Dear John: As British actor John Cleese decries the a pre-nup, one cynical man pens the hopeless romantic an open letter
The 72-year-old Monty Python comedian has just said 'I do' for the fourth time, and only grudgingly signed a pre-nup on advice of his lawyers grumbling to his wife that such a contract is not romantic. Writer Peter Lloyd thinks he needs to learn from the past …
17:48 GMT, 15 August 2012
The truth hurts, but no more than the eye-watering divorce you suffered in 2009.
I'm sure you've tried to forget it, but – for the sake of men everywhere – let me recap: after a 16-year marriage with no children, your third wife, Faye Eichelberger, ended up with a settlement that made her (quite literally) richer than you.
John Cleese refused to sign a per-nuptial agreement with his fourth wife Jennifer Wade, left, because he thought it would be unromantic, despite having lost a lot of money in his 2009 divorce from Faye Eichelberger, right
Not only will you have to pay her 600,000 a year until 2016 (even though you're now technically a pensioner and she's a successful therapist), you also had to give her 8 million in cash, plus assets which included: an apartment in New York, a 2 million home in London and half a beach house in California.
Why Because you're a man.
I wouldn't mind, but when you met her in 1990 she was living in a third-floor council flat with two sons from a previous marriage.
At the time, it hurt. You were quoted as saying: “What I find so unfair is that if we both died today, her children would get much more than mine.”
Yet, earlier this week, I watched in horror as details of your fourth marriage emerged online. Immediately, I thought of that old joke: 'men shouldn't bother getting married – they should simply find a woman they hate and buy her a house'.
John Cleese in happier times with his third wife Faye Eichelberger
As one of our country's best comedians, I'm sure you can appreciate this. But, for most guys, divorce is no laughing matter. In fact, because the courts view them as cash cows for scorned women, it can be devastating for their careers, financial security, mental health, independence and even retirement.
Given that we're more likely to commit suicide and die early anyway because of the societal pressures placed upon us, that's the last thing we need.
You see, the world has changed. This approach to dividing assets may have worked decades ago when women with children were dependant on a man's wage (in this case, fair enough), but things have evolved – therefore, so should divorce.
John Cleese with his on-screen family in Fawlty Towers – including his second wife Connie Booth, left
Yet, despite all this, you were unwilling to sign a pre-nuptial agreement with your latest wife until lawyers stepped in, in case it punctured the romantic mood.
Hang on. Is that tinnitus ringing in my ears No, it's alarm bells. Loud ones. And any fellow men's rights activist can hear them.
Not least because divorce is sexist.
And whether it's politically correct or not to say so, there is a culture of women making careers out of marriage. In fact there's a name for it: hypergamy. Google it.
I have many intelligent female friends who are dedicated career women, yet often they'll admit that they're simply killing time until they find a rich man who will “look after” them – as if men are just gravy trains to jump on the back of.
But if a man said the same, even though many women can earn just as much as them, they'd be chauvinist pigs.
You should be telling the world that it's no different.
Not least because the media doesn't bother. I once saw a page in Grazia magazine which discussed the case of Alan Miller, whose wife was awarded 5 million of his wealth; despite their childless marriage lasting just two years and nine months. The headline 'Ker-Ching'. They even calculated how much she pocketed per-day of the marriage, as if he were a walking cash-point.
WAG culture is no different: young women are encouraged to hunt in packs until they snag a rich footballer, who'll work, work, work to pay, pay, pay.
Yet, as maddening as this may be, it proves my point: although women may be objectified as sex objects, many of them objectify men as success objects, which is unfair given that they often have more life choices. While a woman can be a high-flying executive or work in PR until she gets married, men's only option is to succeed. Constantly.
John Cleese with his first wife and Fawlty Towers co-writer Connie Booth, left, and with his second wife Barabara Trentham, right
Yet when they do, it's assumed that the only reason they attract money is because they're male – not because they work hard. Divorce courts shouldn't manipulate that.
But it's not just about women. It's a wider sexism of stinging men for simply being male. It can also be found within gay relationships.
John Cleese with his second wife, Connie Booth, with whom he wrote and starred in Fawlty Towers
Last year, while working as a journalist, I reported on the story of a banker who was trying to reach a settlement with his former civil partner. As part of my research I spoke with the ex's lawyer, who – in all seriousness – explained to me that his client deserved 50 per cent of his partner's hard-earned fortune because “he'd helped decorate the apartment they shared for 18 months”. No kidding.
So, with same-sex marriage on the horizon, men like you need to speak up louder than ever. Not least because our sons will grow up to be the next victims.
That said, not all other halves marry for money – humane, respectful love does exist. And I'm hoping you've finally found it.
Not least because, If you have, your new wife can teach women like Nancy Dell'ollio – who's currently refusing to vacate a London apartment owned by Sven Goran Eriksson simply because she wants it – that she should go to work and buy her own place.
After all, it's the same message that feminists have been saying for years. And they're right, but not just for the reasons they think.
Until this happens, you should be reminding men and boys that's it's safe marriage – not just safe sex – which should be on their radar. It's a stance that's political as well as financial.
And, in this day and age, the only one worth saying 'I do' to.