Kick-Off: Will Wrangling Over The Remote Ruin Marriages This Summer? 

Published on 18 June, 2018 | Sam Hall

Sam Hall - Hall Brown Family Law

In many years, the prospect of a royal wedding would be the televisual high-point for millions of British households.

However, it’s likely that the May nuptials which transformed the actress Meghan Markle into the Duchess of Sussex won’t be as watched or as talked about as what’s on our screens over the course of the next month or so.

Already, we have seen print and social media captivated by the early activities and utterances of contestants in ITV’s sunshine island reality show, ‘Love Island’.

Now, they face a challenge for small-screen dominance with the start of the month-long football World Cup, which is now underway in Russia.

Even so, the most interesting competition of the summer may not simply be between either 32 national teams in stadia stretching across one expanse of Eastern Europe vying for the greatest trophy in football or 11 toned young men and women in a villa and Majorca trying to land a £50,000 prize.

What is certain is that individuals much closer to home – in fact, in their own homes – may also be going head-to-head.

Although it might seem something of a stereotype and a hangover from unfunny 1970’s sitcoms, it is true that television habits do occasionally create genuine conflict among husbands and wives, turning even the most amiable couch potatoes into couch combatants.

It can be difficult enough when there’s only one event taking up the bulk of a spouse’s viewing time.

Previous tournaments, in fact, have triggered a rush of enquiries about divorce which is markedly greater than the number seen in years when there isn’t a World Cup.

This year, though, has the potential of a spectating split between those who crave the soccer saturation provided by matches in Moscow, Sochi and Rostov-on-Don and others transfixed by tans and tantrums.

It’s not merely speculation either. Myself and my colleagues at Hall Brown Family Law have already seen tensions in the run-up to Russia’s big kick-off.

One wife was angry at the fact that her husband wouldn’t be coming on the family summer holiday because he had pre-booked a trip to watch England’s games instead.

Even couples fortunate to be able to watch their chosen programming in separate rooms aren’t immune from marital fractures.

Quite often, clients report to us that time spent apart in such circumstances can offer the opportunity to reflect upon whether a marriage is working or not.

Some have even admitting being shocked to discover that they found it enjoyable to spend extended periods on their own and feeling compelled thereafter to want to bring their marriages to a close.

Of course, being glued to the television for hours on end is not necessarily a strong enough reason for divorce in itself.

Nevertheless, it can and sometimes does feature as one of the factors constituting a petition on the grounds of a spouse’s unreasonable behaviour.

Interestingly, a glance over the figures issued by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals that there was a rise in the number of husbands granted divorce on such grounds in the year after four of the last five World Cups.

Sadly, there is no evidence to clarify whether friction caused by watching yet another early England exit from the competitions was to blame.

In all seriousness, anything which distracts spouses from each other can cause rows and resentment.

Whilst I hope that I’m wrong, I would not be surprised to hear my ‘phone ringing with calls from individuals for whom a lot of TV has proven to be too much.

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