Elusive ‘happily ever after’
WHEN she said “I do”, *Rachel couldn’t imagine anything else but being blissfully married. She and her husband were deeply in love and simply adored each other.
But, their bubble of euphoria was soon burst by the trials of living together. Seemingly petty things like wet towels left on the floor became overblown, and they couldn’t see eye to eye on big issues like having a child. Exhaustion from work stress only strained their marriage even more.
Rachel found marriage draining, and her husband chose to distant himself from the relationship. They didn’t make it past their third wedding anniversary and were divorced in 2010.
In that year, the National Registration Department (JPN) recorded 166,973 divorces in Malaysia. Over 12 million Malaysians are married, 15 million unwed and almost a million widowed.
Like Rachel and her husband, most couples cite incompatibility and irreconcilable differences for divorcing, says Director General of the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN) Dr Siti Norlasiah Ismail. She also shared some of the statistics and other reasons for separation and divorces in the country based on studies by JPN and Islamic Development Department (Jakim).
In 2010, 41% of couples who filed divorce cited incompatibility. This was followed by irresponsible spouses at 11.4% and in-law interference at 8.7%. Infidelity contributed to 6.5% of the marriage break-ups, and polygamy to another 6%. Drug abuse also caused the breakdowns in marriages.
Based on the 2010 statistics, over 150,000 people aged 15-19 were married and over 1000 divorces were recorded in that age group. Marrying at a young age is cited as one of the causes for separation and divorces.
The highest number of people already married were those aged 35-39 while the highest number of divorces were those aged between 40 and 44.
Social networking site Facebook popped up as one of the top reasons for divorces as well.
According to Dr Siti, the average span of marriages that eventually ended in divorce is 6.9 years, based on the 2010 statistics.
“Statistics also reveal that women tend to be divorced at a later age compared to men,” says Dr Siti, adding that most women tend to stay married longer to keep the family unit intact for their children.
“I believe sometimes children can be the key to spicing up their parents’ marriages,” she suggests.
“Planning secret getaways, or arranging romantic dinners during their anniversary can be contributed from children to help rekindle their parents’ relationship,” she continues.
Going back to the divorce rates in the country, Dr. Siti mentions that these figures are after taking into account couples who have remarried their same spouses. “Through several means of reconciliation, there have been couples who have decided to give their marriage another try,” she adds.
At LPPKN, they believe in saving as many marriages as possible through various reconcilation programmes. “We would like to see as many reconciling couples as possible. However, we are aware of some of the reasons for the separations or divorces and respect the couples’ decisions. Still, if there is a tiniest bit of hope in the union, we are happy to lend a helping hand in making some couples see a solution to their issues,” she said.
LPPKN together with Focus on the Family and the government have formed a two-day SmartStart pre-marriage course to provide knowledge, guidance, skills and tips for a happy marriage and family life.
dr Siti says women tend to be divorced at a later age than men to keep the family unit intact.