No shame in divorce, Louise…it is your past but not your future

JAMIE REDKNAPP is going to be a dad again, for the third time, with his Swedish girlfriend Frida Andersson.

And all I’m wondering is how is his ex-wife Louise feeling? “Knocked sideways”, someone has quoted.

Once they really were considered the dream couple, solid as a rock with more than 20 years of togetherness under their belt and two adoring sons.

They were a stunning couple. Louise, I’ve always considered to be one of the most beautiful women in the world.

She may have instigated their divorce but she has since spoken in interviews in tones of contrition and regret.

It’s as if she has, at times, struggled to get past the end of her marriage, despite it being her choice to extricate herself from it.

It is as though she sees the end as a failure, something bad and wrong.

But why should she? Why do so many people whose marriage collapses think like this?

The narrative we use when a marriage ends is naturally very negative. We use words such as “failure”, “breakdown”, “collapse” and all it does is perpetuate an image of defeat.

We label it as a failing and it makes us inadequate because we have “botched” something up.

I keep hearing this negative talk and have come to realise that the end of a relationship or, indeed, a marriage should not be deemed a failure.

We need to change the narrative about divorce. Sometimes it is no one’s fault and divorce can be accepted as a good thing — and yes, even something to be celebrated.

I’m here as someone who flies the flag for both marriage and divorce, as you might imagine.

I’ve got three of each up my sleeve and I will confess it doesn’t feel great to know that the “failures” of my marriages are what amounts to my personal track record.

But my approach is a paradoxical one of pragmatism and romance.

I remain a believer in the institution of marriage, no matter how hypocritical that sounds nor how badly it sits with many of you.

As a product of divorced parents perhaps I should have been considerably more cynical, but for some reason I am a proponent of dedicating your life and love to someone else.

However, times and lives evolve, and sometimes devotion is just not enough.

I experienced marriage from an early age. I was 23 when I married for the first time.

I thought life would just unfold for me in the best possible way and I felt confident I could find compromise and understand whenever it did not.

But it didn’t work out that way. I was young. I was also unfaithful. And most fundamentally, I didn’t know who I was at that age. I had yet to discover myself.

That first divorce, as the mother of a one-year-old son, was grim financially, legally, parentally. I was scared and felt a failure. And I had the eyes of the world watching me.

I let my first husband down and I had no excuses for my behaviour, although I had some excellent reasons: Selfishness and naivety.

What I did was foolish and hurtful and I vowed I would never travel down the route of infidelity again — predominantly because of the pain it caused others but also the turmoil it created in my soul.

But if I had held on to that narrative of failure for the rest of my life, I would never have moved forward. It’s unlikely I would ever have believed in love again and given it another go.

As I get older and occasionally wiser, I come to the realisation that to err is human. But more importantly, sometimes mistakes are not made, sometimes love ends, dedication peters out, people change.

Especially when it comes to marriage. So it’s crucial we change the conversation to a more positive one. We need to talk about divorce.

We need to embrace its existence and accept that with 42 per cent of marriages ending in divorce, and with us living longer, we are considerably more likely to find ourselves in multiple serious relationships.

It’s fact. No matter how uncomfortable this is for the Christian Right, who do not believe in making divorce easier because it would somehow make a mockery of marriage, we need to make the untying of the knot more simple, less stigmatised and a more supported rite of passage.

There is a lack of self-determination about divorce, made worse, I suspect, by the fact that the State has the right to arbitrate.

This sounds absurd when you consider it’s merely two people who have come to the end of a road.

It’s an emotionally fraught time sometimes complicated by the presence of children or many years together.

A time when you might be at your emotional nadir but when you need the most strength — and in marches the State to meddle and stipulate.

And society throws in its two pennies’ worth about guilt, dereliction of duty, incompetence and shortcomings. Little wonder it brings people to their knees.

I would love it if the Government would speedily implement the no-fault divorce laws (hopefully this October).

And I want us, as a society, to start a more positive discussion surrounding divorce to make the process a less burdensome one.

Not one that is so painfully partisan and biased or instructed by unreasonable emotions.

