Divorce was a dirty word in our family when I was growing up, almost as bad as saying bugger or bloody but not as bad as the F word. Read on for a personal experience of divorce in one family.
Life was different back then!
Looking back they seemed such innocent times; the sixties and the early seventies. The days before the Baby Boomer generation kicked in and took over with its libertarian values and the contraceptive pill gave women previously unheard of freedoms.
Through thirteen years of education at infant, junior and grammar schools I did not know one child with parents who were divorced or if they were, they kept it quiet. It seems extraordinary now but then it was the a secret that had to be kept.
Even worse than being divorced or carrying the stigma of having divorced parents was the sin of living together or as my mother usually expressed it, ‘living over the brush’. Murder would hardly have counted as a worse crime in her eyes than sharing a home and a bed without the benefit of a wedding ceremony and a ring.
There was a stupendous argument at home when my older sister announced that she and her boyfriend were going to move in together. It wasn’t as if they were feckless, love struck teenagers who had only known each other for a few months but they had been going out together for three years and were both sensible, level headed twenty somethings.
They would have got married anyway but my mother kicked up such a fuss that they decided it was better to do the deed sooner rather than later and placate her. I am pleased to report that they are still married (to each other!) 30 years later unlike me who only managed to stay married for 17 difficult years.
Trying to make it work
There was a similar fuss when an aunt - my mother's youngest brother’s wife decided she wanted out. There was much drama and many agitated family get togethers before the pair managed to resolve their differences and stayed together. Unhappily for them my uncle left some years later and my aunt died alone in hospital immobilised by MS.
The devastation of deceit
And that was not all. When I was sixteen another of my mother’s brothers discovered his wife was having an affair and had been for years. She wanted, surprise, surprise, to get divorced. My poor uncle was devastated by her revelations. Over the space of a week his hair turned from dark brown to white. One night a month or so after she told him about the affair he died in his sleep.
All too easy or too difficult
These days marriage just seems to be another dispensible commodity with less value attached to it than the ability to earn a good salary or to be seen to be driving a decent car. Indeed, at eleven years the average marriage lasts less time than a decent motor car. Is it too easy to get divorced? I don’t know. Instead, maybe, just maybe, we should make it more difficult to get married.