The Telegraph

Sunday 14 May 2000

Arrival of the other woman makes husbands suffer

Because men can't understand their needs, women feel they are better off with a woman who can. Jacqui Thornton reports from London.

Jacqui Thornton, Health Correspondent
The Daily Telegraph/Electronic Telegraph (London, UK)

More and more women in Britain are becoming divorced from their husbands after embarking on lesbian affairs.

Lawyers throughout the nation report that a growing number of marriages are breaking down because the wife has fallen in love with another woman.

There are no official figures to document the trend because there is no system to audit in detail the causes of marital breakdown. Legally, a woman cannot commit adultery with another woman, so a man who wants to divorce his wife as the result of a lesbian affair must cite unreasonable behaviour as the grounds for his case.

However, Vanessa Lloyd-Platt, a family-law specialist and author of the booklet The Divorce Lawyer's Guide to a Happier Marriage, said she had seen a growing number of cases at her London practice.

"One of the reasons is that women are having a terrible problem coping with the work scenario," she said. "Because of that they tend to give up their relationship with their man - not their work. "Because men can't understand their needs women feel they are better off with a woman who can."

She said figures were difficult to come by because it was not necessarily obvious if women were cohabiting when they moved in together.

"There may well be a trend which at the moment remains undiscovered," she said.

Florence Harper, a partner at the Family Law Consortium in London, confirmed that the situation was "not uncommon". She said she had acted for a man who had been left by his wife for a woman, as had other partners in the firm.

The overall percentage of such cases was still low, she estimated, but she added: "It's certainly happening." Generally, it involved women in their forties.

Mark Harper, a solicitor for Withers, the City of London law firm, acknowledged the trend and said that one reason why more women were leaving their husbands for other women was that society had been less tolerant of lesbianism when they were younger. Many may have been forced into marriage by social pressure.

Now that society is more accepting they are prepared to "come out", breaking up their marriages in the process. He said he expected the numbers of such divorces eventually to fall because fewer lesbians would consider marriage today.

Miles Preston, a senior partner of his London law firm, Miles Preston & Co, said the number of divorces where same-sex lovers were involved had risen significantly in the past two to three years but added that in his experience it was more because men were leaving for other men than women for other women. "People are more prepared to talk about it now," he said.

Many marriages in the media and entertainment world have broken down when the wife has fallen for another women. Vic Reeves, the comedian, has been open about the break-up of his five-year marriage to Sarah Moir, who moved in with her fitness trainer, Julia Jones.

Actor Simon Ward's daughter Sophie left her husband, Paul Hobson, a vet, for an American writer, Rena Brannan. He divorced her because he said the marriage had irretrievably broken down.

Julie Burchill, the columnist, left her husband, Cosmo Landesman, for the much younger writer Charlotte Raven, although she subsequently moved on to have a relationship with Miss Raven's brother. In America Anne Heche, the actress and former girlfriend of Steve Martin, the actor, announced that she was in love with Ellen DeGeneres, the comedienne.

Only last week, in Aberystwyth, Wales, Jaci Taylor, a mother of two who is separated from her husband, caused a good deal of comment by installing her female lover, Felicity Roberts, as mayoress of the town.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that there were 146,689 divorces in 1997: 14,734 were granted to men because their wives had been adulterous and 22,858 to women because of infidelity by their husbands. Another 11,202 were granted to men because of their wives' unreasonable behaviour.

Andrew Ball, the chairman of the Divorce Recovery Network, which runs courses for divorced people, said he was aware of women who had left for other women. "I can't say more because what is said in our groups is private."

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2000.