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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Why DO people still want to say “I do”?


I seem to spend too much of my time in these blogs dwelling on divorce. Perhaps not surprising, you might think, for a managing partner in a family law firm? True. I won’t beat myself up about it. However, our outlook remains that we would prefer it if fewer relationships failed, more people stayed married and there were fewer children either splitting their time between estranged parents or not having the support of one of them at all.

I guess the accepted trend in recent years remains that fewer people are getting married. Statistics released earlier this year showed that marriage rates were at their lowest since 1895, with around 232,990 weddings in 2008. There could be any number of reasons behind that, not least that an increasing number of people are content to simply co-habit, the argument being: “Why the need to get married when we’re happy as we are? What will it bring to our relationship that we don’t already have?”

OK. So why do people get married then? It’s 2011. Things are very different from 30 or 40 years ago. There is perhaps less pressure to get married and it is no longer necessarily the done thing. But why DO people want to say: “I do”?

I blogged some time ago about whether people get married for the sake of the children they already have, so I won’t cover that ground again. Otherwise, I have a fairly traditional view on this. I would like to think that people get married because they love their partner, genuinely want to spend the rest of their lives with that person, bring their children up in a stable, loving home, and want that commitment captured, both emotionally in terms of the wedding celebrations, and legally in terms of the legal ties that come with the marriage ceremony.

In search of some other answers, I did a bit of (swift, web-based) research. One site that caught my eye showed two lists of top five reasons to get married: one for men and one for women. Four of the items on each list were the same. These were: the love of your partner, desire for a lifetime companion, pregnancy and (not one I would have thought of) partner choice related to someone with a similar career to you for easier adaptability. This last one aside, the others are straight-forward and not that surprising. I hate to be the cynical one here, but money might feature on a list I was drawing up as well.

The single point on each list that differed did relate to similar issues. For men, apparently, one of the top five reasons for getting married is “the wish to receive the motherly love received in childhood”. For women it is “a wish to escape from parents”. Not sure I would put these in a top five, but I think these two do highlight fundamental differences in outlook between men and women!

Whatever the reason for tying the knot, I do hope we will see a reversal of the downward trend in numbers saying “I do” at the altar. Not because I am a divorce lawyer and so rubbing my hands at the prospect of more business as somewhere between a third and a half of marriages end in divorce. It’s more because I am romantic at heart and would like to think that in these modern, fast times, some traditions endure and true love is still the main reason people want to spend the rest of their lives together.

Andrew Woolley
Family law solicitor


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Lovely sentiments Andrew - and I so agree.  My daughter has just announced her engagement and I had been wondering the same as you.  I of course do benefit from the divorce courts in terms of business, but I also wish that we could encourage people to think about learning some skills to help them through the difficult periods of their marriage so it doesn’t result in divorce.  A couple of people on my last weekend anger management course said they wished that our course material had been available to them earlier in their lives.
If we believe, and I do, that the way we express our emotions is closely related to how our parents expressed them, then breaking the cycle of unhealthy conflict resolution early in life would depend on learning new skills.  I heard on the news this week that Birmingham City Council is introducing a programme that teaches emotional expression to primary age children.  It’s been very successful in the USA.  I don’t know whether Birmingham is alone in this.  Anyone else know?
I think it’s a great idea, as long as the parents get some training too, otherwise the children will find it very difficult to express their emotions in new ways in the home.
So perhaps the long and the short of my piece is to say that it’s never to early in life, or marriage, to learn the healthy ways of expressing anger.  Don’t wait til the courts or your ex-spouse asks you to….

By Paula Backen on Thursday January 20, 2011

Great post and interesting the difference of the last point in the top 5. I cannot believe that women get married to escape their parents but I guess that some do - obviously it would not be up there. The mans last one on the top 5 does not surprise me at all. I am hoping that there will be an element of changing mind sets of people going into marriage so that they are more aware of what marriage means. I also hope that people see marriage as for life as the present time, for some, it seems to be for the right person right now and they don’t think of what for life means or how long that really is. ...

By Naomi on Thursday January 20, 2011

Great comments thanks from people who I happen to know are leading people in the fields of coaching an counselling.  I suppose it doesn’t matter much whether people get married or not but it does when there are children involved—then I think society, and us, have a right to comment and get involved?...

By Andrew Woolley on Wednesday February 2, 2011

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