Over the past 20 years the number of people getting married in Australia has dropped by almost a quarter, while the number of defacto couples has risen dramatically.
New legislation will soon give separating de factos the same legal rights as separating married couples.
So where does that leave marriage?
Jenny Brockie talks to couples committed to the fairytale notion of marriage, people who have arranged marriages, de factos who've sworn off marriage forever, gay couples who've married and the many-times-married who still believe in finding the ideal mate.
Over the past 20 years the number of people getting married in Australia has dropped by almost a quarter, while the number of defacto couples has risen dramatically.
JENNY BROCKIE: Welcome, everybody. Should be a very interesting discussion. Caroline and Scott, let me start with you. Literally you've just flown in from your honeymoon, I think. Do you think do you feel any different now that you're married?
CAROLINE GITTUS: I do. Um, we've just had the most amazing time together. Coming back from a fantastic wedding, fantastic honeymoon, I feel so connected, so bonded, so in love with this man. And yeah, before then, yeah, I had the same feelings, but not to the extent that I have them now.
JENNY BROCKIE: Let's have a look at your special day.
CAROLINE AND SCOTT’S WEDDING:
CAROLINE GITTUS: I always expected that I would have a wedding. I never actually thought that I'd leave it as long as I've left it to get married, but obviously the right person hadn't come along. It was something... my parents have had and still have a very happy marriage so it was something that was always important to me. I think there's a fairytale element to my wedding, that's for sure. You know, it's all happened so fast, it's really been a whirlwind for both of us.
SCOTT SHAW: I just want to spend the rest of my life with this woman that I love. We're in love, we've talked about things, we've planned things, it just to seems to be the best thing to do. It's... I can't not to do it. It's like a fantasy come true, I guess.
CELEBRANT: Scotty and Caz, every experience you have ever had, everything you have every done and everything you have ever learnt has brought you to this moment.
SCOTT SHAW: It means more to me than just living together. A modern romantic fairytale. Fairytale's probably not the word I'd use, but a romantic way that we'd like to start our life, yes. This is the things we love, the places we want to be, the friends that we want to have around us. It's set up for that, and those things make a difference to us.
JENNY BROCKIE: Well, Caroline, you say you believe that everybody has a white knight, you call it a white knight, why, why do you believe that?
CAROLINE GITTUS: I believe there's a perfect person out there for everyone. Someone that you can connect with, that you have the same values and that was something that was really important for the two of us that we found out very quickly, I think it was probably on our second date sitting on a picnic rug that we found our values were very similar, and that we wanted the same things in life.
JENNY BROCKIE: Well, Scott had a list! You've got the list. Come on, out with the list.
CAROLINE GITTUS: He did have a list.
JENNY BROCKIE: Out with the list, you've got it there. Out with the list. I want you to read out some of the requirements on the list, Scott. I've got the list here too, so don't think that you can get away with not telling us all of them.
SCOTT SHAW: Just some of them, you said?
JENNY BROCKIE: Pick out the most important ones.
SCOTT SHAW: Yeah, beautiful to look at, a great body. Um, good size boobs, C or a D cup. She must look awesome.
JENNY BROCKIE: It does say C or D cup, actually, on the list. It does. It also says no scars or skin ailments, I noticed on the list, is there any particular reason for that?
SCOTT SHAW: I was just being specific. Um, intelligent and educated, a caring nature, must love sports and love watching sports as well. Likes to travel in different cultures and experience different cultures.
JENNY BROCKIE: "Must be sort of wealthy in her own right" is written down here too.
SCOTT SHAW: Yes, it is.
JENNY BROCKIE: And the one that I particularly like, Scott, given the list - and the list is very long, it's very long - the one I like is "not a perfectionist" which I think is very interesting given the list.
CAROLINE GITTUS: That's a good point.
JENNY BROCKIE: Kathy Lette, you've been writing about relationships for a long time, are Scott on Caroline on the right track, having a list?
KATHY LETTE, AUTHOR, TO LOVE, HONOUR AND BETRAY: Well, I think Scott might have a case of 'listeria", actually, and I do think it's interesting that they have had this contract together because at least they know what they want from each other because even though, you know, marriage statistics, as you said, are very low in the West at the moment, they're lower than Britney Spears' bikini line, and as we now know that marriage suits men much more than it suits women - you know, married men live longer than single men, have less heart disease and mental problems. Whereas single women live longer than married women, have less heart disease and mental problems. I suspect Scott's getting the better end of the deal here.
JENNY BROCKIE: Usha, you were 23 when you met your husband Ramji. How did you meet?
USHA KRISHNAN: Well, mine was an arranged marriage. I came to Australia with my parents, of course hoping to meet somebody here, an Indian preferably.
JENNY BROCKIE: How was the marriage arranged?
USHA KRISHNAN: I went back to India with my parents and they put an advertisement in the paper.
JENNY BROCKIE: For a husband for you?
USHA KRISHNAN: Yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: And were there any applicants to the advertisement?
