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Suresh Menon: Save love from early expiry

Suresh Menon is a writer based in India. In his youth he set out to change the world but later decided to leave it as it is

By Suresh Menon for Friday magazine
00:00 February 3, 2012

Here's good news for all you eligible bachelors. Antonio - not his real name, newspapers inform us gleefully - has divorced Rosa. That second name is a fake one too.

Antonio is 99 and Rosa is 96. It is unlikely that another marriage for either will last as long as theirs did, a full 77 years.

All would have gone well, I suspect, if the husband hadn't been going through an old chest of drawers and discovered a bunch of letters written to his wife by an admirer. Yes, she too liked him, confessed Rosa, back in the 1940s. But in the nearly seven decades since she has not thought of him. Clearly not good enough for Antonio.

Two years ago, a couple in the UK, both aged 98, decided to part ways, but they had been married only 36 years and probably needed to save up the energy to blow out a hundred candles on their cakes two years later.

If you think divorce is a morbid subject for Valentine's Day, let me assure you that it is not just the most popular subject in the West, it is also the most popular activity after exchanging gifts and denying any wrongdoing. It is not just the florist or the chocolate-maker or makers of tiny heart-shaped abominations who profits from Valentine's day, it is the divorce lawyer too.

According to one survey, divorces go up by 40 per cent. I can think of one reason for that. Couples wait to see what their partners give them as gifts. So if she gives him a book he has already read or he gives her a perfume worn by a neighbour she doesn't like, then they put their respective lawyers on speed dial.

But a more subtle reason is the proximity of the new year to Valentine's. No one wants a divorce during Christmas or New Year - even the worst spouse becomes tolerable in the holiday season.

After six weeks of trying to keep resolutions comes the Big Day when a recently non-smoking, non-drinking, over-exercising, under-eating person feels that enough is enough and, weakened by resolutions, decides to end the relationship.

Let's shift Valentine's Day to a much later date, maybe in April or August. By then habit has taken over, and there are no resolutions to maintain. Change the date and save the marriage - that's my suggestion.