Still ‘Mr and Mrs’? China Launches Divorce Quiz to Save Marriages 

Published on 07 June, 2018 | Emma Godefroy

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Individuals of a certain age and fans of daytime television may recall a television show which subtly illustrated the strengths of the nation’s marriages.

Although introduced by theme tune urging couples to “be nice to each other”, ‘Mr & Mrs’ often inadvertently revealed tensions in the relationships of the spouses who took part.

The aim was to demonstrate how well Britain’s husbands and wives knew each other, with each spouse taking turns to answer fairly innocuous questions about their habits and preferences.

Those who proved most knowledgeable couples headed off – usually hand in hand – clutching what would now be considered relatively modest cash sums.

Anyone revealing an ignorance of their partner’s favourite colour or cooking received nothing more than a gently ribbing from the programme’s long-serving and amiable host, Derek Batey – a man with so soothing a personality as to overcome any potential for friction, on-screen at least.

After all, the series’ peak was in the 1970s, when the ideas of exploiting domestic disputes outside the realm of popular soap operas in order to boost viewing figures was simply not on. In those days, the only reality TV was to be found in news and current affairs.

Fast forward four decades and the concept of a similar marital grilling has surfaced in China.

However, couples in three provinces aren’t voluntarily participating in pursuit of prizes but being obliged to fill out a questionnaire in an attempt to stem a rising number of divorces (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/06/02/warring-chinese-couples-take-divorce-exams-reflect-marriage/).

One official said the move as an attempt to curb what she described as “impulsive divorces”.

In my experience, that’s hardly ever the case.

It is true that some spouses may choose to enquire about divorce following an unpleasant experience, such as major row at home, but few actually press on with proceedings for those reasons alone.

That is, in part, because when their tempers cool, they reflect on how they don’t really want to end their marriages.

Whenever we are contacted by individuals in just such a situation, we always recommend counselling to those people whose relationships appear not to be irreparable.

Many couples, though, have already either considered or engaged in marriage counselling before starting the divorce process in earnest.

Furthermore, the administration of divorce can already seem long enough to those intent on ending a marriage without putting another hurdle in their way, such as this ‘divorce exam’, as the Chinese initiative has been dubbed.

For example, in England and Wales, those who find themselves unable or unwilling to wait at least two years to divorce are obliged to demonstrate a reason why their marriage should be brought to a legal close.

Pointing the finger in this way and having to accuse your other half of either adultery or unreasonable behaviour naturally raises tensions which may not have existed beforehand.

It’s not a gentle game show but, in effect, a kind of ‘blame game’, which has led to demands from no less than the President of the Supreme Court, Baroness Hale of Richmond, for divorce law reform.

She and many others believe that something called ‘no-fault’ divorce is the way forward (https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/top-judge-baroness-hale-calls-for-no-fault-divorces-rx7d6v2wd?shareToken=611a108387a8857a5b5b4a68a01928cf).

It is a position which an increasing number of politicians, lawyers and relationship experts agree has a point.

And, of course, as Derek Batey’s late and legendary fellow TV compere, Sir Bruce Forsyth, was often heard to declare: “Points mean prizes”.

We can only hope that the flurry of demands for these important legislative changes win out instead of couples in failed marriages being compelled merely to observe the unrealised potential of the campaign, as their heads ring with another game show: “Let’s take a look at what you could have won…”.

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