Divorce, Italian style: couple splits after 77 years

Divorce, Italian style: couple splits after 77 years December 29, 2011

Would counseling have helped? Better pre-Cana?


The Italian man, identified by lawyers in the case only as Antonio C, was rifling through an old chest of drawers when he made the discovery a few days before Christmas.

Notwithstanding the time that had elapsed since the betrayal, he was so upset that he immediately confronted his wife of 77 years, named as Rosa C, and demanded a divorce.

Guilt-stricken, she reportedly confessed everything but was unable to persuade her husband to reconsider his decision.

She wrote the letters to her lover during a secret affair in the 1940s, according to court papers released in Rome this week.

The couple are now preparing to split, despite the ties they forged over nearly eight decades – they have five children, a dozen grandchildren and one great-grand child.

The discovery of the letters was the final straw for a marriage which had already run into difficulty – 10 years ago the husband briefly left their house in Rome and moved in with one of his sons, only to return a few weeks later.

The Italian press attributed the acrimonious split to the couple’s southern blood – he is originally from Olbia in Sardinia, while his wife was born in Naples.

The couple met during the 1930s when Antonio was posted as a young Carabinieri officer to Naples.

The case appears to set a new record, at least for the age of the oldest protagonist – the previous oldest couple to divorce were Bertie and Jessie Wood, both aged 98, from the UK.

The pair ended their 36-year marriage in 2009 when they were both two years away from their 100th birthdays.

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14 responses to “Divorce, Italian style: couple splits after 77 years”

  1. There is the old joke about the couple who sought an annulment after 75 years married. The priest said ‘when did you know when the marriage was a invalid failure?.’ “70 years ago they said’ Why did you wait so long?… “We waited for the children were dead.”

  2. At first I thought that was kind of stupid of him, but some mention a good point. If she kept the letters for 70 years, and never told him, that’s kind of continued betrayal or dishonesty or something.

    On the other hand at their age maybe trial separation makes more sense than divorce.

  3. If it wasn’t so sad it would be funny. I agree with Thomas R.—maybe a trial separation might make sense. Guess a judge won’t have to decide who gets the kids!

  4. Melody,

    Perhaps the words you were searching for were forgetfulness, not Alzheimer’s. No one with any experience of Alzheimer’s would think it would be a good thing. Alzheimer’s is not just about forgetfulness. It also affects logic and reasoning. Not only does it affect the one with the disease, it affects their families and all their relationships. It’s not a joke.

    I agree with Thomas R.–A trial separation might be a better solution here.

  5. I’ve seen plenty of couples survive an affair and actually grow stronger through counseling and pastoral care, so it’s entirely possible to heal from. That’s not the issue here, and I don’t see how a trial separation is feasible in this case. Were the affair done and over with since the 40’s, then yes. A cooling off period and the process of reconciliation would be in order.

    However, this man has learned of more than the initial infidelity. The keeping of those letters all of these years, letters that should have been burned seven decades ago, reveals an ongoing affair of the heart. It would take some pretty fancy dancing for the wife to explain the presence of those letters in their home, letters that SHE wrote. It’s heartbreaking.

  6. As someone who is of Southern Italian blood, I don’t think it is the keeping of the letters that led to this. The man is reacting to the affair and “la vergonia” (shame).

  7. Agreed.

    Happy Feast of the Holy Family today! Since the family is the domestic church, we could also consider this the Feast of the Domestic Church! Let us celebrate!

  8. Barbara P–I agree. I believe he overreacted. My mother kept letters and pictures from old boyfriends, as did my father of old girlfriends. They were just memories, not affairs of the heart. As their child, it helped make them more human. My mother even talked to us about them. She always made sure to tell us why she didn’t marry them! Thanks be to God!

  9. Notgiven,

    Not that your parents ever did this, but hypothetically: Did your parents ever keep letters to and from people with whom they committed adultery? That’s what this is, not the sweetness of remembering youthful beaus and the delightful awkwardness and innocence before embarking on one’s life with a spouse.

    Yes, it’s about the shame of the adultery, and the shame of her never having let go of the adulterous affair.

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