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Judge condemns 'Hello magazine approach' to marriage

By
Cheryl Tweedy and Ashley Cole

© Rex Features / David Fisher

A High Court judge has criticised what he calls the 'Hello magazine approach' to marriage, saying it has led to a dramatic increase in the rates of divorce and family breakdown.

Sir Paul Coleridge, who sits in the Family Division, said that he decided to speak out due to the scale of marriage breakdown and its impact on families.

He has launched the Marriage Foundation, a campaign group that will make the case that long-term, stable marriages are most beneficial for individuals, families and society.

While insisting that it is not a moral campaign, Coleridge said that celebrity magazines such as Hello help promote unrealistic expectations about marriage.

In an interview on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he said that people who are in Hello are often "in my court within about a year or two" of their marriage.

"What I criticise - what I call the Hello magazine, Hollywood approach to this whole business - is that there is still, or maybe more than there was, a completely unrealistic expectation about long-term relationships and marriage in particular, that if you find the right ideal partner that's all that matters and things will just carry on from there on and you will be divinely happy," he said.

"We all know, all of us who have been in relationships - whether married or unmarried - for a long time is that the only way that they are made to work and the only way that they become really qualitatively good is by absolutely grinding away at it.

"That's when people find that, actually, if they get through the difficulties and do get the help, they will in fact end up with a product that is really worth having."

Coleridge said that the family judiciary is perfectly placed to know the impact that family breakdown can have on society, so it is important for someone to speak out.

"I happen to think that the family judiciary have a contribution to make to this debate. Most of us have watched as the situation has gradually got more and more and more appalling and out of control and there comes a time when it is, I think, irresponsible to remain quiet," he said.

"If we remain quiet, it is like doctors who see epidemics going through their surgeries and say, 'We can't make a comment on that because it might be said to be commenting on the way people are living'.

"This is now happening across Britain - and indeed Europe and North America - on a scale we have never seen before and the impact it has on the whole of society is very, very real and dramatic and we need to highlight it and do something about it."

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