For the first time since records began, married couples are in a minority in Britain. Almost half of all children are born out of wedlock, and during the recent election campaign, all three parties made a commitment to encourage traditional two-parent families and counter the damage marital breakdown is doing to our society. Predictably, none of them were in a hurry to say how they planned to do that but David Cameron thinks tax breaks for married people are the answer.
I’m scrabbling around in the old archives to recall whether the prospect of an extra twenty quid a week would have stopped my ex husband and I scratching each others eyes out and I can honestly say that it wouldn’t have made a blind bit of difference. If couples, and by extension, parents, are going to make it long-haul they need to be properly equipped. They need to know how to negotiate, how to fight fair, how to take personal responsibility, how to pull their weight and ensure that positive interactions outweigh negative ones by five to one.
They also need to be able to sustain some form of physical intimacy and affection when the dopamine has disappeared and they are both taking up more of the sofa than they did when they first met. Sex slides down the list of priorities pretty swiftly once you can have it on tap but studies repeatedly show that across all ages, couples who report higher levels of marital satisfaction also report higher frequencies of sex. And the same is true in reverse – not having sex makes people unhappy – yet how do you go about persuading couples who can’t be bothered to shag each-other that they need to invest in the physical side of their relationship? I don’t know the answer to that yet, but I sure want to find out.