Why is the divorce rate increasing?
Divorce is on the rise. Whether it’s Delhi or Lucknown, Kerala or Punjab, Kolkata or Chennai, the upper classes or the middle classes, metros or semi-urban areas…the specter of divorce is now here to haunt us all. Why, just in Delhi the figures go thus:
1960’s – 1-2 cases per year
1980 – 100-200 cases per year
1990s – 1,000 cases per year
This decade…a jump to 9,000 cases per year
About Mumbai (update):
So far nearly 7,000 divorce cases have already been filed at the family court this year, and the number is expected to reach 7,200 by year-end — 60 per cent more than the 4,500 cases filed in 2005. Couples in the 25-35 age group accounted for 70 per cent of the cases, and 85 per cent of them were filed in the first three years of marriage.
A lot of us have tried to understand why the divorce rate in India has been low for so many years (post on divorce rates of the world) and why it was slated to increase. In this post I shall concentrate on the latter question…divorce rates in the context of modern society. Here are some pointers as to why divorce rates are increasing (not in order of importance) and you will find that some points are connected:
Greater societal acceptance of divorcees in urban areas and also a gradual acceptance of divorced daughters by families (not in rural areas) because families have started to believe that perhaps their daughter can have a life after marriage and without a husband.
The anonymity of big cities has helped divorced people avoid the glare of judgmental friends and relatives.
Financial freedom to walk away from an abusive relationships.
The sanctity of marriage is taking a beating. People’s attitudes towards marriage itself are changing…and as a result they do not work hard at it as before.
More DINKS couples (double income no kids) who are not held back by the fear of how the divorce will impact children.
Stress of modern life. Today’s working environment has changed drastically. The economy having opened up, most companies are facing intense competition and this leads to tremendous pressure on employees. Working late, 6 days a week, without holidays and with a boss who breathes down your throat can create a lot of frustration and tension. This can destroy a marriage, whether it’s just one partner working, or both.
Loneliness. Nuclear families have meant loneliness for the non-working partner, compounded by moving away from familiar environments. This can result in estrangement, affairs…
Change in gender roles. If the wife is working, gender roles change. Conflicts arising from sharing the work load at home adds to the stress faced at work. Tensions often arise if the husband imagines that the woman’s career is temporary or the woman imagines that her husband will lend a hand at home…
Professional rivalry. Whether in traditional India or the emancipated west, men are still not comfortable with the strong independent modern woman. Men might feel that they are ready for a working partner, and they can be…but not for a high powered career woman.
There is one more – compatibility, which kind of overlaps everything. Says Savita Pandey, acting deputy registrar at the family court in Bandra to DNA: (update)
Earlier, cruelty, desertion and harassment used to account for two out of three cases. But in the last two years, compatibility has been cited in a majority of the cases. This is linked to the fact that most of the cases this year have been filed by younger couples, who mostly complain of attitudinal problems while filing for divorce.
Problems with attitude can arise because most men prefer being the bread-winners. An article on a reputed site run by mental health professionals says that American men tend to do less housework than women, even if their wives are working. But the situation gets worse if women start to earn more than their men. The men start to help less at home!
This article in the nytimes explains how highly paid women in a modern city like New York find it difficult to find love because they aren’t enough men who are emotionally secure enough to be comfortable with a woman who is more successful than them. Women can be equally at fault because not all successful women can adjust, even if they find their ideal guy. They find it hard to respect a man who earns less than them! So it’s a catch-22 situation.
So what’s the solution? Well, women giving up their careers is certainly not one. In fact, I was rather disturbed when I read this article on rediff. It began thus:
Guys: A word of advice. Marry pretty women or ugly ones. Short ones or tall ones. Blondes or brunettes. Just, whatever you do, don’t marry a woman with a career.
The advice may have been given in a light-hearted tone, but how many are going to take it so? The article does however acknowledge that “the link between work, women and divorce rates is complex and controversial.” At the crux of the argument is that the very basis of marriage is based on some sort of labor specialization which can go for a six if both partners are in high pressure jobs.
That must be true I’m sure, but women cannot take a step back, or start to take up non-threatening jobs…it’s taken hundreds of years for women to reach here. They have aspired to reach here because the traditional ‘woman’s work’ has never got them the respect they deserved. I personally believe that nurturing kids is a job as worthy as that of a chief executive, but how many people will agree? It’s human beings that we are talking about here…and if things go wrong at a company, sure people lose money…but if upbringing fails the result can be disturbed people and unhealthy people! Or even worse.
All the more reason why dads should contribute to parenting…and that will also give women a chance to do more ‘important’ work.
Well, whatever men want, the truth is that women are not going to go back to their traditional gender roles…in fact the opposite is happening. More and more women are going out into the big bad world…and it’s good. Modern industrialized society is different from an agricultural economy and women need to contribute.
So what’s the future? Whether for men or women, I guess greater comfort levels with the changed gender roles is a must! Women need to value and respect men who earn less than them and men need to put aside their egos when faced with a woman who earns more. Obvious huh…but easier said than done! I just hope we don’t have to wait for another hundred years…
Related Reading from this blog:
Men and women can be attracted to another after marriage, and some feel that mental attraction is not infidelity. Is it possible to have a close friendship with someone of the opposite sex without it affecting your married life? Read about it here: Whats worse for a marriage: an emotional affair or a physical one?
Other related articles from this blog: Do kids help a marriage survive?
Divorce rates of the world
Love can be arranged
Teens and dating in India
There is research which says that it is temperament which matters when it comes to a successful marraige. Read about it here:
What is the best way to choose your future mate?