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Family Law Blog

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In the end, to split is human

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There was an interesting column in the Guardian last week which has got me thinking a lot about the real reasons behind relationship break-ups.

In it, columnist Zoe Williams suggests that there is no great myth behind why people – and especially celebrities – split up. This is not a creation of “Broken Britain” nor are pampered celebrities more likely to get divorced than anyone else. It is simply the case that it is normal for people to fall out and break up. Those managing to find someone they genuinely want to stay with for the rest of their life are simply in the minority.

Blasphemous as it may seem, I believe there is a lot to this notion. If you look at the statistics which suggest that one in three marriages break down within three years, it is simply a reflection of the length of relationships people have earlier on in their lives when they decide they are not with “The One”. Apparently three years is the average time for a relationship in our twenties before marriage.

Getting married doesn’t automatically mean that a couple should then experience lifelong bliss. We are perhaps simply not programmed that way. Going through with a marriage ceremony does not lead to some palace of wisdom about how relationships can be maintained. There is no secret book given out by the vicar or registrar which married couples keep hidden under the bed to refer to when things get tough.

Some married couples will stay together longer “for the sake of the kids” but this doesn’t mean they have a successful marriage. Nor does it necessarily mean it is good for the children.

Marriage is not easy and people break up whether they are married or not. Those are the facts. Break-ups can be blamed on everything from financial worries to not feeling fulfilled in their life. But if excuses like this were a significant root cause of separation, would not more celebrities stay married? Certainly, looking at Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes who announced last week that they are to split, both are financially secure, have successful careers, lovely children and the luxury of being able to take chunks of time off work to spend with each other. So those excuses do not apply.

So rather than tutting and shaking heads at couples who announced they are splitting up or divorcing, should we not sooner offer a consoling word and all the help we can give as they join the vast majority who discover that sometimes relationships just don’t work, no matter how hard we try?

Andrew Woolley
Divorce solicitor

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