As readers may know, the one ground for divorce is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. This can be proved by relying on one of five “facts”.
One of the most common facts used is that the other spouse has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with them. The Family Law Protocol requires Solicitors to encourage their clients to use only brief particulars which are sufficient to satisfy the Court, but that do not unnecessarily inflame matters. Over the years I have seen a huge variety of particulars cited, from the more routine to much more outlandish statements.
I have recently come across a book first published in 1913 entitled “Don’ts for Husbands”. Some of the entries in the book have a certain affinity with the incidents of behaviour that can be seen in contemporary divorce petitions, as can be seen from the following extracts:-
“Don’t increase the necessary work of the house by leaving all your things lying about in different places. If you are not tidy by nature, at least be thoughtful for others.”
“Don’t forget your wife’s birthday. Even if she doesn’t want the whole world to know her age, she doesn’t like you to forget.”
“Don’t expect your wife to wait on you hand and foot. She is good for other things than to fetch and carry for you. If you don’t exact it, it will give her pleasure to wait on you to a certain extent.”
“Don’t spend night after night at your club, leaving your wife alone to count the hours until your return.”
“Don’t keep up a continual grumble at meal-times, until your wife begins to think that she can never please you. She will leave off trying after a while, and your last state will be worse than your first.”
Of course some things have changed a lot since 1913, and we don’t see many allegations along the following lines:-
“Don’t domineer over the servants. Unwilling service is never good, and a kind word or a pleasant smile will do wonders in the way of saving your wife from being harassed.”
Coming soon, Don’ts for Wives!
Extracts taken from Don’ts for Husbands, by Blanche Ebbutt, 1913
Image by Greene Connections under a Creative Commons Licence