Some media reports in recent years decry increasing divorce rates globally. If this is to be believed, then the problem is real and a solution is necessary if marriage, as an ancient—but mostly revered—institution is to survive.
A look at the circumstances leading to divorce, many of which can be readily resolved by the partners, can shed light on why dissolution of marriage rates is growing astronomically. And learning how to avoid what are often petty “reasons” leading to divorce is also prudent, perhaps begging the question of whether or not divorce is a solution for a troubled marriage.
But, first, one must understand what marriage means in different cultures and religions
What is Marriage?
Marriage, as an idea, may differ greatly around the world. Some groups practice polygamy (one partner having more than one spouse); some practice “communal” marriages wherein all multiple partners share the beds and company of the other partners in the group. But more often the norm has settled into two partners (usually, but not always, of the opposite sex).
Some religions look upon marriage as primarily a conjugal partnership between a man and a woman, nearly always as a means of legitimizing offspring and ensuring inheritance rights for said offspring.
Marriage, in short, though (regardless of the trappings and theocracy espoused) is in reality nothing more than a mutually agreed upon contract between people who elect to share their lives, physical resources, and emotional support with the other(s). The fates of married partners are intertwined, for good or bad, where self realization is a primary reason for continuing the marital relationship rather than mere sexual gratification (on a regular timetable).
Causes of Divorce
Marriage itself no longer seems to carry the sanctity it once did, and for many it is considered quaint or unnecessary. Some people never marry, preferring to live singly with occasional sex partners, or cohabiting with one or more partners over a life time, sharing living quarters, expenses, etc.
There can be many reasons for divorce, ranging from domestic violence, to adultery, to cruelty.
Sometimes, though, considering the extended years humans now get to enjoy living (average lifespan in the Western world is in the mid 70s for women and in the low 70s for men) partners may simply grow tired of each other.
In the past—with divorces being extremely expensive and/or nearly impossible to get—if a man or woman grew weary of his/her spouse that was simply too bad. In the United States in particular, with its “no fault” divorce laws (meaning one doesn’t have to prove infidelity or abuse by the other spouse), one can simply get divorced because one is tired of being married to someone.
This ease of gaining freedom from marriage (in developing countries this trend is also on the upswing, making it easier to separate) is why divorce rates are so high. Most people getting married realize it will be relatively easy to get out of it; thus, they may not work to keep the relationship intact whereas decades ago many would have simply carried on (suffering in silence) or strive to make things more tolerable in an unhappy home.
However, it isn’t the ease with which one can get a divorce or the fact it has lost some of its cache as an institution that leads to divorce. Rather, there are three basic issues at work that are usually behind any divorce (encompassing one or all three, depending upon the relationship). These are a generalized lack of important and meaningful communication between the partners, the rapidly changing role of women in many societies, and stress.
Lack of Communication
Meaningful and heartfelt communication is the best possible way to let a spouse know how much that person is loved and cared about. With that level of compassion in mind, a good communicator, someone able to relay clear thoughts, can lead to engaging one’s partner more rationally, leading to better physical and emotional well-being. No one likes arguing constantly—good communicators may disagree on certain issues, but they never devolve into screaming matches or name calling designed to do nothing more than to hurt another person’s feelings or sense of self.
Busier lives, sometimes leave little time for married people to simply sit down, say, at a dinner table and talk to each other. Problems that could be aired are often left internalized by one or the other partner, unvoiced, and as time passes these problems grow in importance, leading to divorce.
Changing Roles of Women
One of the most significant reasons in the recent rise in divorce is the complete change in the role of women in modern society. In past centuries men and women had very specific responsibilities in the household. Mainly, men worked outside the home to provide for the family; women were left to the housework and the trap of child rearing. Thus, women were severely financially dependent on her husband for fiscal security.
And because of this dependence, many women stuck in a marriage, they no longer wanted, simply could not afford the processing fees, attorney costs, or the severe decline in her standard of living if she wanted to leave her husband.
Today, though, with more women in the work force, earning their own money to spend as they see fit, women can manage to get out of bad marriages without financial help from a soon-to-be ex-husband.
Starting in the mid 20th Century and well in the 21st Century the average person seems more at odds with life functioning than his/her ancestors. Job issues, financial strains, family problems (no matter how small) can build into a point where a spouse no longer wishes to be married to his/her partner. Such a reaction is meaningless—just by divesting oneself of one’s spouse does not mean these problems will magically disappear.
Feeling depressed, lack of interest in home life, and lack of confidence is among the main symptoms of stress. People with these conditions are more likely to become substance abusers (whether alcohol or other drugs). This behavior consequently causes additional stress in a marriage, which can then result in divorce.
Taking life’s events as they occur, meeting challenges head on, and accepting those things over which one has no control may greatly tend to reduce stress, leading to more harmonious relations.
Working Things Out
Once the basic reasons leading to divorce are known, couples in a loving relationship can attain greater satisfaction since, basically, people look for love and joy in their lives.
There are definite ways of attaining a happy and rewarding marriage. Marital fulfillment, of course, cannot be achieved by oneself, and no one said it is easy. Many claim marriage is all about passion, but that is not totally true by itself. Marriage is about friendship, compromise, and compassion, as well.
In Islam, there is a centuries’ old tenet that reads, “The best of you are those who are best to their wives.” The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) once preached:
“Be good to women; for they are powerless captives (awan) in your households. You took them in God’s trust, and legitimated your sexual relations with the Word of God, so come to your senses people, and hear my words .”
The Holy Bible of the Judeo-Christians exhorts those in marriages to smile rather than to scowl. Using kind words (rather than reprimands) and exercising patience (rather than petulance) goes toward keeping peaceful relations within a marriage.
Observing these simple steps in a marriage may serve to preserve harmony and steer people away from the path leading to divorce.
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