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Zarina is a Delhi-based lawyer. She is a single parent to a child with special needs. In 2015, she got a divorce from her husband. It was not an easy decision back then, but now she feels that she has never been happier. She earns enough money to support herself and her daughter, shares custody of the child with her ex-husband and manages to pay a visit to her parents every month who live in a different city but are her emotional pillars of strength.
Namita is a Bangalore-based interior designer. She has been married for 10 years to her emotionally distant and abusive husband. They have a five-year-old son. Though Namita acknowledges that her household environment is not good to raise a child in, she is unable to break away from her marriage. Her interior design business is thriving well and finances are not her concern. It is the desire for companionship, the fear of loneliness and the social stigma of divorce that keeps her married.
Both Zarina and Namita were once happily married. Unfortunately their relationships went downhill over time. But as they are different people, they handled their relationships differently. This is exactly how modern India is divided in its opinions as well about relationships.
While some believe that it is a good idea to end an unhealthy relationship, others believe that to be in a bad relationship is better than not being in one at all. However, the number of people in the former group seem to be increasing as divorces have risen sharply in India over the last few decades. Yet, India currently has the lowest divorce rates in the world with 1% marriages ending in divorce as compared to the American average of 50%. But it's on the rise.
Why are divorce rates increasing in India? What are the major reasons for seeking a divorce? Are the changes legal or socio-cultural? Boldsky spoke to Kolkata-based counsellor Mridula Bose to get answers to these questions. Specialising in adolescence, marital and addiction counselling, Bose handles several cases of divorce counselling that are referred to her by lawyers and law firms. In her opinion, lack of compatibility between partners, interference by the families of the couple, and social media are the top three reasons for divorces in modern India.
"Ours is an authoritative society. Many individuals around us find it difficult to deal with other individuals who are at par with them. This leads to clashes within a relationship and compatibility suffers," she says. Of course, there is another reason too for lack of compatibility in a marriage and that is the often ignored problem of mental health. BPD or Borderline Personality Disorder and Narcissism are the two biggest mental health issues that ruin compatibility in a relationship, according to Mridula. "Acknowledge the problem and seek help," is her advice to couples unwilling to talk about the elephant in the room.
Difficult as it may be for us to accept, experts are of the opinion that it is better for a newly-wed couple to live away from their families. Unfortunately, this rarely happens in India where the joint family system is celebrated and a young couple is expected to bear the burden of familial expectations, their prying eyes and probing questions that end up becoming an enormous hindrance to privacy.
Social Media - Reason For Divorce
What is surprising, or maybe not so, is the role of social media in marriages ending. How does social media affect a relationship? On being asked, Bose responded saying, "Social media enters the life of a couple when there is already a crack in the relationship. Its anonymity offers a good place for a heavy heart to unburden itself. All unfulfilled emotional needs within any relationship can be met by a stranger online who becomes our agony aunt. It is strange that we find it easier to communicate with strangers online than with our partners."
And before you know it, there's a relationship blossoming online with a faceless "friend". That refuge in social media makes a couple with a communication breakdown want to work less and less on their own relationship.
Legal Reason For Divorce
No doubt, socio-cultural reasons like these are the most critical reasons for marital relationships falling apart. But legal changes cannot be ruled out as a reason for change in family relationships. Consider the two major changes in independent India, that may have had an impact on how people look at marriages. The first was the landmark Hindu Code Bill passed in the parliament in the mid-1950s that gave women property rights, outlawed polygamy and allowed partners to file for divorce. This gave couples, particularly women, a way out of a bad relationship. Couples finally had a choice other than to suffer in silence.
Then came the 1976 amendment in the law that allowed for divorce by mutual consent. However, it has to be admitted that the time taken in resolving disputes is very high in the slow-moving Indian courts, which often acts as a deterrent to couples seeking divorce.
Pandemic And WFH - Reason For Divorce
From 1976, it's time to move on to the current situation - 2020-21 - the pandemic years. These years are marked by a rise in cases of domestic abuse and divorces. The reasons attributed to this trend are the sudden loss of financial stability and a lack of space in a relationship due to both partners working from home. It can be assumed that as the global economy recovers, the lost jobs may be regained, but will the lost space in a marriage be regained, too?
Organisations world over are leaving no stone unturned to announce that they are employee friendly and will allow their employees to work from home even after the end of the pandemic situation. But while this shift in work culture is a huge cost-saving measure for corporates, it could very well be the death knell for many a relationship.
Mental Health Helpline Numbers:
Helpline Numbers - 1. COOJ Mental Health Foundation (COOJ)- Helpline: 0832-2252525 | 01:00 PM - 07:00 PM | Monday to Friday 2. Parivarthan- Helpline: +91 7676 602 602 | 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM | Monday to Friday 3. Connecting Trust- Helpline: +91 992 200 1122 | +91-992 200 4305 | 12:00 PM to 08:00 PM | All days of the week. 4. Roshni Trust- Helpline: 040-66202000, 040-66202001 | 11:00 AM - 09:00 PM | Monday to Sunday 5. Sahai - 080-25497777 / SAHAIHELPLINE@GMAIL.COM This helpline is a service provided by Medico Pastoral Association (MPA) and is run by trained active volunteers. If any caller requires face to face counselling, they are referred to MPA counsellors who are fully trained. 10 AM- 8 PM MONDAY TO SATURDAY 6. Sumaitri - 011-23389090 / FEELINGSUICIDAL@SUMAITRI.NET A crisis intervention centre for the depressed, distressed and suicidal. The Helpline provides unconditional and unbiased emotional support to callers, visitors or those who write in. 2 PM- 10 PM MONDAY TO FRIDAY; 10 AM - 10 PM SATURDAY AND SUNDAY 7. Sneha - 044-24640050 (24 HOURS) / 044-24640060 8 AM - 10 PM / HELP@SNEHAINDIA.ORG A suicide prevention organisation that offers emotional support for the depressed, desperate and the suicidal. 8. Lifeline - LIFELINEKOLKATA@GMAIL.COM - 033-24637401 / 033-24637432 Lifeline offers a free tele-helpline providing emotional support to people who are in despair, depressed or suicidal. Face to face befriending with prior appointment is also available. 10 AM - 6 PM.
For women in distress, help available at:
Central Social Welfare Board -Police Helpline: 1091/ 1291, (011) 23317004; Shakti Shalini- women's shelter: (011) 24373736/ 24373737; All India Women's Conference: 10921/ (011) 23389680; Joint Women's Programme: (011) 24619821; Sakshi- violence intervention center: (0124) 2562336/ 5018873; Nirmal Niketan (011) 27859158; JAGORI (011) 26692700; Nari Raksha Samiti: (011) 23973949; RAHI Recovering and Healing from Incest. A support centre for women survivors of child sexual abuse: (011) 26238466/ 26224042, 26227647.
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