Before you divorce ...
NEWS that power couple Bill and Melinda Gates are divorcing has tongues wagging.
But it’s not just the high-profile pair’s personal affairs that have drawn attention. It’s the topic of divorce itself.
So what does divorce in South Africa look like in numbers?
The Marriages and Divorces 2019 report, released by Statistics SA (Stats SA) in March, showed a 6.2% decrease in divorces from those processed in 2018.
A total of 23 710 completed divorce forms were received and processed by Stats SA for the 2019 report.
It showed a few trends:
¡ The median age for divorce in 2019 was 45 years for males and 41 years for females.
¡ For black African males, divorces start later, mostly at 35-39 years of age, than for other population groups, where they start mostly from 30-34 years.
¡ The peak age group for males for black African, coloured and Indian/ Asian population groups was 40 to 44 years, whereas the peak for the white population group was 45 to 49 years.
¡ In the case of females, the peak age group at divorce was 35 to 39 years for black African, coloured and white population groups and the peak age group at divorce was 40 to 44 years for the Indian/Asian population group.
She highlighted key areas couples often overlooked.
“One of the most essential things that you are going to have to learn is communication … it is actually one of the biggest pitfalls for many couples. You go into a marriage with a blueprint of communication and often how you learn about marriage is from how you grew up … seeing how your parents spoke to each other, or maybe there was no relationship for you to look at?
“And so you kind of think you know what you’re doing, but you actually might not have a clue about how to really listen to somebody and you don’t know how to interpret non-visual communication. And then when you speak, I don’t hear what you are saying, I interpret it wrong and we completely miss one another. So there are various communication skills and techniques that we need to learn in order to have a good marriage and a good relationship,” said Van der Merwe.
Develop habits to tackle challenges
Van der Merwe said developing healthy relationship habits was essential. She outlined some examples:
● Set boundaries: “How do we set boundaries? We first have to set the expectation. So before marriage or when you are married talk about the expectations in a marriage. We all have expectations and the way that we achieve these The POST spoke with Liezel van expectations determines whether we are der Merwe, founder and chief executive happy or unhappy. of Marriage Capsule, and editor “So what are our expectations about of their magazine. Marriage Capsule is health in the marriage? About raising a seven-step course developed to help our kids? About in-laws? About spending married couples. time with our families with our Van der Merwe said working on your extended families? What are holidays marriage, throughout your marital life, going to look like? Who's going to handle was crucial. the finances in the home … There “It is like anything else in life. If we are many expectations.
want to become fit, we need to follow a “We have seen during our courses fitness routine. If we want to be healthy that there are more than 60 questions eaters, we need to have healthy eating that you can ask each other, just to talk habits. When we want to be good at our through expectations and you will be jobs, we need to develop skills. surprised, because we often think that “It is exactly the same with our relationships our spouses feel exactly the same as we and a marriage. Marriage is do and that is where conflict arises. So something we can learn a skill for.” how do we best work through these things? It is to sit down and communicate about them.”
● Balancing children, careers, time for us: “Every day after work you sit down with one another. You have a cup of coffee or a glass of wine or you go for a walk, spend quality time together. Every day make your marriage a priority. Develop healthy daily habits; check in with one another.
“Then weekly habits, you have to have a date night to understand how important it is to spend time alone as a couple. Remember the best gift you can ever give your children is a great marriage. Having love in a relationship, having love in a marriage, leads to harmony in a home.
“If you think of growing up and being in a house where mom and dad get along, it’s a good place, the vibes are good and it’s just lovely to be home. It’s not that you don’t have conflict, but you learn to communicate well and you learn to navigate through conflict, that’s really important,” said Van der Merwe.
Outgrown each other?
But what happens when couples who have been together for years, feel they’ve reached the end of their journey together – as the Gates’ have?
“I’m a firm believer that anything that we do, if we put in the time, that relationship can grow again. But remember, your partner cannot make you whole. You have got to show up as a whole individual. You have to see what’s going to work for you and what you need to work at and show up for your partner and your marriage.
“Couples grow apart when they don’t have good habits in the relationship. You can always make a U-turn, but it is important to not grow apart and become just housemates who are doing life together – as in, each person doing their own thing – they don’t sit and talk, they don’t have good healthy relationship habits. We grow apart when we stop being good marriage partners,” said Van der Merwe.
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