In every marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for divorce. The trick is to find, and continue to find, grounds for marriage,” says Robert Anderson, an American Economist.
It is said that marriages are made in Heaven, but they are not that lasting long in our little corner of the earth today. Hence, we are now witnessing The Great Indian Wedding that is yielding to The Great Indian Divorce. Few are the societies that attach immense importance to marriages than the Indian society. So revered is wedlock that when beaten wives run to their parental homes for support and safety, they are more often than not sent back to their marital homes with advice to ‘adjust’ with their husbands and in-laws and make their marriage work!. But it is rather definitely true that in the present scenario we find a growing number of Indians fighting for divorce.
Several are the cases of divorce in courtrooms across India filed by the rich and poor alike. Many observers bemoan a profound metamorphosis of values in a nation trotting towards new affluence. The sanctity of marriage is taking a beating and the spectre of divorce is now here to haunt us all. Several are the reasons:
Financial security and dependency. Economic independence is one of the main reasons for divorce. Professional women are making their own choices and financial stability is giving them the confidence which was rather absent in the past. However, this evolution is currently damaging the sacred institution of marriage .The estimated national figure for divorce in India is as high as 6 to 7 percent. Many unhappy women are now taking the stance to leave relationships compared to those of the past that took everything that was literally thrown at them.
Abusive relationship is yet another reason for many splits. Violent and abusive partners are no longer being tolerated. “There is no shame or stigma attached to a divorce now and even parents often back their daughters who want to separate if things do not fall in place,” says psychiatrist Harish Shetty.
Indian women today are becoming physically, financially and sexually more demanding. Conversely, many unhappy Indian men are divorcing women due to the stress, tension and pressure of the present Indian marriages and thus, increasing their urge for personal freedom. They are finding it harder to adjust to the changes in women. Extra-marital affairs and break-downs in communication, all play a role too. The way I see it is that increasing divorce rates are just a part of the early reactions to the phenomenon of liberalization of the new Indian thought process.
Level of tolerance: Having experienced suppression for long, we are suddenly aware of the fact that we now have the power to choose what we wish for. However, some of us, intoxicated by this sense of personal empowerment, tend to go a bit over the top. Added to this is the fact that our levels of tolerance have decreased over the years, and we find more people taking impulsive decisions which are hard to reverse.
Ranjani Nandakumar, a pre-marital counsellor with matrimonial portal Bharat Matrimony.com, says that the main reason for the increase in divorce cases of late was mainly due to less tolerance level among younger generation.
Communication gap: Noel D’Souza, who assists in counselling, feels that communication gapis at the core of many shaky marriages. Now-a-days, when young couples indulge in petty quarrels, they try to bring the past conflicts into the scene and so the misunderstanding aggravates which in turn leads to several complications in their lives.
Ranjitha and Rohan stayed married for one miserable year before they decided, by mutual consent, to seek dissolution of their marriage in the Family Court. The reason for their unhappiness was Rohan’s discomfort with Ranjitha’s obsessive pursuit of her career. As for their sex life, it was totally absent from the very first month of marriage as they were too exhausted after their return from work to even think of intimacy. Obtaining divorce by mutual consent is a long drawn procedure in India. First it needs to be confirmed that the couple have lived separately for at least a period of six months. Further the couple has to wait for another six months, as a change in thinking is quite possible. Subsequently Ranjitha had to leave for the US on official work for a period of nine months. However during this time, some introspection had taken place in both minds and finally they decided to reunite. However, had they gone a little deeper and thought out more clearly, they may have been able to handle things differently. Conversely, had they not filed for a divorce, they may not have come to an understanding at all! About 40 per cent of the divorce cases filed is by professionals in the IT/ITES sector and the people from the film industry.
Frivolous reasons: Couples seek divorce with absolutely inane justifications these days. “The reasons are very frivolous and laughable. In such cases, both partners are well-educated and come from good families,” said advocate Shabiya Sindhi, who fights divorce cases. Are you over or under-weight, very hirsute, reek of body-odour or foul breath and generally not a head-turner of sorts? Maybe it is time you paid attention to your appearance, for it could be a reason for being hauled to the court for a messy divorce. Dr G.R. Rathnavel of Apollo Hospitals says, “It is foolish to separate from your spouse on grounds of physical imperfections. Beauty is skin deep and youth is temporary. Character is what you should look for.” Psychiatrists attribute mental stress among the younger lot for the trend. Continues Shabiya Sindhi, “I dealt with a case wherein the husband wanted a divorce as his wife always added more sugar to his tea and further accused her of her evil intention of wanting him to die of diabetes!” Says advocate Ashok Menon, a marriage counsellor, “There was this well-educated professional, who sought separation from his wife as she suffered from a condition of excessive facial hair growth. She frequently developed a moustache and beard, which he found repulsive, and he sought divorce for the same”.
