Postcard from Beijing... no 20

To divorce or not to divorce? As the web savvy amongst you no doubt know, there’s a new web tool called ‘My divorce calculator’ that helps calculate the total cost of divorce proceedings – and, rightly or wrongly, it’s scaring Chinese couples into staying together.

The insane expenditure involved – legal fees, child support, different living arrangements, alimony/palimony, I could continue – can definitely dent a hole in your bank account so it’s hardly surprising that couples are asking the question: is divorce worth it?

I’d argue that the answer is yes. True, divorce is a big decision and not one to be made lightly. Now that the ‘D’ word is more acceptable than ever, the worry is that some of us are simply giving up too easily, when the reality is that marriage isn’t a packet of instant noodles.  You cannot expect a marriage to magically ‘work’; rather it has to be worked on. However at the end of the day if your marriage has many, many more downs than ups, surely it’s worth the financial fall out? After all, life isn’t a dress rehearsal. We only get one life and if you’re not happy at home, you have to wonder: is worth sticking to your marriage vows?

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that we should all follow in the footsteps of singer Jack White and model Karen Elson (who recently invited their family and close friends to a party commemorating the end of their marriage) and start celebrating divorce. Nonetheless the fact remains that sometimes divorce is necessary – no matter what the cost.

It’s a realisation that has recently dawned upon Nicholas Tse and Cecilia Cheung. Hong Kong’s golden couple is, according to media reports, calling it quits (no doubt the pictures that surfaced of Cheung and Edison Chen – with whom she was embroiled in a sex photo scandal some years back – on a plane together didn’t exactly help). Of course, Cheung and Tse can afford to divorce but, having both grown up in single parent families, were reluctant to do so. Or as Tse termed it: “We had hoped to overcome fate and not let [our children] grow up in a broken home.” Sure, it’s sad that the genetically blessed couple are splitting up but, seeing as they simply “can’t find a way to continue,” it’s for the right reason.

As a 30 year-old whose parents separated when I was 10, but stayed living under the same married roof for “financial reasons” until I was 24, I think I know what I am talking about. My folks were completely incompatible – my mother wanted adventure, while my father just wanted to sit in front of the television – but opted to stay together owing to a lack of cash (and courage).

I wish they hadn't. Children want their parents to stay together but for familial not financial reasons and, even at a young age, can pick up on tension. Family life was full of more stress, anger and hostility than it would have been had my parents untied the knot – as I found myself caught in the middle of their Cold War. And you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out why my brother and I – despite being the marrying age – will have to be dragged kicking and screaming down the aisle, if at all!

My message? Divorce can be financially crippling and isn’t easy, especially when there are children involved. But sometimes, it’s unavoidable in the pursuit of happiness – and that's something you can’t put a price on.