Spouse Or Country?

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International marriages have become pretty ho-hum in the last two decades or so. My (English) wife and I have laughed with two sets of Danish/English married friends about how there also appears to be something between Danes and the English. 😉 In their cases, the women are sisters who both married English men. One couple lives in England, while the other couple did live in England and now lives in Denmark.

I bring that up for this reason. The BBC tells us:

Stephen Kinnock, son of the former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, has been selected as the Labour candidate for Aberavon at the 2015 general election.

Mr Kinnock, 44, is married to Danish Prime Minister Helle Thoring-Schmidt.

He is based in London and works for the business advisory company Xynteo, and worked for the British Council and the World Economic Forum….

Unlike our friends, apparently Kinnock and Thorning-Schmidt (she perhaps best-known in the U.S. for that “selfie”) have long been accustomed to marital separation owing to geography. Wales Online explains:

….When interviewed by WalesOnline in December, Mr Kinnock said the couple – who have two daughters – had maintained their family life despite living apart for much of their marriage, with Mr Kinnock serving in positions in Russia, Sierra Leone and Switzerland, as well as London.

A couple’s private marital arrangement is entirely their own business. Yet although it might be considered, at minimum, interesting, neither report touches on this public policy question: Are there concerns worth addressing about a married couple of differing nationalities serving simultaneously in elective office in their different countries?

Imagine if a U.S. senator were married to a British MP, or to a member of the French National Assembly…. or to a Danish prime minister? How might such a pairing be received by many in both nations? One suspects eyebrows would be raised at the very least.

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It has been asserted that, back in the 1920s, U.S. Army Chief of Staff General John J. Pershing did not marry his French girlfriend because he believed Americans would not accept it if he, the country’s top soldier, had a foreign wife. True, attitudes have since softened considerably. Voters seem far less troubled now if a government official has a non-citizen spouse. (Or a soon to be foreign new spouse…. even after his wife had divorced him for cheating on her with that woman.)

For example, it is well-known that British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s wife is Spanish. However, Miriam Clegg is not a member of the Spanish government. And she resides in Britain with her British husband.

We know we are all “good friends” nowadays, yet issues may still arise that place countries on “collision” courses. It definitely remains an uncommon marital situation, but it nonetheless raises an intriguing hypothetical question: Which would come first for spouses serving in their different countries’ governments? Their spouse? Or their country?

Further thoughts?

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