Ernest Dempsey — The incidence of divorce has been on a rise in the third world as traditional societies are being transformed into more urban lifestyles and adopting the related values of emancipation. A report published last year informs that in Pakistan, the divorce rate has gone up by 10 percent. Also, more and more women are now filing for divorce instead of the former state of affairs where usually men would file for divorce.
The new trend of women choosing not to be on the receiving end anymore is usually attributed to increased women empowerment and tolerance of the ‘D’ word in a society that once saw a divorced woman as a cursed creature. While this may be a positive development, concerns are still often raised at the increasing rate of divorce in the society where a man and a woman are usually expected to tie the knot once and for all – till death do them part. In other words, failed marriages are the cause of concern in Pakistani society; and this brings the important question of how we identify a marriage as successful.
Most people in this society, and in others also, would call a marriage successful if it doesn’t end in divorce. Yet, this concept is utterly simplistic and has not been discussed on any serious forum or in the popular media. The main factor of happiness and respect in a marital relationship is always ignored so that a man and a woman wed together and living in a house are considered just enough for the marriage to be hailed as successful. For many men and women, sadly, the truth is just the opposite.
It is common observation that in many, if not most, families, men and women are tied up to live together – reasons including financial dependence, social pressure, and lack of better alternatives. Verbal and physical abuse spouses and lack of respect for each other are quite common in countless households. Many a time, this tension in a ‘successful’ marriage leads to fatal violence, sometimes to irreparable damage; e.g., cases of acid attacks. Domestic violence stories in local papers are so frequent that marriage in this society, particularly in the less well-off social classes, has literally become a huge risk for the peace, even safety, of an average person.
Yet, social pressures force people into marriages because pre-marital sex is illegal (and so is sale of porn or other means of sexual gratification); social support from the state is practically non-existent; and religion encourages marriage to the extent that those who choose to stay single may be labeled ‘sinners’. Can such marriages be called successful when there is no deep-seated love, respect, and consideration in the relationship? Even some educated people would also advocate accepting arranged marriages while knowing that it amounts to accepting a social form of slavery, simply because divorce has to be avoided at all costs.
For a marriage to successful, one would have to know his spouse well enough to decide that it is worth taking the risk to welcome that person into one’s life forever. And a true relationship will be one where even divorce will happen as if two best friends are separating to give each other more freedom to explore life. It is not a divorce that measures a marriage’s success or failure, but the level of one’s positive r negative feelings toward one’s spouse each day. And in this context, very few marriages will be called truly successful.