25th Apr 2024

Marriage – Who is it actually for? (Thursday 18th April, 2024)

Marriage – Who is it actually for? (Thursday 18th April, 2024)


Last week FLiP hosted friends and colleagues to a fascinating debate of the topic “Marriage – Who is it actually for?” This FLiP thought leadership event was hosted by three of our brilliant senior associates – Hannah Greene, Nicole Phillips and Kara Swift.

Before an invited audience, Dettie Gould, Dr Andy Hayward and Dr Anna Machin tackled the thorny question: “Marriage – Who is it actually for?” They offered a range of fascinating perspectives.

Dettie Gould drew on her own experiences to discuss “relationship anarchy” in all its forms. She emphasised the all important support network of close friends and family to shape the lives of those within diverse relationships.

Dr Andy Hayward looked at the evolution of marriage against the backdrop of the law. He argued that the law validates marriage. Over time we have seen a shift from the idea of marriage as a duty, to marriage being shaped by ideas of personal autonomy. He took us back to the time when marriage was rooted in the church and provided a means of control over private behaviour, sexual intimacy and property. Marriage was largely about wealth and its transfer. We moved through the Victorian age, when the secular courts could determine divorce, to the 20th Century, when we witnessed the liberalisation of marriage, and onto the 21st Century which has seen the introduction of no fault divorce and mixed sex civil partnerships.

Dr Anna Machin talked about marriage as a cultural construct and a social contract. It is, she argued, “ritualised reproductive monogamy.” In arranged marriages, in particular, we often see wealth guarding. Mate guarding and mate monitoring are also features of marriage, emphasised by the public display of commitment which in some societies also demonstrates the expansion of power across families.

Looking ahead our panel were asked whether they thought that marriage would survive. They agreed that it would, largely because of its very important function within society. But marriage is likely to evolve to encompass not only relationships involving ideas of romantic love, but also those involving platonic life partnerships, for example.

Thank you to our speakers for a truly fascinating and thought provoking talk.

Our speakers:

  • Dettie Gould is an award winning writer, human rights activist, trade unionist and queer+ rights defender.
  • Dr Andy Hayward, specialist in family law relating to adult interpersonal relationships and cohabitation.
  • Dr Anna Machin is an evolutionary anthropologist, writer and broadcaster.

If you would like to be kept informed about our forthcoming thought leadership events, please contact Sarah Cloke (E:sc@flip.co.uk) at Family Law in Partnership.


For bespoke family law advice, contact any of our leading divorce and family lawyers at E: hello@flip.co.uk or T: 020 7420 5000.