Watching the shipwreck of the Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce court case has made me feel guiltily relieved that, at the age of 42, I haven’t yet married. The operatic scale of the disaster makes it appear emblematic of all the other couples who make each other unhappy all the time in smaller, less dramatic ways. That two people can bind themselves together for life, raise five children together and yet remain so emotionally unintelligent about each other and the world in which they live says several things to me.
It makes me think that they may have got married for the wrong reasons, most likely because they were young and ambitious and, in conventional terms, marriage makes you appear more successful.
It also suggests that the expectations they placed upon each other at the outset were too high and that, when faced with the reality of marriage the return, in terms of fun and support, was too small: their marriage failed. Hillary Rodham and Bill Clinton’s marriage looks like a paragon by comparison – whatever the personal indiscretions of either, they remain supportive of each other and in the end that must count for a very great deal.
And more broadly it also makes me concerned that Huhne and Pryce were both so successful in their fields that it is a poor reflection on our society. By which I mean that they are clearly idiots. I’m sorry if that sounds uncharitable, since they and their blameless family have all paid dearly. But still.
The word is that marriage is supposed to be for your whole life. And yet look what this mother has done to her children, the heart-breaking texts of her youngest to his father. Look at what this father has achieved with his philandering. Why did he marry someone whose views on infidelity were so wildly different to his own, for goodness’ sake? Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce built a huge mansion of a dysfunctional marriage and then one of them made it so much a part of her identity that when it failed she felt justified in doing anything.
What’s more, Pryce’s friend Judge Constance Briscoe QC, who has been appointed to sit in judgment on others for a living and is therefore considered to be in tune with our social norms, felt there was justice in supporting Pryce’s cause when a true friend would have counselled restraint. So it concerns us all.
Life these days can be a very long thing, if we’re lucky. It’s possible that old-fashioned marriage was never intended to last a human for sixty, seventy, maybe even eighty years. So some realistic sense of what people can expect from each other is surely to be wished for: a feeling for weakness, a compassion that transcends ego, an ability to be usefully strong and to reinvent one’s idea of strength repeatedly.
Being single can be slightly lonely and slightly dull at times. But one can always go out and, brass tacks, at least I don’t have to live in a house with someone whose sense of reality I don’t share and who tries to make me do things I don’t want to do. It’s not that I wouldn’t enjoy the companionship: I don’t own a cat either – though I’ve thought about it – mainly because I haven’t yet given up on people enough to stay home. But a realistic sense of what you’d like from a long-term relationship is something to be wished for devoutly. Maybe it’s to do with getting older, but looking back on the people I’ve been out with over the years – many of whom were terrific and many of whom remain my friends – I’m glad I never really bought the fairytale and usually had the wit at the time to realise that they would, in the long run, drive me bonkers. As Vicky Pryce was driven bonkers.
Emma Hartley runs a music blog called The Glamour Cave.Tags: Chris Huhne, Marriage, Vicky Pryce