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23 August 1999

How to save a marriage (and holiday)

A vacation can place a couple under stress. Lucy Ellmansuggests a pre-hols contract

By Lucy Ellmann

We’re all familiar with the scenario from Blind Date: the creeps go off on a trip somewhere and come back without a good word to say for each other. It is hard to get along.

Increasing numbers of people now consult their solicitor before embarking on a holiday with their partner, either to prevent eruptions of connubial acrimony during the trip or to help plan a romantic foreign moonlit request for a divorce.

To save you time and money better spent on sun cream, the New Statesman has prepared a draft pre-hols contract, to be signed by both parties prior to departure.

Before the trip

1. It is quite natural to panic at the thought of spending a week or two in your partner’s company, unprotected by job or housework. Relaxation exercises and a stiff drink are advisable before even mentioning the trip.

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2. Holiday destination. When debating your destination, each party must give the other at least 30 seconds to express an opinion before being derided with all appropriate scorn.

3. Hotels. Choice of hotel should not be based on partner’s hazy recollection of previous visit many, many years ago.

4. Packing. It is not fair to expect one partner to carry all the luggage. This plan should be kept secret, therefore, until the last possible moment.

5. Toiletries. Many couples sadly come to grief over toiletries. The following guidelines should help maintain sanguinity, as well as normal hygiene standards:

a. both parties to bring own toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner unless prior agreement has been reached on which brands to use;

b. cotton buds to be carried independently by both partners – but offered up willingly in emergencies (after all, they can be replaced);

c. Band-Aids cannot be provided, in case partner’s dressed cut becomes infected and partner later wishes to sue (especially if object of trip is to separate).

6. Books. No bad books allowed that might annoy, depress or embarrass partner or fall heavily on partner from luggage rack.

7. Communication devices. No mobile phones, pagers or portable fax machines allowed.

8. Laptops. No laptops!

9. Shoes. Partner shall obtain and bring, on the actual holiday, one pair of shoes that has been and can be walked in.

10. Undies. Partner shall devote the better part of luggage space to naughty knickers, bondage gear and other erotic machinery necessary for creating a happy home away from home.

11. Announcing divorce plans. As it is unfair to postpone dumping someone just because you have already booked the holiday or because the stone floors of your Spanish villa would be good for sex or because seafood platters are so often designed for two, premeditated dumping of partner must be executed before embarkation. Otherwise after. Dumping during not allowed (likewise, resultant suicide attempts forbidden until after holiday).

During the trip

1. No more than ten hours’ driving per day.

2. No cooking unless strictly necessary.

3. No mentioning. No mentioning of children, pets, sick defenceless relatives, work or money matters.

4. In the absence of said children, pets, relatives and so on, the whole purpose of the holiday is to have as much sex as possible. This is to be stipulated by both parties, and that castles, museums, shops and tourist traps shall be visited only after post-coital sense of well-being is firmly established.

5. No dreary vegetarianism.

6. No cannibalism (unless local etiquette requires).

7. Partner must not insist on sharing starters.

8. Each partner has full right to purchase totally silly souvenirs and squander money.

9. Cocktails. Partner will complete any excursion or so-called “walk” by 6pm, without fail. No encroachment on cocktail hour allowed.

10. Partner will not involve partner in avoidable conversations with nincompoops.

11. Babbling. Many women tend to babble or waffle when driving through unfamiliar territory. Mouths of both parties to be kept shut until something interesting/intelligent/useful pops into head.

12. No making funny faces behind partner’s back.

13. No vintage railways.

After the trip

Divorce may logically and justly ensue if:

1. Partner caught a cold on the only day Mount Vesuvius could be visited, or the Great Barrier Reef.

2. Partner was too ill to eat out for two days running.

3. Partner got truly nasty-looking jellyfish sting or other off-putting temporary or permanent blemish while on holiday.

4. Partner was too busy with holiday romances to couple with original partner.

5. Partner watched TV and ate fish and chips all over Europe.

6. Partner went on wild rampage on plane, beating up stewardesses and catching TB and/or VD from fellow passengers.

7. Partner refused to carry maximum duty-free allowance through Customs.

You can rest easy, backed up by our pre-hols contract.

Get the rows over with before you leave.

Forget everlasting love.

Try a lasting contract.

The author’s novel “Man or Mango?” is published by Headline Review at £14.99

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