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  Europe
The Family Way — Divorce
By Shane Clarke
London Correspondent
The Family Way — Divorce

A UK study by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that almost half of marriages end in divorce. Figures revealed that 45% of couples will split before their 50th anniversary.

This paints a pretty black picture of modern family values. It used to be that divorce was a rarity, but now it’s as common as buying a new car. It seems couples are not willing to work at marriages anymore, and instead choose the easy way out, regardless of whether there are children involved or not.

It is these children who suffer the most. It doesn’t matter how much a couple tries to protect them from it; they cannot protect them from the fact that mommy and daddy aren’t together anymore, and that when they go to bed, only one of them will be there to kiss them goodnight. While the parents argue and fight, the child has to get used to only seeing one of them (usually the father) at weekends, if at all, when they used to see them every day. It must be heartbreaking for them, but everyone is usually too busy fighting over the CD collection to notice.

That’s not to say that couples should stay together for the children. Some marriages are so tempestuous as to be psychologically damaging to everyone involved, making divorce a blessing rather than a tragedy. There are cases where a couple will actually get along better for being divorced, and can share custody of the children and generally try to make the best of a difficult situation. Unfortunately, however, these cases are the exception rather than the rule.

Most of the time, the decision to divorce is made by one of the partners. This inevitably leads to heartache in the other person, and then begging and pleading, promises of better to come. If that doesn’t work, it is usually followed by anger and bitterness, and an overwhelming desire to harm that person who just a short time ago was the love of their life.

There are many reasons to divorce. Some of these are financial problems, infidelity, domestic violence, perhaps irreconcilable differences. Sometimes it’s something as simple as one of the partners “getting a better offer elsewhere”. This is arguably one of the cruellest reasons of all, because the left-behind partner has usually done nothing wrong, but is tossed away like a used tissue anyway, often with that legendary condescending phrase – “It’s not you, it’s me.”

One woman, who we’ll call Carol, spoke of the day she watched her mother pack her things and leave: “I was twelve,” she said. “Mom’s new boyfriend was waiting outside in his flash car while she hurried around the house, grabbing stuff she wanted to take with her. My younger sister was almost hysterical, crying and begging mom not to go. My older sister tried to comfort her as best she could.

“My dad just sat there, staring off into space. There were tears in his eyes and he looked so utterly devastated…I’ve never forgiven my mom for that.

“Well, she said her goodbyes. She kissed my two sisters – which obviously set the younger one off again. She tried to kiss me, but I just turned away.

“I watched her through the window. Her boyfriend got out of the car, opened the boot and helped mom put her stuff in. I hated them both at that moment. I hated him for coming along and breaking up our family, and I hated my mom for letting him.

“I didn’t speak to my mom for about six years after that. I just couldn’t bring myself to. Then she sent me a card for my eighteenth birthday with a letter in it saying how sorry she was for what she’d done, how she never meant to hurt anybody, and that she wanted to see me and blah, blah, blah.

“I was going to just throw it away, but my dad said no. He told me that – no matter what – she was my mother, and that we only get one, and I should try to work things out with her. I couldn’t believe what he was saying. I couldn’t believe he could be so forgiving when this woman destroyed his life. He has honestly never been the same since she left.

“I did meet up with my mom eventually. We had a coffee and cake in the town centre. She cried when she saw me, and tried to hug me, but I backed away. She apologised for what she did and then started trying to justify it, but I just stopped her and said I didn’t want to talk about that.

“I stayed for about half an hour. The conversation was just small-talk really. I felt uncomfortable and wanted to get out of there. The first word that had popped into my head when I saw her was ‘slag’, which doesn’t exactly make for a good start.

“Anyway, that was just over four years ago. She’s still with that bloke, although he was never as flash as he liked to make out; it was all on debt. I wish I could say that my mom was miserable and regretted her choice – there would be some justice in that – but I can’t; she’s happy.

“I see her about once a month now. My attitude to her has thawed a bit, but I still keep a distance between us. I don’t think my relationship with my mom will ever be the same as it was before she left. Something died in me that day she walked out. My whole outlook on life changed, and I’ve never felt really secure since. I feel that you can’t be certain about anything – or anyone. No matter what you do, if someone wants to go then they will, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Carol is engaged to be married now. She talks lovingly about her fiancé and seems genuinely optimistic about their future together. However, you can’t help sensing a hint of cynicism, as if at the back of her mind there are no expectations of them growing old together; more a case of her enjoying it while it lasts. Perhaps this is the real tragedy of divorce; the lasting effect it can have on the children. Perhaps divorce itself is a self-fulfilling prophecy – people are entering into marriages these days with a deep-set expectation of divorcing one day, making it inevitable.

It’s a damning indictment of the modern selfish, cynical society that people enter into marriages these days not with images of celebrating golden anniversaries surrounded by their grandchildren, but with plans for how they will split assets when they face each other in divorce court. The clearest illustration of this is that aberration which is the pre-nuptial agreement. This is a contract that says, “I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you, but I know that’s not going to happen and that we’re going to be divorced one day and I just want to protect the assets I have going into this marriage.” How romantic; perhaps these people shouldn’t actually buy wedding rings, but lease them with an option to buy if they’re still together when one of them dies so that they can be buried in it.



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Shane Clarke serves as London Correspondent for The Seoul Times. He has been involved in humanitarian work for numerous years. He’s also a freelance management consultant. Having completed an honors degree in Law at Wolverhampton University, he then moved on to an MBA at Warwick Business School. He’s heavily involved in the fight against international parental child abduction to Japan.

 

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