He was 73 and he was marrying a 45 years old woman. I’m not making a case against his age and that he was getting married. What irked me was that he had recently divorced his first wife of 30 years who he had married twice, intermittently though. You got it! They divorced, his ex-wife married again in order to get married to him again (This is called Halala in Islamic Sharia, according to which, to remarry a divorced wife, the man has to wait until the wife marries another man and gets divorced again) Don’t get it? My head begins to spin even after having witnessed it. He is my father’s old friend, who obviously had willingly let go of his loyal and “hardly earned” wife of 30 years, a thirty something old son, a doctor by profession daughter in law and a tiny three years old grandson. Quite as everyone had expected, they had declared that they never wanted to have to do anything with him in the future and the old man could not bother any less. He wore a branded sherwani (A formal wedding dress for grooms) and even got his facial done a day before the “Big day”. He wanted to enjoy this occasion to the fullest and he had made it quite clear. What had evoked this abberent behaviour in him? “Pursuit of happiness” He said. He had decided to move on with his life for the pursuit of happiness and he was not willing to stop, not for his cute little grandson who he knew he would probably never see in his life again. He was willing to let go of him. He thought he had seen enough distress in his earlier relationship and he could not take any more. He wanted to start afresh with what was left of his life. And this is not the notoriously wayward generation of ours that we are talking about. He belongs to a much more conventional and faithful generation so to speak, when it comes to upholding and respecting marriages and relationships. He represents old values of a century which uphold the sanctity of marriage through thick and thin. True he would be an anomaly in his generation. But if he were from this generation of our time, he would neither be an outcast nor an anomaly. The so-called traditional morals and values of almost 80 years ago, seem to be sinking into an inevitability of modernism and might not make it beyond a decade or two at the most.

“Divorces happen! It’s not a big deal! Life goes on. If you think you are unsuitable for each other, part your way. It is better than making everyday hard on your self. Life is too short, enjoyable and full of opportunities and exciting challenges than struggling in an undesirable marriage. ” is what young boys and girls are found saying in response to the rising divorce figures. Break ups and divorces should have been happening since decades but never so often. Although there are almost no statistics available to find out divorce rate in Pakistan to my surprise, however the quite frequent marriage break ups in my friends, colleagues, acquaintances and relatives confirm the scenario turning from bad to worse. Also the rising divorce trend seems to be more prevalent in Punjab (The most urban province) and Sindh (The second urban province after Punjab) than in other two provinces of Pakistan. Or perhaps the divorces are not registered there due to the social stigma attached to it, could be more likely the case.

A look at Worldwide Divorce Statistics shows that United States is among the countries having the highest divorce rate in the world. 1 in every 4 marriages in US ends in divorce. The current divorce rate in US runs in above 4 percent. The possible reasons perceived by the experts for the ever-increasing rate of divorce in the US could be, disoriented religious beliefs, stress on individualism, the ‘pursuit of unitary happiness’, secularization of the state and society, increased labour force participation of women, the ensuing female economic independence and even the feminist movement have been blamed. Immature reasons to get married in haste, non tolerance or non compromise in marriage, and public opinion in favour of divorce can also make to the list. US society has witnessed all these social complications since many years.

Not only in US but in UK and all over Europe, divorce rates are on the constant rise. The factors contributing to this are the same as those responsible for high Divorce Rate in the US.

However, it would be misleading to compare factors leading to marital dissolution  in the West with the reasons responsible for marriage disruption in other parts of the world. Certainly, divorce and other such family matters anywhere in the world are influenced by cultures, religious beliefs,  circumstances and intensely personal factors and cannot be simplistically correlated in aggregate analysis.

Some marriages can not or should not be saved. In cases of continued abuse, alcoholism, unrelenting greed in the name of dowry (pre & post marriage) repeated infidelity, or chronic unhappiness, divorce can be a healthy move for the spouses. Sometimes unfortunate conditions like crippling or impotency of spouses after the marriage might challenge it (More so in present generations than the old ones, where “Till death do us part” literally held true). There are other factors which are not very significant in my perception but sometimes result  in marriages termination. Some contributory factors, identified by the experts on subject, are petty arguments, financial woes due to unemployment, ‘egotistical issues’, low levels of literacy, early age at the time of marriage and frequent fracas with the in-laws. More and more experts are attributing the high divorce rate to the change in socio-economic demographics in Pakistan. Rapid urbanisation, nuclear households, increasing literacy and labour force participation of women , a rise in overall marriageable age  and decreasing fertility,  have been correlated to divorce by demographics.

But do lives get better when people get divorced? Do things improve when bad marriages are flushed down the drain for good? Shouldn’t everyone be allowed their own pursuit of unitary happiness? Or is there a higher ground and a higher meaning in togetherness and marital camaraderie even if it doesn’t always mean harmony and perfect companionship among couples? 

The justification to end troubled relationships by those who decide to end them, is invariably quoted as ridding one self of unhappy circumstances and regaining his/her happiness back. If this should hold true then US should be the happiest place on earth.

But it is not!

I would want couples to do everything possible to work things out before deciding to call off a relationship. Divorce still entails much pain and anger that affects the children in significant, long-lasting and mostly negative ways.

Marriage is an institution that needs a lot of tolerance, compromise, and ego & anger management and sometimes sacrifices to nurture a family and foster a strong and durable relation between a couple. It is not always a joy ride as is most commonly conceived. This is not to say that happy marriages don’t exist. It is simply to point out that no marriage is perfectly blissful every day, week, month, and year. Happy marriages take work and commitment.

I believe the problem should be attacked at the grass root level. Parents can  inculcate patience & respect for relations in their children since childhood. A kind and just upbringing of both genders in an educated background  in the house can be just the answer to this problem in a Middle Class educated family (An estimated 35 million) Upper class and Upper Middle Class (About 17 million by 2010). However the increasing number of broken marriages in higher class indicates a disturbing trend. Perhaps we can term the same factors causing broken relationships in west and europe, causing an increased number of divorces in Upper class of Pakistan. The reason is that we can almost draw a parallel between the western culture and the lifestyle of our Rich. Interestingly, our poor & Illiterate class seems to have higher number of disrupted marriages in my view. Again I can only assume on the basis of my observation in the absence of any data indicating Divorce rate on the basis of classes, literacy or poverty rate.

In both our religion and culture, the values of togetherness and marital camaraderie hold greater meaning and significance than broken lives and deserted homes.

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