Marriage legally seals an emotional relationship between people, no matter if they are of different or the same gender. In the past, in cases of a divorce between a man and a woman, it was considered appropriate to tear apart the whole family even if there were children, who ended up separated.
Divorces cost money – this is a common observation. One could object that extramarital relationships also “cost money”. If you look at it from a cynical point of view, one could wonder which is more expensive, the (extramarital) girlfriend or the wife? Here one is tempted to answer: “It depends.”
The fundamental problem in a divorce is that marriage tends to be associated with the wrong ideas. Many start off with the notion that the bond of marriage has something to do with a relationship till the end of life (“until death do us part”), the wishful thinking of the “everlasting love”. This may all sound and look romantic, but very often the reality is quite different.
Keep in mind that from historical perspective marriage was intended more likely as an economic union. For example, in the distant past merging between real estates owners and land owners of rural properties could be observed. If you take all that into consideration, you can easily come to the conclusion that the economic aspects of marriage do not necessarily have anything to do with the romantic notion of eternal love. Presumably, in the previous centuries, this kind of marriage was approached more prosaically and rationally.
Too many people today, regardless of their sexual orientation, believe that marriage, in the sense of “romantic notion” stimulated by media, most certainly has something to do with “eternal love” and with “eternal sexual loyalty”. Thus, hurt and frustration stem from unmet expectations. Reality and romantic notions do not have to go hand in hand.
The sequence of events leading to a divorce often demonstrates certain typicality. Let’s say, a man and a woman get married, have two children and decide to build a terraced house outside the big city “in the nature” with a mortgage from the bank, so that the children can “grow up in a green environment”. Both spouses are working hard to cover the payments to the bank and to generate the needed income. Everyday stress is almost inevitable and the “romantics of the sex” in the relationship does not get any better. Both partners are pushing themselves to the limit, come home equally exhausted and then they have to look after the children. Financial worries with regard to the purchase of the home are also predestined.
Because of the somehow fading sexual attraction, the husband, being in the “best years of his life”, starts thinking about sexual alternatives, which are more or less easily found in his working environment.
Then, a cell phone left around carelessly provides the last push for the wife to be entirely certain that that something is wrong with her husband, something is not as it should be and hence, “something is going on”. She confronts him with the text messages or the simple phone calls registered in his cellphone. He denies everything and she doesn’t believe him. The marriage relationship, a part of the still functioning family, grows into a purely stressful situation.
The wife consults a lawyer about the possibilities and options she has, but does not (yet) know whether to get a divorce or not. The husband becomes cautious, hides his cell phone, mutes it and tries to conceal his affair with doubtful success – pure stress. The emotional relationship is put to the test – not only does the mutual trust dwindle, but both become increasingly offensive – for various reasons – and that jeopardizes the relationship. The wife is insulted by his need to have a sex life elsewhere. The husband is insulted because the wife, understandably, offends and attacks him with rage. Money is needed not only for the settlement of the property (and especially the debt), which has to be divided, but also to pay the lawyers. Divorce lawyers usually start divorce proceedings with an hourly rate which is not exactly affordable. In the worst case scenario, the end of the once romantic relationship ends in an untamable “War of the Roses”, during which both sides spend a lot of money to figure out ways of harming the opponent and feathering their own nest with their financial assets. Actions of trespass, lawsuits and criminal charges become part of everyday life.
Not only is this sad, but it is also expensive.
The unmarried mistress is a completely different story. Quite naturally, the unmarried lover receives gifts and tokens of love. The more expensive the ring, the stronger the man’s love is considered to be. Perhaps feelings can also be measured in terms of money. In the extramarital relationship, however, you do not have to get a divorce, the divorce lawyer plays no part. You probably need a lawyer only for “other disputes” caused mainly by the animosity due to the separation, which can also be compensated with money. Sometimes the principle “You will atone for this insult, therefore will have to pay!” applies.
In conclusion, we see that, when terminated, the relationship between a man and a woman, whether marital or extramarital, leads to arising money issues. Disappointment and inflicted emotional pain should be dealt and compensated with money.
However, there are other cases, too. Some people understand that money is not the most important thing during a separation or a divorce. They are likely to take into account that other things matter more in life – for example, being grateful to the partner for “some good years” and having no interest in harming them, neither financially nor in any other ways. In this situation people do not strive for an expensive dispute in the sense of a “war of the roses”. No expensive war should be waged at all. Instead, there is a sensible arrangement, so that later they can look each other in the eye.
Marriage agreements / marriage contracts cannot quite change the problem described here. According to the Austrian legislation, the legal scope for marriage contracts does not offer what people imagine it to.
One should always keep in mind that if there is an “Art of Loving”, there should also be an “Art of Leaving” – in other words, the art of civilized separation. Usually, this art is difficult to implement when anger, disappointment and emotional pain do not allow for sensible thinking.
-Text By Dieter Orthner.
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