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Divorce – A social tragedy

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( Divorce is seen as the ultimate escape for marital conflicts) ( Divorce is seen as the ultimate escape for marital conflicts) Picture- AFP

Marriage is considered as a sacred bond between two individuals who promise to love and support each other in good times and also in bad. Yet a general question arises in today’s society in the increase in family disputes ending with a bitter divorce making the children, the innocent victims of the rift between their parents.

In developing Asian countries such as Sri Lanka and India marriage is highly valued but in the present society the increase in divorce is growing rapidly. Divorce is seen as the ultimate escape for marital conflicts. “For better or for worse” which was promised when entering into the marriage cannot be seen when conflicts occur. Some of the key reasons for a break up of marriage among the underprivileged might be lack of education, financial hardships and lack of awareness about the reality. Among the wealthy the reasons differ. They can be seen as false expectations, extramarital affairs or interference of others.
A break up of marriage not only affects the spouses but also the children. The whole world comes apart for both parties. Couples with young children do not consider the impact which will reflect on their child’s life and the negative effect occurs while they are lost in their fights and arguments to take the easy way out.

Divorce is a common notion among the underprivileged. Poor families get their children who are old enough into marital relationships and most of those relationships end before or after having children as the hardships mainly being financial becomes too grave to be handled. Mostly the male spouse relies on consumption of alcohol and violence occurs and the woman files for divorce when it becomes intolerable. Even though she will get the divorce then she becomes a victim of the society mainly because she is unable to escape the prying eyes or she is forced to become a target because of the financial hardships.

The most common reason for breakup of marriages among the poor are caused by financial hardships but lack of education and unawareness of the reality play a key role. The media in Sri Lanka continuously publishes about family disputes and breakups and the prime reasons for them to occur. However, in general the underprivileged community in the country reads less newspaper articles than the middle class or the upper middle class. They have no sense of the main issues causing divorce rates to go up and they also get into the same mess. By the time they reach the general marriageable age, they have already filed for divorces. Public awareness plays a key role in order to prevent the rising divorce rate in Sri Lanka.

Breakup of marriages is not limited to the poor. It occurs among the wealthy and does not come into light as much as it does among the poor. The reason for divorces among the wealthy to stay hidden from the public eye is given their wealth some women do not request maintenance for the child or herself as it is a long process and they are not so keen about dragging it through. Family breakups among the wealthy occur through entirely different reasons. The prime factors might be false expectations, extramarital affairs or interference of others.

In the past, marriage is considered a life-long commitment but in recent years the rising divorce rate proves it otherwise. False expectations plays a major role as many people nowadays have no clear understanding of what marriage really is. They have no idea about the depth of it and the real problems start when they are married and living together. Real life is not ideally what they show in movies or what we read in books. Humans’ inability to filter the reality and fantasy leads to taking the easy way out. False pretense is the main reason for divorce as the real person is too different. Expecting too much from the significant other usually leads to disappointment as he/she is unable to fulfill the standards of the other party. Pretense and reality do not go together in a marriage as at some point the reality sneaks up.

Extramarital affairs always have a way of breaking up marriages as except for the husband and wife there cannot be a third person in a marriage other than a child. When two married individuals do not have time for each other, it is common for one or both parties seeking the attention elsewhere. This generally leads to a confrontation and divorce or rarely some couples do work through their issues and they might even have a stronger bond later. The possibility of a marriage surviving an affair is less as most people find it hard to forgive and trust the spouse again.

Interference of others, especially of the in laws can be disastrous in a marriage. After marriage the couple becomes a separate unit and each other’s needs should be the priority. If the wife’s parents or the husband’s parents are going to be the sole focus, it will without doubt be the end of their marriage.

The innocent, silent victims in a divorce are the children. Some couples have less regards for the children and more concerned about their personal freedom and the children pay the ultimate price for the wrong doings on their parents. Sometimes a divorce can have a positive effect if the child was exposed to violence faced by the mother on a daily basis. A child seeing his father beating his mother will tend to do the same to his wife in the future. For a situation like this a divorce will be the better answer. Most of the time it has a negative effect. A child who is victimized in a broken family, always have to face unpleasant situations. Even in his own classroom he might be cornered; he would have to answer for never ending questionnaires by teachers, fellow students and sometimes their parents. In Sri Lankan society people always continue the habit of peeping through the others’ windows and it is very common that such a child may have many many times to spend without peace of mind. A child needs the love and care of both his/her parents but when the parents are getting divorced or already divorced the child would only have one parent fulltime. Children need both father and mother and one parent alone cannot fulfill both roles. Sometimes, the child may need to go to courts during the proceedings and this will have a negative impact even though he/she does not understand the depth of the situation.

In Sri Lanka’s District Courts the divorce cases filed have gone up in an alarming rate. There are more divorce cases than marriages and roughly taken there are at least 400 cases filed per day. Magistrate’s Courts inquire the maintenance cases for wife or wife and children. The increase in divorces and maintenance show a rapid growth since the past ten fifteen years. The public becomes aware of the cases which come before courts and there is also a section that does not go into litigation but suffers silently due to social embarrassment of getting divorced. 

Every religion in the country teaches the importance of equality, patience, compassion, tolerance etc. but from what we can see in the society among us, these teachings have no value. Humans have become selfish and self-centered. Religious leaders have a responsibility to prevent this menace as it becomes a social tragedy by the hour in Sri Lanka. Unlike in the past women are not reluctant to walk away from a marriage given that they are financially independent. In the past divorce was considered to be the final option in a troubled marriage but in the present it is first and only option considered.

The important aspect is preventing a marriage from falling apart. Couples considering divorce should seek counseling as a third party view point might even help them to save their marriage. The media can play a vast role in order to make the society aware of the rapid growth in divorces and the reasons behind them. Sri Lanka is no different in divorce rates when compared to western countries and it will continue to grow in the coming years unless the young generation accept the reality of life and escape from their fantasy worlds.

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