The questions you need to ask before getting married, which could stop you getting divorced later
Celebrity lawyer Fiona Shackleton hopes to launch an app for young people contemplating marriage - Chris Jackson / Getty Images
Fiona Shackleton is the divorce attorney best known for representing Sir Paul McCartney and more famous for having his former ex, Heather Mills, poured a jug of water over her in court. She has made both a reputation and a fortune helping the very wealthy split - but now she appears to be sponsoring an app that she hopes will "get us [divorce lawyers] out of our jobs".
The Shackleton Relationship Project at the University of Exeter, which she worked on in the background, is designed to help young people contemplating marriage analyze why they want to marry in order to prevent discord later.
She hopes these will be used to develop an app that can be used to trick couples into asking questions about marriage that go deeper than whether the wedding venue should be Vegas or the Cotswolds. The questions are all very useful for young people who may have less experience in matters of the heart to consider: Are we a good match? Do we have a good friendship? Do we want the same things? Do we see the best in each other?
But the things that are important to teens probably don't matter at 50. As the divorce attorney in my life (my husband) says, “The fun, quirky soulmate you seek out while you are young might end up being the difficult, crazy one later. ”
After a few decades at the married coal mountain and after the experiences of my friends, some of whom are on the other side, far more urgent questions need to be asked ...
Screens at the table, yes or no?
Telephones at the dining table, telephones in bed, telephones during sex? Many parents create screen contracts to restrict their children's use (good luck with that), but what they really need is one for their spouse. "He just doesn't see anything wrong with staring on his phone while eating," says Bea, "and thinks I'm old-fashioned and nervous about keeping meals screen-free." What's even more annoying is that the excuse is an important work email when a sneaky climax reveals Twitter or the cricket.
City versus country?
In the dizzying times of young love, we are too busy to discuss plans beyond the weekend, let alone for middle and old age. Cities are disproportionately filled with young single adults, but we cannot assume that we will be there forever. I have friends who live with the conflict of being an asphalt flower married to a would-be farmer. One of them will always feel like they are leading a wrong life. Currently, the City Slicker is winning while the Landmouse whines, convinced that her Xbox-spiked teenagers would jam streams with their pet stoat ... if only they could move to Somerset.
Hoarder or Minimalist?
My husband claims that with my enthusiasm for visiting the local reuse and recycling center I want to destroy his past with a box of his possessions. The brass flip-flops, the broken lamp made from a crab hanging in plastic, and the Theakstons Old Peculier commemorative gift he received in 1988 were targeted by my disappointment. He believes everyone has memories while I dream of living in one of those white rooms with nothing but a cantilever chair. There is no middle ground.
How big should your TV be?
This one tends to be depressingly gender-specific - she wants a discreet television set between the learned books, he wants the two-meter surround sound version. Forget it. Take a few years and you'll be watching TV on your tablets in separate rooms anyway.
Dogs and cats: drooling trade fair makers or fluffy angels?
When my husband looks at a dog, he sees just that: a dog. I see the fur-covered embodiment of all that is good in the world. Who is such a smart boy? Aren't you the smartest boy, a creature that no song can be dedicated to? The kids agree, and table talk revolves around speculation about whether or not Matty is gendered. Studies show that half of all owners let their dogs and cats sleep in their beds, but nobody marries to discuss this menage.
Should you arrive at the airport two, three or four hours before your flight?
Roald Dahl wrote a short story about a suffering woman who leaves her husband to die in a broken elevator instead of missing a flight. Fair enough, I say, and I'm married to a man who agrees (back when we could fly anywhere anyway). We want to get to the airport two hours to two hours before the flight - let's do it the evening before. We were once out and about with another couple we had agreed to meet at the airport only to find out they were going to have breakfast on the wrong side of customs. It took us 30 seconds before we sent it to the Carluccios in the departure lounge, thank god we hadn't married in such madness.
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