USHA KRISHNAN: There were, but quite a few were just struck off, you know, you just read it and you didn't even bother with them. But this particular case was known to my aunty and she said Ramji's family is a good family and you should definitely consider at least meeting, going and meeting them.
JENNY BROCKIE: Ramji, were the you in love when you got married?
RAMJI KRISHNAN: When we got married, no, I can't say that, it can't be love at first sight, you know. You get married and then you start loving your wife, you develop love for your wife, you know.
JENNY BROCKIE: How long have you been married?
USHA KRISHNAN: 31 years.
JENNY BROCKIE: 31 years? And what did you expect from marriage when you went into it?
RAMJI KRISHNAN: A lifelong commitment is one of the factors which I would seriously consider at the time.
USHA KRISHNAN: And somebody to... somebody with similar interests and, you know, hopefully same ambitions and, you know, wanting to do things together.
JENNY BROCKIE: Beata, you're 41, a single mum, you lived in a de facto relationship for eight years, do you believe in marriage?
BEATA SWIDRON: Absolutely, and I think that looking back at what I went through, I must admit that when I met my ex partner, de facto partner, I actually thought that us moving together and living together, it will be a prelude to a marriage. So I thought that the marriage will follow and I really had my dreams and fantasies about this wedding and I sometimes imagined him coming home and maybe dropping down on his knees and present me with a nice engagement ring. This has never happened, and I felt like I was cheated out of this relationship in a sense because I was proud and I wanted to maybe not, I don't know, church ceremony but definitely registering this relationship.
JENNY BROCKIE: So you still believe though, even after having been through that you still believe in fairytale, one day the prince will come? You do call it a prince don't you?
BEATA SWIDRON: Absolutely. The prince will come and I strongly believe in this. And I want to have the same experiences as you had and I believe that we all deserve it. And I think that there is nothing more wonderful in the future when you grow older and you're looking back at these wonderful pictures and you have reflections that are priceless and nobody can take them away from you.
JENNY BROCKIE: Kathy Lette, I want to come back to you because listening to this, I mean, you've been married twice yourself, what do you think of marriage?
KATHY LETTE: So far. I think it's interesting to listen to these young women who are obviously still brainwashed by the idea that they're going to be rescued by some knight in shining Armani, when all the evidence is really against that. A third of all marriages fail in Australia, half of all marriages in Britain end in divorce, and, you know marriage statistics are so low as we were discussing, and I think it's time women learned to stand on our own two stilettos. You don't have to be defined by a man; you don't have to be a draped like a human handbag over someone's arm to find happiness. And I do find it quite alarming that ever since we got the first Barbie doll, ever since we read those first fairytales about "happily ever after", the fairytale wedding, but often it's scripted by the Brothers Grimm and I think women are sort of wising up to the fact that getting married, you know, decreases your libido, increases your social alienation, erodes your mental health, and also increases your chance of being attacked or murdered in your own home, and yet still the fantasy persists of happily ever after.
JENNY BROCKIE: Isn't it just because it’s human nature for people want to mate and to want to be with somebody, to want to stay with somebody they love?
KATHY LETTE: Oh, absolutely, and I understand that longing, but it shouldn't be your raison d’être for life saying "I am going to meet the perfect person." I think you need to have a career, have your friends, get on with your life and if you meet someone it's a lovely by-product.
JENNY BROCKIE: Monica Dux, I'd like to bring you in at this point because you were a self-proclaimed wedding sceptic, yet you got married, why?
MONICA DUX, AUTHOR: Well, because I love my partner, we'd been together for years. There were some practical reasons - we were talking about if we went overseas, you know, in terms of how we can move around. And it was a romantic notion. But my problem isn't so much with marriage - although I do think it's not as important as we sometimes rate it - but I do have a problem with big weddings. So for us it was a lovely thing to do but it doesn't define our relationship in any way. It was a very lovely, romantic weekend.
JENNY BROCKIE: Did you feel differently after you got married, Kris, to Monica?
KRIS MRKSA: No, not at all. Admittedly I felt wonderful, warm feelings when we were doing it and afterwards but in truth I've always felt them and that's why I was very happy to marry Monica, and it was a delight to do so. I think that, really, after being married I expect lots more of what we had before we got married and so it's not a transforming or defining...
JENNY BROCKIE: So why did you do it?
KRIS MRKSA: Look, again, I think that there are a number of reasons all of which were important but none of which was, you know, determining. Some were practical and some were romantic and personal. I think that celebrating a relationship is a wonderful thing, but I don't think that celebrating a relationship defines or reinvents it.
JENNY BROCKIE: Carla and Geoff, you're 26 and 23, you're both Christians and you were married in January. Carla, why was it important to you and was being Mrs important to you?
