As St Valentine turns up to warm the cockles of our hearts once again, thoughts invariably turn to warm fluffy bunnies, doves cooing in harmony, flowers, chocolates and lots and lots of love. Which is all well and good... just as long as marriage doesn't figure anywhere in this lot.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm all in favour of partnerships, I just think they should be based on a deep comradeship, harmony, chemistry, humour - NOT a contract stipulating that all these things stay intact long after the icing has melted on the wedding cake.
The rate of divorce in this country is currently a staggering 42%. That would seem that, of all those dreams so keenly shared and expressed in front of crowds of people in too-tight shoes and bored children, a good four out of ten are, basically, a fraud. Not intentionally, but a deception, nonetheless.
Not because they didn't have wonderful intentions at the time, but because they signed up to staying together, even if those intentions were tested by financial worry, changing interests, bedroom boredom or just... life.
So, instead of maintaining this ridiculous system forcing so many people retrospectively to defraud the church, each other and themselves by breaking a contract that had lifelong responsibilities, let's update the framework a little to something a bit more accommodating and reflective of 21st Century ideas.
One big argument for marriage still is the legal security it provides, when one partner falls ill, or dies, or has to move to another country - and this is the big battle cry for gay partnerships to be put on an equal footing with straight ones.
One devoted gay couple I know weren't able to move to the country of their choice because of this strange chasm in permits. A shocking display of inequity and discrimination, but this seems to me an argument for updating permissions, paperwork and visa forms for all partnerships - gay and straight - instead of trying to shoe-horn civil partnerships into the same category as the current out-of-date marital practices.
Why don't we all just have a nominated +1 for appropriate occasions - hospitals, holidays, wills, that we can move around like an extra party on our car insurance? It can be the same person for a week, or for life, but it can be as refreshed as the people we are within ourselves, or like to think we are.
The 58% who do make it along the rocky road post-marriage without offing to a solicitor have my admiration, but many also have my suspicion. The ones who are happy, I'm completely willing to believe, would be equally happy without the contract to keep them there, and I'm scared the ones who are unhappy are sitting it out through fear, laziness or, worst of all, not wanting to break the vows they made in honourable fashion on that happy, sunlit day when they were a person they no longer recognise in the photos.
Personally, if someone's going to stay with me, it would kill me to know, or ever to wonder, if it was because a yellowing piece of paper, curling up at the corners, tucked away in the drawer, inflicted on them a lifelong sense of duty and accountability they had long since stopped enjoying. Without this albatross in the room, at least I know it's because they still vaguely like me, think my joke (singular) is still funny, and my DVD collection tolerable. Happy Valentine's Day!
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