Unreasonable behaviour

  • Posted on March 17, 2013 at 10:58 am

I have felt so unwell this week I haven’t even been reading books. I am not a lot better now, so no profound reflections this week, just this short piece I prepared earlier.

This is the week in which Vicky Pryce and Chris Huhne were handed custodial sentences for perverting the course of justice. The heart of it seems simply to be that Huhne has a tendency to drive too fast and get caught, and stood to lose his licence, and some mobility as a then Euro MP. It seems reasonable from the evidence that his then wife was under at least strong emotional pressure to dig him out of his hole. The law says it would not have been unreasonable for her to say no, but it was wrong to say yes. Huhne plainly didn’t think it unreasonable to ask. It’s what partnership is about, isn’t it?

Last weekend I encountered a neighbour from the flat below. She clearly suffers with dementia, having let her in several times from outside the front door in cold conditions, not sure what to do. She is vulnerable and I have sometimes felt bad about not taking time to stop and talk because I am on my way somewhere. She seems to have a thing about my flat, and at the weekend was knocking on my door. I let her in, a bit lost, but it happened several times in the afternoon, and whilst I did bring her in and sit her down and offer tea, she did just walk straight in without waiting. And she sees people and things not there and addresses them. Anyhow, the night I went down with flu she was talking to herself on my landing for a while, knocked on my door at 3 am and loitered, talking, in my lobby for hours. I didn’t sleep. Was she being unreasonable? I had two options: call the police (it wasn’t her fault) or wait and call social services. I did the latter, but it doesn’t guarantee anything, and my sleep may again be disturbed all night.

The following morning, with a half-hour walk in snow, not feeling too good, I found myself talking to a solicitor on my own. How, and when, and to what advantage, should we process divorce? There I was, aiming to kick into motion the one thing I never, ever wanted to do. I still don’t want this to have been the only reasonable thing we could have done. But we came soon to grounds for divorce. Either we live apart for two years (what’s this? More ‘real life experience’?) with loose ends on shared assets, or one must petition against the other. How do you dissolve a marriage that one partner does not want to hang onto, and the other cannot afford to? There was no adultery, violence or even what one would term unreasonable behaviour. It isn’t unreasonable to be what you were born, I wasn’t diagnosed until recently. I didn’t ‘turn into anything’, and it isn’t unreasonable to be a woman. More importantly, it isn’t behaviour. But equally, is it unreasonable for a wife to withdraw all emotional and sexual support? It’s in the legal list –, but for a trans partner? So to respond to the finality of my wife’s decision, one of us has to have behaved unreasonably, at the same time as saying we don’t blame each other. Maybe neither of us has. So the law would not allow us to stay married (if I want gender recognition) and has no mechanism to allow us blamelessly to part without simply waiting on a situation that cannot change.

So, back to Pryce and Huhne and justice. If we do a deal, one to petition the other for unreasonable behaviour, when truly we don’t feel that to be true –, would that be to pervert the course of justice? I shall not contest: there is no point. So what do you have to do, to really, really demonstrate that marriage has come to an irretrievable end because one partner has apparently ‘changed sex’? Just wait? I shall be up for my gender recognition certificate before we can do it that way. A one night stand would be so simple by comparison …

So a desperate politician, a loyal or afraid wife, an old lady with dementia, a wife who can’t love a woman and a woman being as reasonable as she can about herself. Maybe justice isn’t always as clear or obtainable as we would like it to be.


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