CARLA GEE: First of all, we got married because we are very committed Christians and we believe that Christ committed his life to us. Because of that, we have a very serious approach to relationships and we wanted to commit absolutely to each other and for us that was marriage. To answer your second question, I'm not a Mrs, because I just don't like the fact that a man will always be a Mr regardless of whether he's married whereas a woman has to be a Miss or a Mrs, I just don't really think it's fair. I may be a Mrs later on, I don't know, but at the moment I'm a Ms.
JENNY BROCKIE: So were you into the fairytale, you two?
CARLA GEE: Not at all. I would not go as far as to call myself a wedding sceptic, but I felt like I was constantly fighting against this whole fairytale thing. A lot of people would sort of go "It's so cute you're getting married" but for me it was something really serious, I was committing my life to this man. We had a beautiful day but yeah, again for me, it was something very serious and very private.
JENNY BROCKIE: And Geoff, for you? Do you believe in the idea of there being the one, the one person?
GEOFFREY SCHNEIDER: No, I guess not in that, I wanted to find a wife - or I guess a girlfriend first and then wife - that shared the same beliefs that I did and the same sort of core values. And I'm very fortunate to have such a wonderful partner.
JENNY BROCKIE: And you asked her to marry you very quickly, I gather, second date?
GEOFFREY SCHNEIDER: We discussed marriage on the first date.
JENNY BROCKIE: You discussed marriage on the first date?!
CARLA GEE: We both wanted to talk about it; it was always on the agenda.
JENNY BROCKIE: So it was right up there on the agenda, from date number one.
CARLA GEE: It's not because we wanted a wedding or that fairytale kind of thing, it's because we were very serious about our relationships.
JENNY BROCKIE: Peter, you and your partner Theo travelled to Canada to get married, why not just live together?
PETER FURNESS: It just gives us... it's a personal thing, in a way. We know ourselves that we are... that this person is my husband, it does sort of mean something. I don't think whether you're married or your living together there's a different status of kind of relationship, and I really dislike that, but it's just something personally that was right for us.
JENNY BROCKIE: Theo, same feeling for you?
THEO PHILLIP: Yes, absolutely. I'm a bit of a romantic as well, so it was quite a moving thing for me.
JENNY BROCKIE: Karah, what about you? You and your partner Stephen have been living together for seven years, would you get married?
KARAH EDWARDS: I think as we've both gotten older and sort of thought things through a little bit more... I think originally we thought "Oh, yes, we'd get married," but, I mean, we have a mortgage together, we have a couple of dogs, you know, we don't see any reason to be doing that. And also I think marriage is very much a religious concept as well and neither of us being religious, it just doesn't seem relevant to us.
JENNY BROCKIE: So not on the agenda at all? Same for you?
STEPHEN: Yep, same for me.
JENNY BROCKIE: Martyn, what about you, you've been with your girlfriend Isabel for a year, can you imagine ever getting married?
MARTYN PEDLER: No, I agree with the last couple. I was raised very religious though I'm not, so for me it seems very much like a religious ceremony. And without that, it seems like I don't really see the point, failing some kind of practical visa issue. I know a lot of people who get married and say, "Well, it's just a piece of paper" or "It's an excuse to have a party" I think you should probably just have a party. Because I honestly think if you start using words like 'forever' or 'husband' or 'wife' then you kind of buy a licence to take your partner for granted. I think a little bit of fear is really important that someone might leave you at all times.
JENNY BROCKIE: So keep the edge of fear there. Isabel, what about you, though?
ISABEL DUNSTAN: Well, I'm a little bit younger than Martyn, I'm 22, and marriage is just not on my agenda at the moment at all. But I mean, right now I feel that Martyn is, you know, my best friend and, you know, my partner forever and I say that now but I don't believe in "the one" either.
JENNY BROCKIE: Can you see yourself getting married one day, though?
ISABEL DUNSTAN: Maybe, maybe in 10, 15 years, but that is a long, long time away and I've got a lot of time to think about that and...
JENNY BROCKIE: And think about Martyn.
MARTYN PEDLER: Change my mind.
JENNY BROCKIE: What I'm interested in about your story is that you have actually planned the whole idea of a wedding proposal. For somebody who doesn't believe in getting married you've worked out what you'd do if you proposed to somebody, why?
MARTYN PEDLER: I would love to propose. Proposing is an endlessly romantic and I'm a fairly romantic person, I just would never want to follow through.
JENNY BROCKIE: OK, girls be warned, everyone's seen... have a good look at Martyn. Janeen Baxter, you've been researching relationships for the past 20 years, has marriage changed?
PROFESSOR JANEEN BAXTER, PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY, QLD UNIVERSITY: It has. I mean, that's what we're seeing here. Marriage really means something quite different to I think what it did in the 1950s, 1960s. We've seen a lot of diversity, there's a lot more choice. People are getting married later. They're having children before they marry, they're buying a house before they marry, so marriage has been pushed back in the life course. It's something that people really seem do more now as the capstone to their life, the kind of, you know, "I've made the adult sort of status" rather than the stepping stone into adulthood.
JENNY BROCKIE: Martyn, you're reluctant to even live in a de facto relationship, aren't you, why?
