Marital Coercion

>>  Thursday, March 14, 2013

The whole Vicky Price and Chris Huhne affair has left me thinking a lot about marital coercion.  I don't think it has a place as it currently stands as a defence in court.  It being sexist and totally out of date.  But that doesn't mean that marital coercion of some form doesn't exist in most partnerships.

the act of compelling by force of authority

ok, maybe that is the wrong word then.

A coalition or cooperative arrangement between political parties to promote a mutual interest

how about:

Assembled into or viewed as a whole.
Of, relating to, characteristic of, or made by a number of people acting as a group: a collective decision.

Often in marriage we do things that we probably wouldn't rationally choose to do if we lived alone.  Just think of the films you have watched with your partner that you would never have done if you were in your Bridget Jones pants (what is the man equivalent?) slobbed out on the sofa alone.
We eat meals based on what the family will all eat together.  We ask about what plays the other might like to see or whether they like the blue cushions.  We constantly compromise. Usually about things that don't have life changing consequences.
So when faced with a dilemma that threatens the course of current life plans it seems natural that as a couple a compromise will be sort.  No matter how sensible, logical, intelligent or independent either half of the partnership may be, a natural course of thought would be 'am I selfish if I don't do what seems right for my family unit right now'.  Perhaps at that point Vicky Pryce's marriage wasn't quite down the pan, but perhaps it had wavered.  What if she felt that by not taking the speeding points she was giving him an excuse to leave her or simply to like her a little bit less. What if by taking the points she thought he might love her just a little bit more. 
There is no well educated, affluent, power women thinking to be had in the 'will this help hold my family together' moment.  I don't believe for one moment either that this is a female thing.  I can imagine there are many times when a man will compromise his independent, sensible thinking self for the sake of his family unit.
Perverting the course of justice is a serious crime and we must stand by our laws, obviously. We cannot pick and choose which we will follow.  Even though we feel thoroughly put out when caught speeding. We talk about 'cash cows', 'stealth tax' and being 'trapped' by them like it is an unfair thing and it is generally socially acceptable to hate the speed camera. 
What they did as a couple was wrong but I can understand how it can happen as a couple, how a "strong minded, strong willed women who has spent her life making important choices" could end up in this position. 
This leads me to also understand how the first jury ended up asking so many questions, I know they have been ridiculed but the question of marital coercion as it stands now does not seem straight forward.  And the difference between coerced in the dictionary sense and the coercion of being part of a marriage collective or cartel seems to me to be quite complicated.
I think theirs is a sad story, a bit of a mess really.  There is a lot to be said for walking away from a divorce with your held held high and your private dirty laundry still buried deeply in the bowels of the basket neither of you really wanted to gain custody of. 
Had he have ended his marriage with respect before moving onto bed sheets new, he may have still been sleeping in silk.  And if she had held the moral high ground, which if you read the emails she did not,  she too could have been enjoying a more comfortable night.
We share so much in a marriage, so many things we would never tell anyone else. Should never tell anyone else.  No matter how loud it is screaming in your head.
Coercion is a constant and subtle part of a partnership, it is hidden in compromise through love.  It can force out something it shouldn't whether through violence, threats, passive aggression or simply the desire to 'do what seems right for the partnership' at the time.  I think the judge missed, or was not allowed to take into account, that part entirely.
A bit of a mess really.


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