More divorces now when the hair has turned grey
FOR generations, divorce was a rare occurrence among Indians. In fact, languages such as Hindi and Tamil made no provision for the equivalent of the English word “divorce”.
While Christianity and Islam provide for divorce under exceptional circumstances, Hinduism professes that marriage is for eternity. Thus, there is no concept of divorce in the Hindu religion. The religious belief is that two people joined by marriage at a certain time in their lives, is a preordained event.
Nowadays, due to the evolution of Hindu civil laws, there are words in Hindi and Tamil for divorce. With the intermingling of cultures, provisions for annulment of a Hindu marriage have been provided for, not without stiff resistance, by law.
Even then, the term for divorce in Hindi and Tamil is compound, made up by joining two words – the Hindi or Tamil word for “marriage” is joined with the word for separation, partition, schism or severance.
A few decades ago, divorce in the Indian community was rare. It carried a stigma and was looked at as a sign of failure. Thus, a spouse, often the woman, would put up with physical, mental and emotional abuse for decades, without as much as allowing the “D” word to cross the mind.
As with other facets of life such as dress and eating habits, this has changed due to changing socio-economic conditions and more liberal lifestyles. Many women work today and do not have to remain in a troubled marriage for fear of not having money.
Divorce is as acceptable today in the community in the same way that hardly an eyebrow is raised when a woman quaffs a single malt whiskey and no Hindus are ostracised for having a weakness for bacon at breakfast or craving a beef fillet steak.
Divorce has a place. It is not entirely a bad thing. It is confirmation that the relationship was faulty and was going nowhere. No good marriage ends in divorce. Think about it; it is true.
If two people get married, have a great thing going, and then suddenly divorce, that will be sad. But this has never happened. It cannot happen. Divorce does not happen when the marriage is firing on all cylinders.
An interesting trend among all societies is
THE writer says divorce in the Indian community was rare a few decades ago. that fewer younger people are splitting up. In the Indian community this can be partially attributed to the fact that arranged marriages now belong to times gone by and young people are choosing their own partners, with compatibility playing a key role.
Disturbing, however, is that worldwide there is an increase in grey divorce – the separation of older couples who have been married for a long time. In recent years, the divorce rate for Americans over the age of 50 has more than doubled.
The world was shocked to learn just over a week ago when billionaire couple Bill and Melinda Gates announced that they had decided to part ways after 27 years of marriage, saying “we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple”.
They said: “After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage. We have raised three incredible children and built a foundation that works all over the world to enable all people to lead healthy, productive lives.”
The reason behind their divorce remains a mystery but Melinda has previously suggested that hubby was facing trouble in balancing work and family.
To be really married a couple must create a relationship that includes an “us” or a “we”.
Many people who consider divorce have never had a marriage that was anything more than two individuals meeting their own needs.
They may have raised children and shared a home but they participated in those activities from a competitive rather than unified position.
Many older couples go through the motions of marriage and are not engaged in a loving partnership. Look around in a restaurant and you will see couples eating and not interacting at all. If it is a fine dining place, such a waste of good food.
But why the sudden rise in the grey divorce rate?
Many people do not want to enter the last chapter of their life in an unhappy union. The realisation of just how little they now have in common after years of marriage takes over, and they realise just how much they have grown apart over the years.
Finance is a recurring factor, especially when one spouse has challenges managing the household bills. Couples who struggle with debt or constantly fight about money often end up divorcing.
Another reason for more grey divorces is that with the diminished stigma around divorce, more couples are willing to admit later in their lives that the marriage is not working out or that the engine is now misfiring and it is time for an overhaul.
Many older couples choose to start the divorce proceedings after their children are grown and have left the nest.
They have been so busy rearing children that they cannot recognise the person they had married years ago, and divorce becomes an option.
When spouses place their needs and happiness ahead of that of others, this can lead to infidelity in marriages. Cheating does not carry the same dishonour it did in earlier times, and this has led many married couples to stray.
Many social media sites hook up married persons with temporary sexual partners, thereby encouraging infidelity.
Older men may start finding younger women attractive and many older women are attracted to younger men.
Life expectancy is much higher today and even at the age of 50 or above, people think they have time to discover what makes them happy in marriage.
Access to great health care and the availability of activities to keep an individual mentally, physically, and psychologically active have encouraged people to seek partners who suit their interests and attitudes when their marriage partner has failed to stay healthy, fit and active.
Addictions such as drugs, alcohol, gambling or pornography can also derail a marriage.
A dependency such as gambling can place financial strain on the marriage. There are people who bet and lose all their assets and must start from scratch because they choose to gamble instead of providing for their future and family.
There may be complex considerations when divorcing later such as the division of assets, particularly when attempting to value retirement funds and separate marital assets from non-marital assets.
On the plus side, a late life divorce can be challenging but it can significantly increase the happiness level for many.
After all, there is nothing to be gained by staying in an unhappy marriage one day longer.
Devan is a media consultant and social commentator.