MARTYN PEDLER: I think as much as possible you should keep practicalities out of your relationship because practicalities are the least romantic things there are. So I think having to make that little bit of effort to see someone - you're still excited when they come over at night to visit you instead of them always being in your space whether you want them to be or not is actually a way to keep romance alive.
JENNY BROCKIE: Beata, we heard from you before and you said that you were in a de facto relationship for eight years. How did the break up of that relationship affect you financially?
BEATA SWIDRON: Oh, it has definitely affected me financially. I did not have any support from the law because my relationship of eight years was simply not recognised and I could not go, if I wished to fight for property division or any kind of financial support from my ex partner in the Family Court. I would have to go to a county court which is exceptionally expensive and if any of you know, you need to have at least $42,000 to open the case, unlike into a marriage relationship.
JENNY BROCKIE: Edwina, you specialise in law reform. Listening to Beata's story there, are new laws that are coming in next year I think for de factos, will they change things? Would they change Beata's situation?
EDWINA MACDONALD, WOMEN’S LEGAL SERVICES AUSTRALIA: Yeah, one of the major changes with the new laws is the way in which the process works for de facto couples when they separate. So the laws will apply for couples when they separate and in relation to their property. So what it will mean will be that de facto couples will be able to go to the Family Court instead of going to the State courts which is currently the situation.
JENNY BROCKIE: So will a de facto relationship - and it's two years, you have to have been in a de facto relationship for two years - will it be treated exactly the same way as a married couple in terms of the division of property and so on in the event of a break-up?
EDWINA MACDONALD: Just to clarify, it also applies if you've got children. So you could have been together for less than two years and also if you've made substantial financial contributions to the relationship. But in effect, yes, what it will mean is that the laws and the things that the court will take into account when they look at the division of property will be the same for married couples and for de facto couples.
JENNY BROCKIE: So thing like superannuation, for example, which is taken into account as well?
EDWINA MACDONALD: Yes, so under the family law system, superannuation can be split. It can be treated as part of a property just as other assets can be split in the separation of property. This too will also be able to happen for de facto couples under the family law system.
JENNY BROCKIE: Keith, you and your partner Denise have been together for 13 years but you're very keen to keep your assets separate, why?
KEITH CREWS: I think because we came into the relationship, I guess, with children of our own from a previous marriage. So because we had those children we had responsibilities to our children. So we though that by keeping our assets separate then it meant that our children were a bit more secure.
JENNY BROCKIE: Now, are you married?
KEITH CREWS: No.
JENNY BROCKIE: You're not married; you're in a de facto relationship. So what have you done to ensure that happens - that you can keep your assets separate if anything goes wrong?
KEITH CREWS: I guess in terms of a break-up we haven't even considered a thought of a break-up. We have considered in the event of death - we've got our wills structured so that we keep our assets separate but we haven't got anything to do with the event of a break-up.
JENNY BROCKIE: So it's on a handshake after 13 years that you'll keep those assets separate in the event of the relationship ending. And are you confident about that, Denise, about that arrangement holding?
DENISE TREMONT: Yes, I am, yes. I think both of our children know what we're wanting to happen so we're hoping that they will abide by that.
JENNY BROCKIE: Patrick Parkinson, you're a law professor, will the new laws impact on a situation like that or could they potentially impact on a situation like that?
PROFESSOR PATRICK PARKINSON, FACULTY OF LAW, SYDNEY UNIVERSITY: What the news laws will do is there will be a federal law which will promote a national approach. Now in that situation, under the new laws, it won't matter what Keith and Denise intended. What will matter is what contributions did they make in the past, and what future needs have they got for the rest of their lives.
JENNY BROCKIE: But that's if they end up - I'm sorry to be talking about your relationship as though it's going to break up and we certainly hope it doesn't - but that's in the event that there's a dispute here. I mean, if they separate amicably and they agree to go their separate ways that would be one thing. But you're saying if something went wrong in that arrangement and one or other of them decided that they were going to go after the assets, they would be entitled to do that?
PATRICK PARKINSON: Yes. May I wish them every happiness, for better or for worse till death do part. But these things, people do change, things do go wrong and what can be an amicable relationship after years becomes a bitter one. And it only requires one person to make a claim.
JENNY BROCKIE: Well, what do people think about that who are in de facto relationships? I know you're just married, Monica, but you had your hand up, what did you want to say?
MONICA DUX: I think it's interesting, because I think the language of the way that we talk about marriage and de factos, we talk about the de facto relationship as like the training wheels marriage and the marriage as - there it is. And the fact that, you know, so many marriages end in divorce, the fact that people don't need to actually get married to have a meaningful relationship is kind of forgotten in this. I think we see de facto and marriages as definitive’s and they're not, you know, getting married is not going to give you a good relationship. Having a de facto relationship may not give you a good relationship, it may give you a great relationship, and I think we've got to separate the issues. I think legal protection is one thing, but if you're in a relationship you have to judge the relationship on its merits and whether you have a marriage certificate or whether you have your de facto...
