In the wake of a rising divorce rate, Adv. Veerash Srikison asks why marriages no longer last a lifetime.
A Stats SA report released in February 2016 reveals that the country’s divorce rate has risen by 3.4 per cent and that most couples who divorce were only married between five and nine years. It is obvious that the stability of marriage as an institution is declining and a large number of young children have to go through the trauma of divorce along with their parents. At Fair Practice I engage with couples that are at various stages in their relationship. Some are only starting to consider co-habitation and discussing the facts and consequences of marriage contracts, some have separated and others have taken the leap to end their marriage or relationship. Ultimately, they seek my advice in the hope of coming to an amicable agreement with their partner or correcting an existing arrangement that no longer suits their circumstances.
Leading up to the wedding, young couples are often so in love that they live in the now rather than plan for the future. In my discussions with pre-wedded couples, I ask them if they have thought about the implications of children. Have they discussed who will assume more responsibility over the other in terms of childcare and time schedules? Have they considered the financial obligations and prepared for any eventuality if one of them was to become the stay-at-home parent? Fast forward to the discussions I have with parents who come to me to discuss the termination of their marriage after just a few short years. When they talk, it quickly becomes evident that these couples have taken and ‘if and when’ approach to life rather than a consultative one. Unexpressed expectations have not been met throughout the marriage, especially when it comes to young children.
- An indefinite, undefined, silent agreement that one will take on the role of the primary caregiver and the other the financial provider.
- No appreciation for the financial contributions made by the partner who maintains the household and raises the children.
- No time was allocated in terms of spending alone quality time together. This gives rise to resentment that one person goes into a work environment, while the other is left at home without adult interaction.
- No time-out for each parent to have a life outside of childcare responsibilities to pursue their hobbies or enjoy friendships and time alone.
I cannot stress enough the importance of having these discussions with your partner or future spouse early in the relationship. Keeping an open line of communication when it comes to how each of you will evolve throughout your relationship is important to build trust and a sense of shared responsibility. It is also important to seek help to restructure your expectations before considering throwing in the towel on a relationship.
Marriage is a journey, not a destination and you can make it more harmonious by addressing expectations and developing routines and structure. Life is not a fairy tale, but you can work on creating happy memories that will last happily ever after.