The institution of Marriage today is not considered an exclusive covenant ’till death do us part.’ Couples flout their vows with no sense of guilt or remorse, and are mindless of the disillusionment that divorce leaves in its wake. In the last fifty years rates have trebled, with a higher incidence among young people. Since 2000, the divorce rates in the first year have gone up by 30%. Seven out of ten couples are between 20-35 years. 40% are childless, showing that divorce has taken place early in marriage. As ‘living in’ is the fashion of the day, married couples will soon become a minority. Living-in offers pleasure without responsibility, and the liberty to walk away or change partners when problems arise. Recent divorce statistics show that 20% of marriages end in divorce, 20% live in a hostile relationship, 20% live under the same roof but with no love lost between them, 20% pretend to be a loving couple, and only 20% are happily married.
Why does divorce happen?
o Immaturity: Young people hastily enter marriage without understanding the meaning or the responsibility it involves. It is a covenant relationship which should not be entered into lightly or broken hastily. It has to be worked on daily through mutual commitment, trust and love for each other. Every marriage has divorce potential. Unless partners work together on a daily basis to strengthen the marriage bond, the relationship is doomed. Emotional immaturity, innate selfishness, or taking each other for granted, can disengage partners and send them scurrying in opposite directions. Those brought up in loveless homes do not have the emotional talent required to strengthen the relationship. “Psychological Immaturity is the key to marital failure,” says Jack Dominion in his book ‘Marital Breakdown.’
o Pressure points that contribute to divorce:
-Money or the lack of it is often the cause of contention. Lavish lifestyles which money can buy also lead to temptations like infidelity, alcohol, drugs or gambling. Lack of money brings frustration, anger or recrimination. Love is put to the test in adversity.
– In-laws: Too much interference in a young couple’s life can be disastrous. That is why the Bible counsels to ‘leave’ parents psychologically and emotionally and ‘cleave’ to one’s spouse.
– Lack of quality time together. The absentee-husband syndrome due to long hours of work, shift duty, domestic or international travel, can leave partners lonely. The stay-at-home partner feels neglected, and an idle mind as they say, is the devil’s workshop. The relationship can teeter or snap.
-Overdependence on the spouse is burdensome.
-Failure to address problems promptly lets them fester in the mind and assume gigantic proportions.
o Change in marital equations:
-With the empty-nest syndrome in middle age, spouses especially women, feel free to follow their own aspirations. They become intoxicated with the possibility of freedom and seek other avenues which bring satisfaction.
-Economic freedom of women makes them intolerant to the perceived shortcomings of their husbands. Men are made to feel redundant. Role conflicts create dissatisfaction in partners.
o Sexual Freedom: Mira Kirschenbaum controversial writer makes a mockery of marriage in her book, “When Good People Have Affairs.” Of adultery she says, “If your marriage is in cardiac arrest, an affair is a defibrillator.”
But the Bible cautions, “Marriage should be honored by all and the marriage bed kept pure.”(Heb.13:4) Liberated women want to be as sexy as men. When there’s dissatisfaction with the spouse, they feel justified in seeking pleasure elsewhere.
o Provision of the law: Divorce is now very easy. More women than men are asking for divorce. Men refer to them as ‘alimony drones’ because they are assured of life long financial support from their divorced husbands. The same applies to men who live off the alimony they receive from working wives.
Divorce by mutual consent or the ‘Casanova Charter’ permits divorce to those who urgently need it, without any accusations or counter accusations.
o Premarital non-disclosure about important issues like genetic or mental illness, previous marriage, educational qualifications, job status, homosexuality or habits like drugs or alcohol, can be a source of friction between spouses when the truth is out.
o Domination or intimidation by one partner through threats, violence, emotional or sexual abuse.
o Direct conflict between partners who express themselves destructively either by abusive language or fisticuffs.
Effects of Divorce:
This is a tragic crisis that can hit a family sociologically and psychologically. Psychologists say it is almost like bereavement and just as hurtful. The aggrieved spouse goes through stages of anger, denial and a phase of acute loneliness. Anxiety and depression may follow. Some even develop suicidal tendencies. In others, the desire for revenge is so strong that they may resort to besmirching the reputation of the spouse. Sometimes revenge can get physical like beating up a person or throwing acid on the face to cause permanent damage.
Effects on Children:
When divorce turns messy and ugly, the self esteem of children takes a bashing. They become cynical and distrust adult relationships especially when parents wrangle over finance and division of possessions. Repercussions may not surface until adolescence. Many have behavioral problems and inability to relate positively to people. If not properly counseled they might even develop borderline personality disorders. One survey of the 9/11 tragedy showed that the suicide bombers came from dysfunctional families and broken homes. Even Sadam Hussain was said to have grown up in a single parent family, until his mother remarried. But the step father only multiplied his problems.
Children from divorced families show higher divorce rates in their own lives. The environment in which they have grown up may be the cause, as they have difficulty in communicating their feelings, difficulty to forgive others, are insecure and often succumb to episodes of depression.
Hints to make marriage divorce-proof:
o Choice of a good partner. Never jumping into marriage capriciously but choosing someone who is mature, compatible, God fearing, and has a good character. The partner should be willing to make a commitment towards preserving the union and working hard at it. Norman Wright says, “Marriage is a total commitment to the total person for the total life.” Partners who work in tandem don’t fall off their perches. Interdependence has great value.
o Good communication style. Couples should argue constructively not like enemies, but as friends who only have the good of each other at heart. No marriage is perfect. Conflicts arise from time to time and must be discussed with integrity and courage. Resolution should be the aim. In about 40% of cases selfishness is the cause. Individual rights need not take priority over the marriage commitment.
o Honesty and Fidelity. The ‘one flesh’ bond should be maintained mentally, physically and emotionally.
o Praying together will make God work wonders and point to the proper direction to take.
Professor Howard Markham says that in 9 out of 10 cases, divorces can be predicted even before the couple marries. The way they relate to each other, trade insults, refuse to see the other’s point of view and lack of healthy communication skills are indications that the marriage is doomed.
Times when divorce is unavoidable:
– Repeated infidelity, when the exclusive covenant of marriage is broken through extramarital liaisons on a regular basis.
– Excessive violence which can be life threatening to the spouse and children. It may occur under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
– Incurable mental instability that disturbs the peace in the family.
However, divorce should not be the first option but the last resort, when every other avenue has been tried. Litigation brings about disintegration of the family, in which both parties suffer.