The Sirens of Divorce
Recently I wrote about the “Black Knights” of divorce: those people who won’t face reality but fight on, relentlessly, long after the case has finished. They are few in number but their behaviour is remarkable. Today I would like to consider another group, equally rare in number. They are the Sirens.
The original Sirens were three creatures of Greek mythology. They were alluring seductresses, each one half bird and half woman, and their irresistible voices and music lured sailors to shipwreck and death. Whoever first imagined the Sirens, all those thousands of years ago, had a great understanding of human nature.
I can assure you that thousands of years later, Sirens are alive and well – and still active. They may not be living on the rocks of a craggy coastline any longer, but they make their occasional appearances in divorces around the world. They can be men but in my experience, they are far more likely to be women.
As a family lawyer, I have on occasion encountered Sirens. They are women who, when a marriage has broken down, have the most to gain. A Siren deliberately heaps tragedy on a family, because when she has set her sights on a man who is already married – and also, in most cases, a father – she gets him. Greek mythology had Orpheus, who could play louder than the Sirens could sing and allowed the men on the Argo to escape their otherwise inevitable fate. Sadly, there are few men like Orpheus around today!
In my experience, the Siren will involve herself as closely as she can with the unavailable man. She sees him as an unobtainable challenge, and doesn’t care that he is married. She will embark upon a passionate affair with him, seduce him, fill his head until he can think of nothing but being with her and rejects everything he has for her. Meanwhile there she sits, playing her music and singing her song.
A Siren is so fresh, so new, so compliant and so understanding. Perhaps she works alongside the unsuspecting husband, who admires her diligence and her skills. She certainly has more time and money to lavish upon herself and upon entertaining the husband. The man’s tired wife may be worn out with work and childcare, shopping and domesticity. She cannot hold a candle to the intoxicating Siren, who replaces her in the increasingly blinded husband’s affections.
The Siren’s Trap
As realisation dawns upon the tired wife, she falls into the Siren’s trap. The wife will become upset, angry and unpleasant. The Siren will drift, smiling, in her sea of calm. She will serve to highlight all the husband’s complaints about his wife, knowing that he is setting course for the rocks. The husband, puffed up with pride about his conquest, pays scant regard to the perilous sea in which he is sailing.
The Siren beckons the besotted husband onwards, feigning innocence and keeping her own wants carefully disguised. She is rewarded with the husband’s love and sympathy. She allies herself with his needs, his cares and his distress. His wife becomes his enemy. The Siren takes pains to conceal her power over the husband, while encouraging him to leave his “unsupportive” wife and children. The Siren’s special trick is to let him believe that she is blameless, and that he is the only one at fault.
She keeps on singing her Siren call.
The Siren knows that as long as the husband believes in her, he will protect her. He will bear all the strain, the guilt, the treachery and deceit, and he will fully absolve her of any wrongdoing. How can he do otherwise? How can he admit that his new love is as deceitful and treacherous, perhaps more so, than he is? How can he admit that she has seduced him – not the other way round? He dances to her tune. Her singing and music continues softly, heard only by him. His hearing becomes increasingly sensitive because he is now almost blind and powerless to prevent tragedy. What the Siren has persuaded him to believe, he now believes himself. His self-worth, his integrity, his honesty – all are lost in the swirling waters beneath him, as he sails towards the rocks.
The Siren’s Plan
Underneath her silken skin, the Siren desperately wants what belongs to the wife. The Siren wants the wife’s social status, her home and her financial security. The Siren cares nothing for the tragedy she inflicts upon the husband’s family. As the boat crashes onto the rocks, she continues to protest her innocence, persuading the husband to assume sole responsibility for the tragedy that engulfs and overwhelms the family.
As he sees his wife and children thrashing helplessly in the sea, the husband’s guilt deepens. He knows he has passed the point of no return. He leaves them to their fate and surrenders himself to his new life with the Siren, and the aftermath unfolds on dry land. Some Sirens disappear, disenchanted with the husband’s feet of clay, and move on. But most, having fought their battle, will stay with the husband. He can still prove useful to them.
Years later, the Siren is now the husband’s wife. She has her own home, her own children and her own nest to protect. She forgets that she was once a Siren, and how vulnerable her husband was to the Siren’s call. When a Siren becomes a wife, she becomes as vulnerable as her predecessor.
I believe that in such cases, the husband’s blindness does eventually lift. He comes to his senses. He realises, bitterly, what he has cast into the sea. He grieves for what he has done to his loved ones and above all, to his integrity and sense of self. And at some point in time, it will become too much for him. His Siren, who knows it all, will go the same way as his first wife. And this time, he has no regrets.
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Marilyn Stowe is the senior partner in Stowe Family Law, which has offices in Yorkshire, Cheshire and London. With more than 30 years’ experience handling divorce cases and family law proceedings she is regarded as one of the most formidable and sought after divorce lawyers in the UK. In 2012, Marilyn became one of the first solicitors to qualify as a family law arbitrator.
All persons mentioned in the scenarios are fictitious: details have been deliberately changed in order to protect identities and other confidential circumstances of my clients. All advice and information on this blog including posts written by guest authors, is given only as a general guide to the operation of the law on the date of publication. Readers must place no reliance whatsoever on the content of this blog and must always obtain their own legal advice. Marilyn Stowe, Stowe Family Law LLP and guest authors accept no liability whatsoever arising as a result of reliance upon its content.
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