“Marriages are made in Heaven” is the good old saying. The newly added clause is “ and they are broken in divorce courts”.
It is a serious matter of concern that the institution of marriage is gradually losing its respectability and stability. There is an alarming increase in the rate of divorce in India, a country known to be traditionally conservative.
Divorce has been a common occurrence in the West for more than two generations. Men and women change their partners as easily as changing their dress. Marriage vows no longer bind them till death as they did in the past. Famous personalities are known to create a sensation by cancelling their marriage just a few hours after walking up to the altar.
What has happened to the solemnity of marriage? Why is divorce, the legal separation, becoming increasingly popular all over the world? Why do husbands and wives now choose this easy, quick solution to marital maladjustments? Why do they decide their marriage is irreparable?
A number of factors like change of lifestyles, lack of parental guidance, shifting of priorities from moral values to material comforts, emancipation and empowerment of women through their education and opportunities for economic self-sufficiency and an overall shallow perception of life’s meaningfulness lie behind this modern malady.
In the past. In our Indian patriarchal society men were wielding gigantic powers. They ruled as lords inside and outside the home. Women were almost slaves surrendering themselves unquestioningly to the menfolk who were the decision-makers.
Women could not protest against a drunkard husband, an unfaithful husband or a cruel, beating husband. Such masculine attributes were looked upon as normal. Indignities and insults were part and parcel of the life of married women. They got accustomed to subjugation and servitude.
That is not to say women were utterly unhappy or they led a thoroughly wretched life. It is only to emphasise the status of women in the family and society- perhaps a little above cattle and chattel!
With the advent of a social Renaissance in the last century brought about by great thinkers and leaders many of the evils afflicting women were eradicated. Illiteracy, child marriage, sati and woes of widowhood are some.
Women who were hitherto confined to home and hearth stepped out into the wide world outside and became aware of their legal rights and choices. Many positive results were the outcome. A totally more enlightened society of intelligent families emerged.
But the pendulum now seems to swing to the opposite extreme. Women who had evinced utmost endurance for centuries are now thinking of renouncing the virtue of patience completely. A defiant unwillingness to adjust to disagreeable circumstances or happenings is observable. All that should healthily boost woman’s self-confidence are now sadly nurturing an unpleasant arrogance and over-confidence in her.
Nowadays the marriage age for women is rising higher and higher. Past the age of tender malleability, with deep-seated preferences, tastes, habits and beliefs,a woman entering into marriage finds herself at a disadvantage regarding adjustment, in strong contrast to her mother and grandmother.
Girls who patiently adjusted themselves to teachers in schools, elders and siblings at homesuddenly turn antagonistic and uncompromising to husband’s relatives. In-law confrontations are a major cause for divorce in India. Harassments associated with dowry are also fuelling separations.
Ego clashes between the couple are more common when both husband and wife are earning members of the family. In the past generations there was a clear allocation of work for men and women. But now household chores are no more taboo to men. Men wedded to career women have to share domestic workload inevitably. Though men know it is only fair to help at home, generations of male chauvinism embedded in their genes makes it tough for them to bend, to adjust to their new role.
Woman in spite of her new emancipation and empowerment, in spite of increasing awareness about gender equality is not able to conquer the hard facts of her biology. She has to cope with her inherent physical weaknesses associated with menstruation and childbirth. The stress and strain of career women can be so taxing as to affect their physical and emotional stamina.
At such times lack of sufficient sympathy and cooperation from the husband can be highly disappointing and devastating paving the way for estrangement. It is not difficult to visualize scenes which make the home a battlefield. The wife’s financial independence encourages her to assume a stand of nonchalance. The male ego finds it hard to brook disobedience.
Formely, there was a stigma attached to a divorcee; people looked askance at her. But keeping abreast of advanced countries of the world thought patterns in India also have changed. Divorce is no more anathema to us. Bright prospects await a divorcee. Hence women feel no regrets, have no scruples about pushing accumulated petty quarrels to the steps of divorce courts.
For a dependent wife of former times scope for freedom was nil. Bleak were the chances of her parents accepting her back. The sordid conditions of solitary living have now changed completely. There are any number of women’s hostels to provide shelter and plenty of job opportunities for skilled, educated women. So many women do not wish to compromise to the demands of their marriage partners be they fair or not.
A surprisingly unforeseen factor seems to be working behind many marriage misfortunes: the small family concept which has taken root in most of the educated families. One or two children in the family of the present times enjoy a more pampered life than the children of bigger families of former times. They grow up having their way without much necessity to give in to anyone for anything. The pangs and pleasures of sharing are unfamiliar to them.
When they grow up they marry a person who grew up in the same egoist manner. Then marriage becomes a fencing game of offences and defences. Neither of them is willing to give in. The ultimate and only solution, they think, is divorce. Do either win by this decision? Is life going to turn into a quest for a more suitable partner? Do the bruises of the first marriage get completely healed over the subsequent marriages? Without a compromising/adapting mentality will not the search for the perfect partner be wearisome and futile?
Despite their academic achievements, excellent intelligence many men and women are in reality immature kids emotionally. They revel in a meaningless game of tit for tat and end up in divorce spoiling a meaningful relationship. In most cases divorce is sought for silly, untenable reasons. Mountains are made out of molehills. Solvable problems are blown out of proportion to look like insurmountable hurdles.
Life is not a bed of roses. When a man and a woman born and brought up in entirely different background/surroundings start living together as married couple, when they get to know each other’s likes and dislikes very closely disagreements and arguments are bound to arise. They should be sorted out, talked over and ended amicably. But in today’s world of haste and impatience, of competition and short-term goals couples resort to divorce with little or no attempt to patch up. Of course, it could be highly excruciating for one party to keep on suffering patiently. But it pays in the end, does it not? Easily frustrated young people fail to realize this.
In today’s nucleus family system, the absence of experienced, wise elders to smoothen the frictions, to pacify the warring parties is a great loss to the couple and the children. The children are the worst affected by divorce. It is a pity the parents do not stop to consider the trauma and sense of insecurity their wards are forced to experience for no fault of theirs. There is no predicting in what ways and how deeply divorce will affect the children.
Next to elders of the family marriage counselors are the second best choice for saving marriages.
In today’s world of cultural globalization there is a glaring openness about sex and sensuality. Even in India inhibitions are shed, thanks to the omnipresent, omnipotent Media. Temptations are teeming everywhere and indulgence in sensual pleasures is the fashion of the day. As a natural corollary marital infidelity and suspicion on the part of either of the partner is becoming more evident: a fertile ground for reaping divorce.
Curiously, there is another important complication leading to divorce. Increasing pressures at workstations are generating this new malady of the era: impotency. A valid reason for divorce. Modern woman is not coy like her grandmother. She refuses to sacrifice like her mother. She lives for her only. Her needs are the top priority. Aching for instant results is the general mood prevailing today.
Gone are the days of self-effacing, satisfied, sagacious women whose maternal instincts ruled over their mind and body, who lived for others thereby finding their own lives meaningful. Unlike the women of the past era today’s women are not willing to suffer meekly any form of violence, physical or verbal abuse from their men. And pathetically men are struggling yet to come of their inherited smug, wrongly defined masculine superiority.
Marriage is no more an art of living for each other. People live in the present without thinking about the future. The increase in divorce rate is a clear reflection of the hard, businesslike, insensitive approach to love and life.
True love forgives and forgets. Today’s love does not. We find a very saddening trend fast eroding faith in the virtuous institution of marriage and heralding a beastly trend of living together fashion. What more are we to live on to witness?