular. I had tried marriage twice, and failed both times. But I still believed in it as an institution, perhaps because of my background.
Even an amicable divorce can be emotionally draining. Despite having no children to consider, I had to lose half of everything I had built up over more than a decade, as well as some mutual friends, and a family I had come to think of as my own. And that happened twice. But by 1997, divorce was much easier. Some claimed it had become too easy, and couples no longer tried to work out their problems, taking divorce as an easy option. But as anyone who has been divorced can tell you, there is nothing easy about it.
In fact, I was all for the laws changing to make it easier to get divorced. When I was young, it was very difficult to obtain a divorce, and people went to great lengths to get one, including pretending to spend the night with another person, to provide grounds of Adultery. In so many cases, this left women being physically or mentally abused for much of their marriage, as they didn’t have the support, or the finances, to get divorced from husbands who treated them shabbily. Men suffered too of course. Living with domineering wives who nagged at them until any love that existed was not even a memory. So the change in the law was to be welcomed, as far as I was concerned.
When I got married again in 2009, I had learned my lesson, so took my time. We were together for nine years before we married, and both ready to share the same plans for the future. Meanwhile, the whole idea of marriage was changing around us. People could now get married almost anywhere, no longer restricted to a church, or the offices of their local council. And they could also marry anyone they liked. Men married men, and women married women. In some cases, transgender women married transgender men. Some married people that they had met online, and some from countries on the other side of the world.
It seems that marriage has never been more popular. So perhaps I have answered my own question.
But then divorce has never been so popular either…