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Judging by many court judgments marriage is no easy ride

By Zelda Venter Time of article published Oct 15, 2020

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Pretoria - While not married myself, I am told that marriage is no easy ride.

Judging by the many judgments I have come across lately on the subject, this seems to be true.

Human relationships and their consequences are something our courts have had to deal with since early times.

I was reminded of this once again when I came across a story published in the Sunday Times 25 years ago.

A then Bapsfontein woman called Rose-Marie Duvenage reportedly put sleeping tablets in her husband's coffee during 1995 and committed adultery in the lounge with her neighbour, while her husband was sleeping.

When guilt got the better of her, and she confessed to her husband, he forgave her, but the neighbour did not take the news well. He became nasty after he was given the boot, and she eventually had to obtain an interdict against him.

I have not idea whether the Duvenhages are still together today, but I do admire the husband's loyalty at the time for forgiving his wife. Perhaps their marriage was saved by love.

A Johannesburg man, on the other hand, is about to find out that being dishonest about his feelings could cost him dearly.

The high court gave his wife the green light to claim general damages from him for her injured feelings after he booted her out of the house after a week of matrimony.

The wife said that he had misled her when he went down on one knee to propose marriage. According to her, this was a misrepresentation, as he knew at the time that he did not really love her.

She at first wanted to also claim damages for the costs associated with the wedding, such as the wedding dress. Her argument was that if he was truthful from the start, he would have saved her a lot of money.

The court pointed out that our law is generally reluctant to recognise claims for pure economic loss in these cases, especially where it would constitute an extension of the law of delict.

The judge said that it does not take much wisdom to understand that the vagaries of the human condition and marital relationships are such that there are no guarantees that love will last or that it was there in the first place.

“The premise of the fraudulent misrepresentation sought to be relied on by the plaintiff encompasses metaphysical questions as to the nature and meaning of love and, to my mind, whether such things are capable of proof in a court of law is questionable.”

The judge added that the wife, like anyone embarking on this important rite of passage, was in a position to make a series of choices. Should she pay for the relevant expenses for the wedding or should she lay these costs at the feet of her intended spouse?

The judge, however, did give her the go-ahead to claim for her injured feeling as there is no bar in our law to a claim by a wife against her husband based on the protection of her dignity and reputation.

She added that with the advent of social media, the potential for profound and widespread abuse of the dignity of intimate partners had increased exponentially.

Then there is the husband who is embroiled in a bitter divorce who has to fork out multiple thousands a month in the interim, to his wife.

She is demanding money not only for her own upkeep, but also that of their two dogs, Ollie and Sadie.

She is insisting on expensive dog food as well as toiletries for the two.

This, apart from Ollie's monthly chronic mediation. The judge remarked that she “seems to have been unattractively intent on extracting more than her pound of flesh”.

Pretoria News

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