Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Believe me, marriage is worth it

The Marriage Foundation has produced a 2015 election manifesto for all political parties.

(The Marriage Foundation is a UK-based think tank established by Sir Paul Coleridge, then a High Court judge, to champion long-lasting stable marriage relationships and help children by reducing marriage break-up.

Says Sir Paul: "Despite the glossy magazine image of a so-called happy marriage, it does not fall from the sky ready made on to beautiful people in white linen suits. It is hewn out of the rock of human stubbornness and selfishness with cold chisels, and day by day, over the lifetime of the relationship, it involves endless hard work, compromise, forgiveness and love. It is often held together with string and rusty nails but it is, in the end, beautiful and, like everything which is really worthwhile, is worth the investment.")

The manifesto says family breakdown lies at the heart of most of society's social problems, and all political parties should unequivocally support marriage and families. Skills can be learned, support provided, ignorance dispelled and responsibility encouraged.

It suggests five policies which are urgently needed:

A cabinet-level minister for families and family breakdown should be provided.

 A tax and benefits system that supports marriage should be introduced. Britain is almost alone in failing significantly to reward couples who stay together.

Relationships education for both children and adults should be funded and promoted.

Family law should be modernised. The next Government should completely overhaul laws relating to divorce and financial arrangements.

Marriage should be unashamedly championed as the gold standard for all, and entrenched myths, like "marriage is just a piece of paper" and "cohabitation is as stable as marriage" should be eradicated.

Harry Benson, founder of Bristol Community Family Trust and research director of the Marriage Foundation, has it all worked out.

He says that the new tax marriage allowance has finally come into force two months before the end of a five-year Government. The Prime Minister has been very vocal in his support for marriage. Our politicians should be shouting out about this new policy from the housetops.

"But they are not. That deafening silence you hear is the sound of embarrassment about the feebleness of a policy they know is a belated and half-hearted attempt to fulfil a long-standing pledge. . . 

"The scale of the problem is breathtaking. Nearly half of all our teenagers are not living with both natural parents. Picking up the pieces now costs the taxpayer £47 billion per year. That's more than the defence budget, half of the education budget, and up £1 billion on the previous year.

"We desperately need a political consensus that backs marriage without reservation. In order to avoid being in any way judgmental or dogmatic, it must be based on evidence. Successful marriages are the norm. Success outside of marriage is the exception.

"All of the main party leaders are married. They know it's important for them personally. And yet for some of them - no prizes for guessing Nick Clegg - supporting marriage remains 'patronising drivel that belongs to the Edwardian era.'"

The marriage allowance, Benson says, will affect only a quarter of married couples, who will be only £4 a week better off. Any family on low to mid income is receiving tax credits - which means that couples with one child can be up to £7,295 better off apart - or pretending to live apart - up to £9,417 better off if they have two children, and up to £11,059 better off if they have three.

I applaud the Marriage Foundation for their principles. I agree with Harry Benson's remarks quoted above. If I may add a word of advice of my own: Don't let financial differences worry you. Marriage is worth it.

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