The Marriage Foundation’s first national conference, “Modern Marriage: Myths, Realities and Prospects” was held on February 15 and was sold out two weeks before the event!
The conference explored the prevalence of myths around the concept of marriage, and the choices that people make as they form and dissolve relationships.
The speakers included Paul Coleridge, Baroness Deech (Chair of the Bar Standards Board), Professor Rebecca Probert (Warwick), Professor Anne Barlow (Exeter), Dr Brienna Perelli-Harris (Southampton), Ayesha Vardag (Vardags Solicitors), Deborah Jeff (Seddons) and Harry Benson. See the programme and some pictures of the event here; find links to the individual speakers and their papers and slides here; and reports and comment in the press here.
Baroness Deech, Chair of the Bar Standards Board, gave the keynote address in which she said: “We live in a world where we are encouraged to take care of our own and our children’s health: we are constantly admonished to take exercise, eat healthily, wear a cycle helmet, study the side of the package, stop smoking, recycle, combat global warming, brush our teeth, control our drinking habits and have health checks. But when it comes to the one issue that does more harm to the next generation than any of these – the absence of the father of the family – there is a conspiracy of silence. . . . It is time to place marriage issues up there along with climate change, poverty and peace as a topic pre-eminently relevant to the present and future happiness and health of all people.”
Professor Rebecca Probert of the Warwick School of Law presented three key findings about the myths surrounding cohabitation: ‘common-law marriage’ has never existed in England and Wales; cohabitation was far less common in the past than some historians have claimed; and how the emergence of the ‘common-law marriage’ myth in the 1970s shows how perceptions of the law can influence behaviour.
Ayesha Vardag, Managing Director of Vardags Solicitors, made legal history with her landmark win in the Supreme Court case of Radmacher which made prenuptial agreements binding in England and Wales. She gave her personal update on prenups from the frontline while Professor Anne Barlow, Family Law and Policy, Exeter University, reviewed the latest research on public attitudes to prenups, asking in her presentation: “Prenups and the Marriage Bargain: giant step forward or giant step back?”
Deborah Jeff, Partner and Head of Family Law at Seddons presented a new, specially commissioned survey of marriage, cohabitation and commitment while Harry Benson, Communications Director of Marriage Foundation, presented the very latest research findings on the myths and realities of current divorce rates.
Sir Paul Coleridge, Chairman and Founder of The Marriage Foundation, said during his opening remarks: “I spend much time trying to isolate the essential ingredient of long term stable marriages. And in so doing I come up endlessly with metaphors and analogies to try and encapsulate it. For the skiers amongst you it is, perhaps, the black run of human relationships, tricky to navigate but wonderfully rewarding when you can and the envy of those who cannot cope with its demands and so stick to the easier runs; for the bankers, it is the long term investment not the quick buck gamble. For the sportsman, it is the test match as opposed to the twenty-twenty adrenaline rush. For all of us it is the gold standard against which all others are judged.
The Marriage Foundation is a project of the Relationships Foundation.