Extra marital affairs: The reasons couples wish to break up range from extramarital affairs to misunderstandings caused by- of all things and specially the cell phone. This particular case relates to a lady who had gone to her mother’s place to deliver her baby and upon her return found that her husband had been getting several missed calls from a particular number. She called the number and found that it was that of a sex worker her husband had visited while she was away. And that was the last straw!
Impotence: One of the major reasons for young couples getting divorced these days is impotence in one of the partners. According to a recent study, junk food culture is one of the main culprits in the same. Many are beginning to refer to divorce as an IT or ITES syndrome because in several of these cases, both husband and wife work in the software or BPO industry. We are seeing a rise in infertility and impotency; and several cases where marriages are not being consummated at all. Increasingly, people believe that they should live life on their own terms.
The balancing act between the parents and the spouse: Yet another spark for divorce is the unavoidable tension between the new flush and centrality of the newly wedded couple on one side, and the long standing traditional priority of a man’s relationship with his own parents, brothers, and sisters. There was a case very recently in Indore court where Kanishka filed divorce against her husband as she felt that his priority was his parents and not her. With the parents-in-law occupying the ground floor, her husband stopped by his parents’ apartment every evening on his return from work before going to his apartment situated in the third floor. This created a rift between Kanishka and her husband!!
Moreover, the breakup of joint family system, marriages by choice, late marriages, absence of pre and post marital counselling, fast paced lifestyle, poor marital values and ego wars coupled with lack of conflict management skills are often the reasons behind divorces. These are not reasons to end a marriage; but are reasons to sit down and talk to each other. Families can play a pivotal role in all of this – sometimes a bit too much of a role, in the Indian context. Families on both sides get involved and a lot of mudslinging follows.
Conversations with marriage counsellors, divorce lawyers, social scientists and couples themselves suggest that, if divorce is rising, it is because of an underlying transformation of love. Conventional marriages in India had very little to do with romance. It was love after marriage and was not openly expressed by hand-holding and declarations of love. It had the strong foundation of mutual sacrifice, endurance and tolerance. There is a change in the marriage scenario today. Family duties take a back seat and we find that even in arranged marriages there are several new expectations in the emotional gratifications which cut into the family ties and duties. And it is this new notion of love, with the couple at the core, which makes marriage both, more riveting and more precarious than ever before.
However, the option for divorce, to a large extent, is still class led because the rise is being seen amongst the educated, wealthier and middle class spouses. It is not still very popular among the lower strata of society owing to the stigma attached to it; the huge cost involved; and the long years taken by of the judiciary system in settling the issue etc. and more so if children are involved.
There was a time not so long ago when the word ‘divorce’ was taboo and ending an abusive or unhappy marriage was difficult. Now, it appears that we may be poised to swing in the opposite direction. But as the saying goes, perhaps the pendulum has to swing to the other extreme before we can find a balance. Increasing divorce rates maybe a good indicator of the empowerment of women, but it could also be an indicator of the fall in value that we associate with “family”. Are we as a society becoming less tolerant of lapses in character to the point of not giving one’s partner a second chance? Does this mean that Indian society will begin to face the problems already faced by the West- such as huge rise in single parents and the loss of values, respect and appreciation by children?
Why were there not many divorces in the bygone days? It is all about the attitude you have towards your marriage, your partner and the bond between both of you. And surely you would agree with me that both the partners need to have similar attitudes and approach to marriage. A marriage template is how each of you defines a good wife and a good husband. Typically, the marriage that we have viewed closely is that of our parents, or older relatives, or friends, whoever we were closest to. Even if we do not realize it, each of us has a role model marriage imprinted in our subconscious minds. 90% it turns out to be the marriage of our parents. The templates which we have observed prior to our marriage are known as primary templates of marriage. If both partners possess almost similar templates, which are indeed not very common, then marriage is a smooth sailing one. In arranged marriages of yesteryears, finding alliances from similar backgrounds lead to less level of adjustments and friction amongst the partners. So, we have to get on with the task of defining our final marriage templates more consciously than our forefathers to avoid the increasing number of divorces that is prevalent today.