Marriages are made in heaven. Or so they are thought to be during the elaborate wedding ceremonies that tie two strangers whose paths crossed either serendipitously or through the carefully organised rendezvous meet of their parents.
Once the happiness and festivities are over, real life kicks into motion, and we have the various itches and boredom’s associated with long-term cohabitation which is one of the reasons why our siblings never seem attractive to us.
Growing up with someone introduces us to their uninhibited selves with all their quirks and weird habits. Combined with the fact that they are our blood, the regular experience of their usual self is what makes feel absolutely nothing in terms of romantic feelings for our siblings. So, the excitement of something new makes us marry a stranger, and if after a while we discover quirks and habits of our spouse that are almost revolting, we go in for the hushed verb –divorce.
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Difference between the Western and Indian Culture
The western culture of Europe or America is very different from ours. In the first place, they are cultures that espouse individualism. They have very rigid ideas of personal space, and not even parents can encroach on that space once their child grows up.
They believe in independence and do not wish to involve members of their extended family in the time of crisis.
This is very different from Indian culture. We are collectivistic. We believe in maintaining strong relationships with our entire families and even the remotest of the extended family know of a celebration or crisis in the household.
It is essential to understand this fundamental difference when we later look at the reasons why Western countries have a very different take on divorce.
Divorce- the deciding factors
It has been rightly said that it takes two to tango. A marriage shall crumble only when both the parties have given their consent for divorce. This implies that it is not necessary that the abusive behaviour of one person shall lead to divorce. Incompatibility, different ideas about life, family issues and other such reasons can be the cause of the mutual breakdown of a marriage.
The truth is that apart from abuse, all these factors exist even within Indian marriages. The only difference is that while Western countries have accepted these differences and decide to give up when things are not working out any more, Indians have, for centuries, been trying to make it work.
A significant factor in the acceptance of divorce as a reasonable action in case of incompatibility or the marriage not working out is that the women there are educated and self-reliant. They have a high sense of self and cannot bear to be treated with indignity. This education and healthy self-worth are rapidly spreading to India and many other countries; however, divorce is still a stigma among our people.
Another reason for a high divorce rate in the West is that they believe in the concept of casual relationships. This was a non-existent concept in India. Casual relationships were meant for physical bonding and spending time with the opposite sex without the pressure of marriage.
However, such relationships soon began to filter into serious relationships, and people began to believe that marriage need not be taken seriously. The concept of live-in and one-night stands has also ruined the seriousness associated with marriage.
The celebrities, who act role models for people around them, have been very casual about their marriages as well. It is not uncommon to see a confident personality enjoy a lavish wedding only to break it off after a very brief time with their spouse in marriage. Divorce has been normalised and destigmatised by these people living in the public eye.
Divorce as a reasonable measure
There are troubled marriages all over the world. There is no reason for people to take the stress of a breaking marriage and spoil their entire future by trying to walk with the burden of a dead marriage. Divorce is a reasonable solution in this arrangement because marriage is the coming together of two strangers. What shock or surprise, from their past, may greet us when we are together for a long time is something that makes it essential to have the security of an option like divorce.
Indians have never accepted divorce. It is a stigma like many other sensitive issues that are brushed under the carpet by our society. However, it is still the truth that men and women have been victims of broken marriages since time immemorial. In the past, they couldn’t find a way out of it.
Now they can and should. Divorce isn’t a simple procedure. It cannot be obtained in just a day. The entire process of separation, reconciliation and then divorce gives time to the couple to resolve their differences and get back together. Thus, it is not a hasty decision.
Western countries and their projection
Even though the divorce rates are the highest in countries like the USA and parts of Europe, the people are not devoid of morals there. Divorce and casual flings have indeed destabilised the foundation of strong marital bonds, but people there are more self-aware than in India.
They try to adjust with one another and make things work, but they are too strong and independent in most cases to make the relationship work just because they have liabilities together or have to raise their children together. Their self is way above their sense of responsibilities.
Hence, they take on the burden of each of their duties on their own instead of dragging out a lifeless marriage until it transforms into disgust and repulsion.
Indians have to understand that self is indeed very important, and if things go awry, it is better to walk out and maintain your sanity than stay and become a wreck under those adverse circumstances.
Divorces are the reality of the modern day. Few or many, irrespective of the numbers each country has its share of them. They do not weaken the structure of the society. However, they do make one think why so many people are separating from a bond that is based on and is meant to provide love. The trends of this act show a higher rate in the Western countries and Indians have started following them.
In the writer’s opinion, indeed, the divorce rate is increasing because of the influence of Western countries, which does not harbinger happy news. But divorce is not the end of life. The stigma attached to divorce has to end so that people who are actually in a lot of stress due to breaking marriages can find a stronghold and come out of the trauma to resume life.
Abuse and alcoholism or drug addiction are such dealbreakers where the people should not be asked to stay in such broken homes. Children from such families also cannot thrive. Divorce is better in such situations.
We have to understand that yes, Western countries promote divorce. They have unknowingly bestowed on us a favour by allowing the suffering couples to separate and maintain cordial relations.
Marriage is a bond between two adults. What they decide to do is between them and for their benefit. It cannot be someone else’s decision to ask them to stay together or separate. Indian families have this problem. The collectivistic culture makes them shy of separating for fear of being judged by their extended family.
But the happiness of the couple matters. Sometimes, it is good to be individualistic and think about yourself rather than paying heed to the hundred pieces of advice provided by the self-proclaimed marriage counsellors. There is no point in hurting oneself to keep the dignity of the family and then blame everyone inwardly.
Marriage is a source of happiness and should stay the same. People should always try to make their marriage work until they can. Sacrifices and compromises are a part of the premise of marriage. However, this in no way, means that a person should sacrifice their individuality. There should be a happy balance of both.
The West places a lot of importance on the individual, and hence, they are unable to compromise and adjust, whereas, the Indians are so much about family and society, that they are unable to find a way to keep themselves in the picture and decide for their happiness. This is why there is a need to introduce a middle path. Both these societies need to understand how much of what is necessary and where.
The long and short of it is that while marriage is a sacred bond, no one can predict its success. We need to put in full efforts to make it work, but when things go beyond our control, it is better to move on. The West has understood this concept and move on they do.
Maybe they don’t put in as many efforts, but they never accept abuse, which is a norm for many women in India. At least those women and even men should have the right to get out of this hell without being judged. Hence, marriage and divorce are two sides of one coin.
The head being a journey that promises of love and all things bright and beautiful, while the other side displays the ugly end of this journey. Things go wrong, and when they do, the other face of the coin needs to come into play. Western countries encourage divorces, but in many cases rightfully so and India should follow this path when the case for separation is genuine and the need of the hour. Divorces are venomous, but also the antidotes to the poison that eats away at our soul when we are stuck in hell.