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Pheasant v Pheasant  1 All ER 587
The facts of this case may seem ridiculous! The petitioner husband alleged that the wife had not given him the spontaneous demonstrative affection which his nature demanded and for which he craved. He claimed it caused the marriage to be irretrievably broken down.
This case emphasizes the fact that an issue no matter how trivial can grow to become exceedingly big to threaten a marriage. No matter how minor, mundane, or frivolous an issue may appear to an outsider, it means so much to those concerned. It must not be left unattended or mismanaged, or it could become an albatross capable of jeopardizing the relationship.
In this instance, the husband went the way of divorce. Another person in a similar situation may have opted for extramarital affairs to satisfy his emotional needs which he missed at home. He would justify his actions that his wife pushed him into it. That she should accept responsibility for her role in causing the problem.
One wonders if the man tried to communicate his needs to her. Maybe he did but she did not listen enough to understand his feelings and concerns or took it lightly and when he started fuming she thought he was being impossible. Why didn’t they engage in a discussion to resolve the issue and reconcile? Did they try but it failed to resolve their differences?
It may be that the wife did not understand or know how to meet this need as one of the love languages of her husband. Many marriages have failed because of a partner’s inability to identify the needs of his or her spouse and learn to meet them.
It is important to consider if they have their private time that they spend together to catch up on their relationship and also to discuss their issues. If they believe a problem is serious and beyond discussion they could initiate communication through writing, a note and follow up with discussion.
No problem should be too big for couples to discuss and resolve but this needs cooperation of both parties. They should be willing to work together at the challenges to help the marriage and make it work.
There is another alternative instead of going to court for the purpose of dissolving the marriage. They should have explored counselling with the help of their pastor or marriage counselor--or a marriage mediator.
Even though hostility had built up over time making it emotionally charged and difficult for them to sit together to settle the matter, it is still not hopeless. They can go for mediation. They can seek the help of an independent third party mediator to help them work together to resolve the issue. This would have helped unearth the underlying cause that got lost in battle. It would have facilitated communication and expression of the need the way the wife would have understood.
There are different ways to save a marriage together. The minor issue in this case festered and almost succeeded in permanently tearing the couple apart. This shouldn’t have happened if at the early stage the problem was nipped in the bud through communication, respect and understanding. They would have negotiated their differences through dialogue and resolved.
What came up for determination by the court was whether there was a breach of obligation between both parties. The court held that there was nothing in the wife’s behavior which could be regarded as a breach on her part of any of the obligations of the marriage. This decision is a big relief because it could have gone the other way!
It is instructive through this case that no issue should be perceived as unimportant in marriage. Every misunderstanding requires attention. Inside every problem is a seed that has the potential of growing to harm and destroy a relationship.
Having gone through all this they have to contend with the problem of reconnecting. The wife would need to roll out truckloads of spontaneous affection and this has to be sustained along with meeting his other needs. The husband on his part for taking her to court in addition to meeting her emotional needs has to go all out to do those things that will make her really happy. The both need to learn how to communicate, take care of each other, and work to gain back the other's trust.They can achieve much if they can restore the love they both enjoyed at the beginning of their marriage. They should add to this their fantasies spiced with forgiveness.
Mary Aderibigbe is a lawyer-mediator and conflict coach. She integrates mediation in her legal practice. Her practice areas include family, estate planning, real estate, employment and intellectual property law. She is the publisher of Family mediator. She was the editor for Africa, Government Publications Review and former member, Lagos State Library Board. She runs a community service Family Support website.
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