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Monica Porter

Unstinting love is the real key to a happy family life

27 October 2013

It was recently revealed that Dorset is the county with the highest proportion of married couples. Based on figures from the 2011 national census, it appears that, for some reason, fewer people get divorced there. This news delighted me because my married son Adam and his wife live in Dorset and it’s great to think that their choice of location boosts their chances of a successful and enduring marriage.  Which is something I didn’t manage to have with Adam’s father; we divorced many years ago.

The biggest social shift in the past quarter-century has been the emergence of divorce almost as a norm. Yet I remember when there was still a stigma attached to it. When my younger son Nick was at prep school there were only two other boys in his class from ‘broken homes’. Through some strange, nameless process the three boys were drawn to each other and formed a separate little grouping, a sort of ‘outsiders’ club’ – subconsciously, of course.

Fast forward a couple of decades. Nick is in his mid-twenties and telling me about his new girlfriend, explaining that her mum lives in one town and her dad in another. ‘So her parents are divorced?’ I ask. ‘Yup,’ he replies. ‘Isn’t everybody’s?’ From outsider to everyman in one generation. That’s change, all right.

There’s been another change too, for me personally. In the light of my current circumstances, i.e. having a married son, I’ve been revising my whole perspective on divorce. Whilst going through it myself, I never considered the collateral emotional damage to the older generation: my parents and parents-in-law. But now, knowing how devastated I’d be if Adam’s marriage hit the rocks, I can appreciate how they must have felt.

Not least of it is concern for the welfare of the children involved. The divorcing person is consumed by what this major step means to his or her life, not fully aware of the impact it will have on the kids. I know better now. And I wouldn’t wish it on my two adorable little grandsons.

Do I regret getting divorced? Nope. I still believe it was the right thing to do. And who would wish back the bad old days when so many were trapped in miserable marriages because of the difficulties of leaving them? What’s more, the resilience of the human spirit is a wonderful thing. My sons weathered the divorce storm. Today they are contented, well-adjusted, thriving. In a family, ‘broken’ or otherwise, unstinting love goes a long way. That is the sine qua non.

A few years ago a survey found that Bournemouth was the happiest place in the UK, with 82% of people questioned saying they were happy with their lives. This too was excellent news because…yup, you guessed it. It’s in Bournemouth that Adam and his family reside. I’m beginning to love surveys and statistics.

Now I just have to figure out what it is about Bournemouth that makes people so happy. I mean, the Côte d’Azur it ain’t. As I am reminded every time I take a dip. Brrr….