JENNY BROCKIE: OK, Amanda and Matthew, I'd like to bring you in here because you've been living together for 3.5 years. You own the house that you both live in now. Have you thought about what would happen if you broke up, to that house, given that you're in a de facto relationship?
AMANDA BENNETTS: Not really, to be honest.
MATTHEW TALLENT: Probably have to finish renovating it first.
JENNY BROCKIE: That might keep you together. It might also break you up, actually. How would you be off financially then, given what you're hearing here about the law changing? I mean, are you aware of these changes to the law and how they might impact on you?
AMANDA BENNETTS: No, no, I wasn't aware of them at all but I think on the first question, we got into the house 50/50, we'd probably split the debt 50/50 if we had to sell it, because we wouldn't make any money on it.
JENNY BROCKIE: And could you imagine a situation where your future needs were taken into account in some kind of settlement relative to your incomes? So if one of you earns a lot less than the other one that they might come into play as well?
AMANDA BENNETTS: Yes, slightly. Pretty much the whole time we've been together I've always earnt more than Matthew and I've also come into the relationship owning property, I own another property. And pretty much we're just in debt more than anything. There's no money there.
JENNY BROCKIE: So do you see the difference between being in a de facto relationship and being married in terms of those kinds of things?
AMANDA BENNETTS: Definitely. I was previously married and when I got divorced, it was, as all divorces are, terrible and hard and difficult and the financial side made a big impact. I'm more worried about that side because I've had to go through that struggle before.
JENNY BROCKIE: So do you think a de facto relationship affords you more protection in relation to that?
AMANDA BENNETTS: No, I would rather be married.
JENNY BROCKIE: You'd rather be married?
AMANDA BENNETTS: Yes, definitely. Because then I know where I stand.
JENNY BROCKIE: So why aren't you married? Have you asked Matthew?
AMANDA BENNETTS: He hasn't asked me!
JENNY BROCKIE: What about you, Matthew, we haven't heard from you.
MATTHEW TALLENT: The first year and a half that I was with her she was still going through her divorce, so that sort of played in part. We talked about it and we'd talked about getting married soon but because we're still sort of half renovating the home sort of wasn't so much of a priority but it is for her because of the security.
JENNY BROCKIE: So it's about security?
MATTHEW TALLENT: A little bit for Amanda.
JENNY BROCKIE: But what about you, how do you feel?
MATTHEW TALLENT: I'm not so... I'm not so worried about it. I don't want to rush into it, but I understand that Amanda's body clock is ticking, so...
AMANDA BENNETTS: A few more factors come into it. Like, we want to have kids and I don't want to have kids without being married. I believe in marriage even though I've gone through one. My first marriage was, it was a wedding, it wasn't a marriage.
JENNY BROCKIE: I'd like to get back to this question of expectations with de factos because again, Edwina, I just wonder as a lawyer whether you think that people are aware that perhaps, you know, after they've been with somebody for two years that the whole game could change in terms of what settlement of property might be now, right down to things like superannuation, do you think the people you see are aware of that?
EDWINA MACDONALD: I'd say two things. As I said before, I think most people aren't aware but that applies across the board to all couples separating. But the game doesn't change in a huge way. Taking future needs into account means that you make an adjustment, so the other things that are taken into account are how much property there is at the end of relationship, the contributions that are made to the relationship - so that would include what you actually brought into the relationship and then what contributions you made during the relationship, financial and non-financial. And then at the end the court can make an adjustment for future needs. And that's, I mean generally that's in the realm, if it's made, of 5% to 20%. And it's made for things like earning capacity or caring for children.
JENNY BROCKIE: Patrick, you're opposed to these new laws, why?
PATRICK PARKINSON: My problem with the laws is that whereas married couples I think do understand the concept of partnership - that it's all in together, most have joint bank accounts most have jointly owned properties. People in de facto relationships are very, very varied. Some are like that, they see their lives as all in together but some of them have deliberately chosen not to get married. I'm also concerned that we're undermining marriage itself. When these new laws are passed there will no longer be any difference in Australia on any issue as to whether you're married or in a de facto relationship and then I think we're saying as a society marriage is just a piece of paper, it isn't anything more. And I see marriage as a protective fence. Sure it may not be the most romantic day or it may be but it's a protective fence, it holds people in until the pressures in the relationship become too great to withstand. Whereas in a de facto relationship once you have a row and you've decided it's over, it's over. So I believe marriage is important and we are undermining marriage.
JENNY BROCKIE: OK, shaking of the head up here about de facto relationships.
KARAH EDWARDS: Yeah, a lot of what you were saying there I disagree with. We are very much in love, we share our bank accounts, everything, we're all thrown in together, and as far as I've heard a lot of people say "Oh, people just stay in de facto relationships because they're afraid of commitment and they just think that they can get out of it fairly easily and so just keep going along that way." But with us, we fight, we argue, we get sick of each other, we slam the doors, but at the end of the day we know that we do love each other and that there is that depth, yeah.