My three divorces left me feeling damaged, flawed. Not by my desire to free myself from relationships that no longer fitted me, but by society’s perception and the whole horrend­ously punitive process itself.

So, I hope Louise and all the other divorcees out there, male and female, can unchain and emancipate themselves, believe their divorce is their past and not their future.

Cummings like a jilted lover

DOMINIC CUMMINGS’ return to the limelight like some kind of self-proclaimed whistleblower after his shameful trip to Barnard Castle to check his eyesight mid-pandemic, reminded me of so many situations.

It triggered memories of previous relationships where you think everything is going OK, just tickety-boo, with the other person content to tootle along, rubbing along just fine.

Then one day, a small issue rears its head and suddenly you’re deluged with truth bombs and recollections from the other person about how they NEVER agreed with you on this, that and the other.

How they had seen things differently all along.

How they hated every minute of what you forced them to “endure” – while all along you foolishly thought you were both just “enjoying”.

It’s like a shocking realisation of the true passive aggression of your other half who throws you a curve ball, making you question every single moment you’ve ever shared together.

Making you question your entire approach to life, your outlook and your perspective. Making you mistrust and paranoid.

Cummings’ betrayal is the worst of its kind.

I’m not denying there are things the Government got wrong over the past 14 months.

But to have Cunning Cummings play along – and lie – as if he was the other half of a married couple while all along privately making notes for his planned appearance at the divorce courts, must cut deep for those closest to him.

Especially BoJo, who defended him to the hilt when the country turned on him.

Worth remembering there is an overwhelming arrogance that possesses people who are capable of behaving in this way.

They are narcissistic plotters who have no real intention of being part of anything meaningful, but rather were in it for the glory of being able to say: “Could have told you so from the start”.

Put the R in it

IN my 42 years in this country I’ve yet to hear a politician of any colour pronounce the word SECRETARY correctly.

As a privately trained secretary myself, this drives me insane.
Just on Wednesday, the Leader of the Opposition, SIR Keir Starmer, left, a former Queen’s Counsel, called Matt Hancock, the “Sec-et-ary of State”.

Please, people. There’s an “r” in it.

Just like in February.

Hidden risk of racism

IN the week that marked a year since the killing in America of George Floyd – whose name is now synonymous with the Black Lives Matter movement – we witness a young girl, under the influence of alcohol, refused entry to a drinking hole in Birmingham, opt for the lowest common denominator: Allegedly calling the bouncer the N word.

Those around her didn’t appear to bat an eyelid.

What hope then of the next generation – of which she is one – understanding white privilege and that racism is very much alive and kicking in all our towns and cities, in our schools and in our offices.

I recall, a few years ago, proudly telling one of my Ungratefuls – who is an obsessive social justice warrior – that I just “don’t see colour”, meaning I don’t notice if the person in front of me is black or white, because so ­fundamen- ally tolerant and egalitarian am I. I thought.

I didn’t have time to pat myself on the back before she interjected that my whole sentence was troublesome.

She told me it made me racist because it means I don’t see the problem.

The unconscious bias is hard to shed overnight, despite me having best friends and former partners who are black.

But you’d hope this next generation would be smarter and sassier than a dinosaur like me.

There are times one has to be grateful for social media hopefully shaming racists (drunk or otherwise) like never before.

But who will take them aside and explain their ignorance and vile behaviour? I’m happy to send my young daughter.

Don't aim for crappy to be happy

SCIENTISTS at University College London say they’ve found the answer to happiness.

Apparently, the secret is to lower your expectations.

They got 18,000 people to take part in a game on an app and noted the risks players took and assessed their expectations and happiness levels.

What they discovered – no s***, Sherlock – is that if you lower your expectations you’re more likely to be in for a positive surprise.

Well, excuse me. That’s how I’ve lived and spent my entire life, lowering my outlook and possibilities.

Telling myself, pinches thumb and forefinger together, that THIS is all I want.

I don’t need big or fancy or amazing. Just THIS little amount of whatever, to make me happy. And it’s exhausting. And painfully unrewarding.

Because no matter how low my expectations are, the reality always falls well short. I still don’t think I’ve found happiness.

And time is running out. What do scientists know anyway? What have they ever done for us?

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