Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Easy Way Out

Behind the somewhat flippant headline in the Irish Independent "Killing your spouse is no alternative to divorce" lies a serious article discussing the desperation that leads some husbands to choose the "nuclear option" of murder, rather than committing themselves to the mercy of a family justice system that is seen to be unfair. The system in question is of course the Irish system, but the scenarios are the same as we see on this side of the Irish Sea: fathers being forced out of their own homes, having to struggle to see their own children and, to rub salt into the wound, being required to pay for the privilege of keeping their wives in the former family home, while they live in penury. "That's what many men believe will happen if they separate from their wives. And we wouldn't be human if the thought, 'If she was just out of the picture, everything would be peachy,' didn't flit through our minds at least once", says a male friend of the article's author. "Of course", he goes on, "the difference is that most men would immediately shake that thought off... But some men obviously don't, they go for what they think is the easy way out."

The unspoken implication of the article seems to be that the system should be changed to prevent such men turning to murder. I'm not sure that it should (although that is not to say that it should not be improved). Is it really true that the idea of murdering your spouse occurs to most husbands facing marriage breakdown? I believe, and would hope, that it does not occur to the vast majority. I think it may well occur, as the article suggests, to those men who have a history of using violence against their partners - they feel themselves losing control as their partner is empowering herself, bolstered by an apparently biased legal system. Whilst every spouse murder is of course a tragedy, not least for any children involved, to change the system because of the actions of a small minority of men would be quite wrong. If the system is to be changed, the driving force should always be the welfare of the child, not the parents.


  1. If most people divorcing were honest I suspect they would admit to wishing an ex-spouse would just disappear at some point, but that's a long way from contemplating murdering them.

    I think providing compassionate and constructive services as opposed to fuelling perceptions, grievances and hostilities is the way to help most fathers (and mothers) come to terms with the emotional realities of divorce.

  2. Hmmmm, murder.......


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