JENNY BROCKIE: Kathy, what do you think listening to this, the idea that these laws are going to change and going to sort of put people more on an equal footing, is it a good or a bad thing?
KATHY LETTE: Well, I think anything that helps protect women is always a good thing and I think women should change their wedding vows to be, you know, love your husband, respect your husband, but get as much as you possibly can in your own name. But I also feel that, you know, we're reducing it to this idea that you need to get married in a real estate office, you know, "till repayments do us part". It just sounds so calculated and so sort of clinical. And I'm also slightly worried the conversation we're having for anyone watching who's not in a relationship, they're going to get PMT, pre-monogamy tension, because we're making it all sound so grim. I mean, there are some lovely things about being in a relationship - the fact of not having to get naked in front of a stranger ever again, that's good. Not having to lie on your side to make your breasts look bigger, that's quite good. And the intimacy and the solidarity. It's not all about, you know, financial money grabbing, I think we need to point that out because it is sounding a bit bleak, the way the conversation's going. But I am very happy that people in de facto relationship and married for women to have equal rights is protecting the most vulnerable in our society and that can only be a good thing.
JENNY BROCKIE: I'd like to get on to a little brighter note here with you, Sheela and Les. You just celebrated your 65th wedding anniversary, congratulations. Did you live together first?
LES TURNER: Not in our day.
JENNY BROCKIE: Not in your day. Let's have a look at your story.
65 YEARS STRONG: LES AND SHEELA’S STORY:
SHEELA TURNER: We were just naturally drawn to one another and it was virtually a love at first sight sort of thing, I think, and grew.
LES TURNER: She was a nice lass, a very nice lass, and amongst all the others, and I just sort of picked on her.
SHEELA TURNER: It was six weeks from when we were engaged that we were married. It was a lovely sunny day and I remember sitting out the front of our house brushing my hair so that it would have a nice shine on it for the wedding.
LES TURNER: I suppose I had nerves, a bit nervous.
SHEELA TURNER: I stood at the church door and I looked down and I thought, "He's waiting for me." I have here the letter that Les wrote to me and had delivered to the house with a spray of frangipani on the morning of our wedding. "My darling, I really love you ever so much and am very proud indeed to know I'm going to be your husband and also very proud to think that I shall have such a wonderful girl for my wife. And fear not, for I will never leave you or forsake you."
LES TURNER: We're very close as husband and wife. I think that's terribly important. We talk about things together, I think it's one of the most important things we could do. We're very much in love, aren't we? Yes.
SHEELA TURNER: We're not in this for a day and a half, we're in for life. And it's been just what we wanted, I wouldn't have changed a day of it.
JENNY BROCKIE: Not a dry eye in the house, I don't think. Sheela, why has it worked?
SHEELA TURNER: Because I believe we have trust and complete confidence in each other and we've shared everything. We talk about things that are going to happen, and yet we've gone our own ways on, you know, the things that we have followed, the organisations and hobbies and things...
JENNY BROCKIE: Did you ever get sick of one another in that 65 years?
LES TURNER: No.
JENNY BROCKIE: No, never?
LES TURNER: She was my Sheela.
JENNY BROCKIE: So did you both believe in the idea of the one, there being this one person and one person only for both of you?
SHEELA TURNER: I think so, yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: Were either of you ever tempted to stray during that time?
LES TURNER: No. No.
JENNY BROCKIE: No?
LES TURNER: Never.
JENNY BROCKIE: Well, Kathy Lette, marriage is clearly working for Sheela and Les.
KATHY LETTE: Isn't that a lovely story, and I think the secret to their happiness is that idea that they do talk to each other. And what women complain about is that when there's been no emotional intimacy all day and then there's physical intimacy demanded at night, that's what women find really, really upsetting. You know, when you've worked all day, come home, put the dinner on, defrosted the chops, found the lost sports kit, done the homework, by the time you get into bed the one thing you're fantasising about is sleep, and then you get the hand and you think "No, no, not the hand!" Men make horror movies called 'The Blob' and 'The Thing', women would make 'The Hand'. We also know now that, you know, women - even though this is supposed to be the sexually liberated era - my generation of women are having less happy sex than women in the 1950s, and I think it's because even though we make up 50% of the workforce we're still doing 99.9% of all the housework and all the child care. But obviously in this lovely relationship there's a great sense of equality and that's what's breaking many marriages up, that women thought we were going to be the have-it-all generation and we're just the do-it-all generation. There's just too many demands on us and we get resentful.
JENNY BROCKIE: I wonder is it a sense of equality in your relationship, is that why it works, or is it something else? Because equality wasn't necessarily part of your generation when you got married.
SHEELA TURNER: No, no, it wasn't but I think we have, yes, considered we are equal. And talking about talking to each other, I think we now find sometimes that we can sit for quite a while and not say anything to either but we know we're there, there is that companionship, that feeling that's there.
JENNY BROCKIE: So what have you been thinking when you've been listening to people talking about de facto relationships and marriage?
SHEELA TURNER: One over here had a de facto relationship and said it was - it seemed to be good. Why not take it on to marriage and be done with it?
JENNY BROCKIE: Well, because they don't feel they have to, I guess, or they don't feel the need to.
SHEELA TURNER: I would think there is a need. I think you need to have that, feeling of security and love that's there all the time for you.
JENNY BROCKIE: Commitment?
SHEELA TURNER: Complete commitment.
JENNY BROCKIE: So do you think it's more of a commitment to get married than to live with someone?
LES TURNER: Today? I don't know about that. It's so long ago since we were married.
SHEELA TURNER: Times were so different then too. We're living in a different world.
JENNY BROCKIE: Taesir, you're originally from Sudan and you're also a newlywed. You married your husband in April this year, why?
TAESIR ATAIA: I fell in love with him and thought he was the right person for me. Wanted to spend, you know, the rest of my life with him.
JENNY BROCKIE: And was it about security? Was there an element...?
TAESIR ATAIA: Definitely security, yeah, just completes the relationship, just puts a signature to what we had the last three years.
JENNY BROCKIE: Commitment?
TAESIR ATAIA: Yep, commitment as well.
JENNY BROCKIE: So you felt it was more committed than if you'd lived together?
TAESIR ATAIA: Yes, definitely.
JENNY BROCKIE: Ingrid, are marriages more likely to last than de facto relationships? I know we haven't got statistics on this but what about anecdotally, you're a counsellor, what do you think?
DR INGRID STURMEY, RELATIONSHIPS AUSTRALIA: Yes, well, actually they are more likely to last but I think that's because a lot of de facto relationships also either end up in marriage or they were planed to see - you know, it's part of enjoying a relationship for now, it's not necessarily seen as something that will go on anyway, so it's almost like it's built into it a little bit that it might be... yes, that's right, but it's also true...
JENNY BROCKIE: Very different view up here from Keith and Denise.
DENISE TREMONT: I don't consider our relationship any less than a marriage. I didn't go into a de facto relationship expecting it to end next year or in five years time. I went into it expecting it to last a lifetime.
INGRID STURMEY: Yes, but a lot of people do, though, and because we see a lot of, in particular, men and women who start to argue about and get very distressed about the woman's biological clock moving on - she's 30 to 35, she wants to get married and have children and the man says, "No, I'm not up for that, I want companionship, I want to play, I want good sex, I want the lifestyle we've got but I don't want to be a dad and have children."
JENNY BROCKIE: But that might be about children rather than commitment to the relationship.
INGRID STURMEY: Well, that's part of the thing for women. I mean, they go together, often, for women.
JENNY BROCKIE: Mike and Wendy, you've been living together for eight years. What do you think about this and about the idea of getting married?
MIKE COOK: I don't see the need to get married at all, to be honest. Wendy and I have made a very strong commitment to each other. We're very emotionally and financially together. I think Wendy came up with a perfect saying when she said "We don't need to tie a knot, our threads of our lives have woven together quite nicely." And it's true, we're involved with each other in a lot of areas but we still have our own individuality that is very strong.
JENNY BROCKIE: And is there an issue of commitment for you, Wendy, in not being married?
WENDY BELLAMY: Not at all. It was funny, I was just listening to your couple who have been married for 65 years and the way they said they could sit for hours together without saying anything but know each other's there, that's exactly how we feel about one another and the people who have their wonderful romantic weekend and their marriage and they feel so great about it, we have it every weekend because we're still courting.
JENNY BROCKIE: There are couples who sit together and don't say anything and don't know they're there too, actually. We won't go there right now. Janeen, is there any hard evidence that married couples are more committed than de facto couples are? Do we know anything about this? I mean, it seems when we started doing research for this program there's very little research on de facto couples?
JANEEN BAXTER: That's true, and I think one of the things that the conversation highlights is we can't talk about cohabiting couples as all the same. There's lots of different kinds of cohabiting de facto couples and you've got couples who are living together prior to getting married, you've got couples who have been married and are living together because they've rejected marriage and don't want to get married. I don't think you can talk about cohabitation as one kind of couple. The other thing about moving from cohabitation to marriage, in terms of women, Kathy is right that marriage is not so great for women in terms of health, well being and also housework. When you get married, women tend to do 70% of the housework. We've seen lots of changes in family patterns...
JENNY BROCKIE: More housework than if they're not married? You call it cohabiting; most people call it de facto relationships.
JANEEN BAXTER: De facto relationships are more egalitarian in terms of housework patterns and then when people move on to marriage they tend to move into these more traditional roles. So in terms of the whole range of indicators, there's lots of good reasons why women shouldn't get married and men should get married. It doesn't work the same.
JENNY BROCKIE: Mike, do you do the house work?
MIKE COOK: I try to. I've got physical ailments that restrict me from doing some things, but I help out as much as I can.
WENDY BELLAMY: He does more than me.
JENNY BROCKIE: Caroline and Scott, do you feel more committed now than when you together before you were married?
SCOTT SHAW: Yes, absolutely. Why? Because now there's that, just something deeper within me that knowing that this is the person that I want to be with and that I want to spend my life with, that I want to have fun with and wake up to and go on adventures with and spend time with, This is the person and the marriage for us or for me, sorry, and for us meant just the bonding of that for me.
CAROLINE GITTUS: We had fun vows and we had vows where we want to create adventures together and we want to create things together. And whether that's right or wrong in a marriage or whether that's right or wrong in a de facto, I think that's what works for us and I feel 100% more committed to him from that moment I made that vow to him.
JENNY BROCKIE: Carla, you didn't live together before you got married, would you recommend it?
CARLA GEE: Yes, I would. You know it seems crazy not to live together. A lot of our friends, when they found out we were getting married before moving in together, they were like, "That's not the step you take. You're meant to get engaged, move in or move in, get engaged." But we didn't want to feel as though we had to pass like a household test to find out if he could tolerate my nagging or maybe I could tolerate his messiness or whatever. I think we knew each other well enough. We may be young, but we're intelligent, we spent a lot of time together. We knew that we could be together, we could get married and I love Geoff for his character, for his beliefs, for who he is, and I think that's enough. I think that's a lot, not just enough, I think it's amazing.
JENNY BROCKIE: Was it a difficult transition?
CARLA GEE: Yeah, we haven't even been married for a year yet, and I joke and I tell people that we're trying to kill each other. But it's not really a joke. No, it is a joke, I'm not crazy. It's hard but, you know...
JENNY BROCKIE: But this is an extreme story. You're talking about marriage on your first date, you know, you're getting married.
CARLA GEE: I don't think we're crazy. I think if I was in a de facto relationship with someone else I would have been going through all those difficult things, all those moments where you get so frustrated. But I'm happy to go through those moments with Geoff knowing that we've committed to each other and knowing that we're married. And I want to be like Les and Sheela and to tell our grandchildren that we used to fight but we worked through it and we love each other.
GEOFFREY SCHNEIDER: I think, yeah, it's a very steep learning curve - especially me with my messiness. But it's a really wonderful thing, it's really exciting and it's wonderful knowing that each day that we've got another day together and that we've committed to each other to, you know, go through these different stages of life together and I think that's really exciting.
JENNY BROCKIE: Sunil, you received an offer of marriage arranged through your mother before you met your current wife.
SUNIL BADAMI: My only wife.
JENNY BROCKIE: Your only wife, you did have an almost-wife. Arranged marriages are said to last longer, were you tempted?
SUNIL BADAMI: Well, I mean I was brought up in Australia so it wasn't really a cultural thing for me. I think my mother just thought by the time I'd gotten to 28 that unless I had an arranged marriage she would remain grandchild less, which for an Indian mother is like, you know, hell. So my mother just happened to say after I'd broken up with a girlfriend a few years ago, long before I met my only wife that, you know, maybe... she brought it up very sort of circuitously and just happened to say that somebody we knew had come for afternoon tea and I said "Oh yeah, how was that?" She said "Well, you know, their daughter she's been looking for a boy, but she hadn't been able to find one." And really, the alarm bells should have gone off straight away but I had to say "Well, what happened?" And she said "Well, they've made an offer." Now I'm not saying that... You know, you like seeing people come around and look at the house for an open house, you don't want to sell it, you just want to see what its worth on the market. So I did ask what I was worth on the market and for someone who, you know, an Indian boy who's not a doctor, it was surprisingly quite good value.
JENNY BROCKIE: But you didn't take up the offer. We are going to have to wrap it up. One in three marriages do end in divorce, we don't know how many de facto relationships actually break down because we don't have those figures, unfortunately. It would be really interesting to know how many long-term de facto relationships do. Sheela and Les, why do you think so many marriages break up, one in three?
SHEELA TURNER: There just isn't the commitment to each other that there should be. And we personally feel that we have had God's blessing on our whole life and from that has come the love which has grown and all the other good things have come from that I think.
JENNY BROCKIE: Does having that commitment to religion actually help to keep you together, do you think?
SHEELA TURNER: I think so.
JENNY BROCKIE: Because it's a structure around you that you cling to or hang on to as a set of beliefs?
SHEELA TURNER: I believe so, yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: We are going to have to wrap up. That opens up a whole other area for discussion. Kathy Lette, before we go, I just wonder, given that we've seen this big drop in marriage in the last 20 years and that more and more people are living together, do you think marriage has a future?
KATHY LETTE: I think men need to pull up their psychological socks because we know marriage suits them much more and basically, happy wife equals happy live. Just do a little bit more housework, it's scientifically proven that no woman ever shot her husband while he was vacuuming.
JENNY BROCKIE: Very basic message. Thank you very much for joining us, good to have you here, and thanks everybody else too.