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Why respect matters more to married women than love

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As a teenager, I acted as a companion to a worldly-wise, elderly Frenchwoman, who sought to instruct me in the ways of sophisticated society. “The chains of marriage are so onerous that sometimes it takes three to carry the responsibility,” she would say, slyly.

This was in the days when divorce was expensive, difficult and stigmatised, because it upset property and inheritance rights, so some saw an extra-marital relationship as a lesser evil.

But in the final quarter of the 20th century, divorce law became more liberal almost everywhere. As we know, Ireland endorsed divorce by referendum in 1995, just scraping through by a tiny margin.

According to Diane Urquhart’s fine study, Irish Divorce: A History, the Irish had never been keen on the dissolution of marriage. Even pre-1923, Westminster usually omitted Ireland from divorce legislation. It wasn’t just about religion: it was land, money, splitting up estates.

Traditionally, women were more conservative about divorce — my mother’s generation saw it as an excuse for male philanderers to dump old wives for new models — but things have changed.

Irish divorce is increasing and women are now the majority applicants. There was a........

© Belfast Telegraph

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