Friday, September 21, 2007

Seven year folly...

Just looking at the story today from Berlin, where controversial German politician Gabriele Pauli is suggesting a seven year limit on civil marriages to allow couples to renew their commitment round about the time of the fabled seven year itch.

Ms Pauli seems to present a coherent argument for allowing couples a natural break where they could choose to stay together or part amicably. And certainly from the biological viewpoint, it makes every sense. We humans are programmed to fall in love - ie, to make babies - in the initial stages of a relationship; but thereafter our hormones shift to create a more stable, less exciting, set of emotional connections. Seven years into an affair is one of the times where we might be tempted to break away, to seek excitement once more and wander off to pastures new.

Which is exactly why, of all the bad ideas I have ever heard politicians make, this leads the field! Tying in a renewal of commitment to the very point in a marriage where the bonds are most frail and partners are feeling most disillusioned seems to me the height of folly. Divorce is always traumatic, always a crisis life event that changes lives - for the partners involved, and for their innocent children. What we ought to be promoting at that point is not breakup but extra resources - increased support as partnerships struggle to survive, society's backing for partners to help them stay together and make it work.

For actually, couples can make it work. My work as an agony aunt in general - and my work with Relate in particular - tells me that time and again, if partners hunker down and get through that seven year watershed, they have a great chance of weathering the storm and ending up with a solid, loving and lifelong commitment.

By encouraging them not to hunker down, but to cut and run, Ms Pauli does her constitutents - and their families - no favours at all.

No comments: