Marriage's golden rule: don’t make rules

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Charles Saatchi manhandles Nigella Lawson in the incident that led to their divorce.

London - Nobody really knows what goes on in other people’s marriages. By relying on that truism and by maintaining purdah about her quickie divorce from Charles Saatchi, Nigella Lawson had – right up until last week – kept both her dignity and her franchise intact.

But the unexpected decision of the judge to lift reporting restrictions in the Crown’s fraud case against the Saatchis’ former employees, the Grillo sisters, has taken this epic ring cycle of a break-up into the dark realm of the Totentanz (dance of death) – just as the new series of Nigella’s show The Taste airs in puritan, white-picket-fence America, where guests are not always offered wine at dinner, but milk.

For, it is claimed by the Grillos, the sisters were allowed to flex Charles’s plastic as payback for keeping secret the fact that his wife had been “off her head” on coke for ten years.

This view of events appeared to be supported by a damaging email written by Saatchi to Lawson that, for some reason, was released by lawyers on Nigella’s side to the prosecution. In court on Friday, Saatchi maintained he was “utterly bereft” at the disclosure of the email and losing Nigella, whom he still adored.

As the perilous court case loomed, the heat was such that Nigella got out of the kitchen for the first time since Throttlegate. In her first public comment, she released a recipe for ‘Holiday Hotcake’ and said it was to “show thanks for all your support & to those that hashtag #teamNigella”.

This was a typically homely, high-calorie treat of a tweet from Nigella, but her plea for public support was unprecedented and high-risk. Essentially, she was asking people to square up with her against her ex-husband.

But it was too late. Even the suggestion that Nigella may have used drugs was a disaster. Charles has been said to be vehemently opposed to the misuse of drugs – whether soft, hard, full-fat, lo-cal, prescription or illegal. Therefore, friends believe, the idea that his wife took drugs would be a “red line” in his marriage.

If any of this is true, it casts a different light over events leading to their divorce.

But it doesn’t change how hideous it is for them both, especially Nigella.

You have to feel compassion for a clever woman who appears to have everything, but who has lost so much, and for whom fame, beauty, children, friends, wealth, and success still seem to be insufficient.

And though #team-Nigella is #winning on Twitter, you also have to feel sympathy for the apparent devil in this case, a man whom Nigella apparently placed at the centre of her universe during their ten-year marriage, or so she claimed, who discovers to his shock that his beautiful wife was allegedly being serially unfaithful – not with a man but with a substance nicknamed ‘Charlie’. If Saatchi’s “friends” are to be believed, his “red line” had been crossed.

Coincidentally, Demi Moore’s divorce from Ashton Kutcher came through last week, two years after she’d stated that “as a woman, a mother, and a wife, there are certain values and vows that I hold sacred”, the implication being that Kutcher had violated them.

Having values, and making vows: all fair and good. But one can’t help feeling some folks have already located the emergency exits, sometimes before the turbulent long-haul flight that is modern marriage has even begun.

If you have red lines in a marriage; if you lay down conditions that must be met; if there are deal-breakers – then as a couple you are on course to detonating the D-bomb, rather than somehow getting through it. However violent your threats, it still doesn’t stop your other half doing the one thing you most hate and fear. It just leads them to doing it behind your back – as Nigella allegedly did with drugs – or on your wedding anniversary, as Ashton allegedly did with a blonde.

And it all means that the truism “we don’t know what goes on in other people’s marriages” is only partly true. Sometimes half the marriage doesn’t know what’s going on either. - Mail on Sunday

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