“Marriage is a risky undertaking that people enter with incomplete information about their partner and their future life circumstances.”–so say the authors of this paper titled “Temporary Life Changes and the Timing of Divorce.” According to research, when children face adverse circumstances such as divorce during the first 20 years of their life, their mental as well as physical health is negatively affected. They may be afflicted by psychological problems and physical disorders throughout their life. Divorce may also be a trigger for alcohol addiction, starting in early adolescence.
Further, studies done on the long-term effects of parental divorce on depression and marital satisfaction in the future show that people face adverse emotional and physical effects, irrespective of whether their parents divorced when they were in early childhood or had become adolescents.
Now vs. Earlier
Ten years ago, in India, the divorce rate was 1 in 1,000 people. As of 2015, the rate has climbed to 13 per 1,000 people. Even then, this rate is quite low as compared to the United States or the United Kingdom, where the average divorce rate is 500 per 1,000 people. Although India does not have a state-wise or national registry of divorce data, a more detailed picture can be obtained by taking a look at the number of divorces awarded by family courts in various big cities. In Kolkata, the number of divorces increased by 350% between 2003 and 2011. During the same period, the number of divorces granted became double.
Reasons for divorce
Arranged marriages are often cited as the reason for the longevity of the marital relationship in India. A majority of Indians are Hindus and in Hindu faith, the husband is “pati parmeshwar” or “lord supreme.” Women are conditioned to serve their husbands unquestioningly. Although this is still the norm in many families, things are changing now.
The reasons for the rise in the incidence of divorces in India are several:
a) rise of nuclear families
b) reducing influence of joint families
c) increasing economic independence of women
d) decreasing psychological dependence of women on their husbands
e) late marriage, leading to reluctance to compromise
f) refusal to change one’s way of life
g) willingness to end deteriorating marriage
Earlier, the cause of divorces were family arguments, property disputes, or dowry demands. Today’s young crowd has changed and so have the reasons for seeking divorce. These young people are also separating within a matter of months or years into their marriage. Marriage counsellors say that neither spouse has any regret, the wife usually does not want alimony since she has a good job and can support herself, and the stigma associated with being divorced is decreasing. Couples do not want to continue with the marriage to keep up appearances.
Good or bad?
Is this a good trend or a bad one? We can argue both for and against this trend–a higher number of divorces probably means that couples are no longer dragging on unhappy relationships; they are “cutting their losses” and moving on. Women are more independent and do not want to be subordinated by unsupportive, abusive, or just incompatible husbands. On the other hand, the institution of marriage is not as stable as it used to be before. The fabric of society is developing tears as a result of more broken marriages. Couples have forgotten how to compromise for the greater good of the marriage.
However, each couple’s circumstances are different. Thus, it is difficult to discuss the ethics of divorce or issue a general statement about it.