Is The Rise In The Divorce Rate A Problem?

by Haider on July 14, 2010 · 14 comments

in Relationships

Separation Sculpture One of the trends that’s regularly used to prove that we’re living in dark and dangerous times, and that the situation is only getting darker, is the rising divorce rate.

But is it really a problem?

I can think of 3 positive developments that have contributed to the rise in divorces:

1- Women’s empowerment: Women haven’t always had a say in who to marry, let alone choosing to leave their husbands. That a wife can now exercise her right to leave a marriage is a very healthy development.

2- Exercising choice: Admitting that we’ve made a mistake is hard enough. Doing something about it is even harder. A divorce can be an acknowledgement that things aren’t working out, and the couple want to call it quits. People are realizing that they have a choice in how to lead their lives, and what they can do about past decisions.

3- Happiness matters: When couples break up because they’re unhappy, it means they value their happiness. In my book, that makes divorce a good sign.

So is divorce a problem or not?

My answer would be: It’s not even the issue!

Our obsession with the divorce rate is making us overlook the real problem we should be addressing. The rise in the divorce rate is only a symptom, which we can do nothing about, without tackling the problem that’s causing it.

Divorce isn’t the problem.

The real problem is: dysfunctional relationships.

People aren’t taking the divorce route to go somewhere, but to leave something. And that “thing” is a dysfunctional relationship.

Sadly, we’re being encouraged to get married, whether to start a family, settle down, avoid committing sins, etc., without being taught what a relationship involves and how to make marriage a home for happiness and not a prison of problems.

When I was 20 years old – and single – a religious scholar told me that I was already 4 years late to getting married!

Talk of marriage and its importance is very common. But advice on how to treat a spouse, what to expect from a relationship, and how to positively engage with problems are commonly overlooked.

Besides, “happiness” isn’t usually included in the marriage formula. It’s something you abandon during your initiation rites into married life. (That’s why guys throw bachelor parties!)

But happiness does matter, and we need to bring it back into the marriage formula.

One way of doing that is to look at the signs of a dysfunctional relationship – i.e. a relationship where one or both partners don’t see the relationship contributing positively to their life experience – and see how we can avoid the thoughts and behaviors that get in the way of a healthy relationship.

But Think of the Children!

When a parent contemplates a divorce, they’re often asked to think of their children before making a decision.

But as we’ve seen, divorce isn’t the problem. The dysfunctional relationship is. Divorce is just the (unfortunate?) result of a problem that isn’t being effectively addressed.

Children will be better off not living within a dysfunctional relationship, rather than have their parents set a negative example for them to follow when they grow older.

So don’t blame the divorce, and look at what can be done to fix dysfunctional relationships.

Your Thoughts

I’ll be writing a post on some of the signs of dysfunctional relationships, and would like to know what your thoughts are about this issue.

What have you noticed in your own relationship, or in other people’s relationships, that compromise happiness, rather than foster it?

And what do you believe can be done to improve relationships, so they can contribute positively to people’s lives?

Photo credit: Daquella Manera

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Abubakar Jamil July 14, 2010 at 2:02 pm

I love how you put it and agree with you 100%

“Our obsession with the divorce rate is making us overlook the real problem we should be addressing. The rise in the divorce rate is only a symptom, which we can do nothing about, without tackling the problem that’s causing it.”
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2 Haider July 14, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Thanks, Abubakar!

I’ve been hearing lots of people complain about divorces lately, so I had to get this out of my system. ;)

3 q8travelbud July 14, 2010 at 5:02 pm

we were discussing this topic few day back actually … people were complaining about divorce rate going up and that was due to the “liberation” we are experiencing today … the thing is although divorce rates may have been lower in the past it doesn’t reflect a loving and healthy marriage .. in fact people may have been in worst situations they just couldn’t get out of because it wasn’t something accepted in society … There is also the fact that marriage becomes something on the “to-do list” of every man while the woman waits for her chance and could end up in any marriage just so she won’t let go of an opportunity ! … it makes me sad to here some of the way people talk about their “better half” … you feel they are talking about their enemies!

I believe that God had allowed us the option of divorce (even if its not favoured) because at times …divorce is the better option..

4 Haider July 14, 2010 at 6:46 pm

Hi Mohammad (a.k.a. q8travelbud, but not the flower :P ),

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Statistics and trends can be very misleading, since they mask the reality people are living in. Just because people are married doesn’t mean that they are happy. Just because people are progressing nicely through their “to-do” list doesn’t mean that their living responsibly.

Numbers and rigid plans make people feel safe and comfortable. They don’t have to make difficult choices in their lives, and let circumstances dictate which side of the statistic they live in. Relationships are very important, but because part of the “to-do” list is to “endure a married life” people don’t bother working on their relationships! Sad indeed.

5 MBH July 15, 2010 at 1:13 pm

Typo: “Talk of marriage and its important” -> “importance”

As for the subject, you’re right: Divorce is a symptom. But it’s not due to women being more empowered nor liberal. They were more so in the ’60s, ’70s & ’80s than now (short skirts & all).

I commented a few days to a friend’s post on why we have such lousy generations, current and to be, and have pointed the fact that it’s the parents’ fault for such failure.

The people themselves are no longer mature (thought wise, not age wise), and indulge themselves in everything trivial and shallow (singing contests, star academy, Arabic hiphop (WTH?)).

The focus of life has become appearances, which requires money, and ultimately to wow the opposite sex, for the thrill of physical enjoyment.

As parents are giving their kids freedom to do what they want, they’ve lost control on their actions outside the house. The Avenues mall’s weekly freak show is the best example! Where are the parents of those boys & girls who just lurk around hitting on each other and looking for sinful fun?!

As you said, if the concept of a relationship isn’t properly explained, then it’s bound to be a failure, but the problem is even bigger as there’s no explanation of responsibility to begin with! Be it marriage, or one’s own family.
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6 Haider July 15, 2010 at 3:04 pm


You highlighted parental failures, which are certainly very common and can be avoided with proper education and the promotion of responsibility. We’re living in a culture where responsibility feels like a burden we should cast off rather than a role to embrace.

But what about married life, itself? What characteristics define marriages today that lead to hostile domestic environments, where partners live separate lives and children are raised in malls because neither parent has the patience and moral awareness to care for their children?

It’s the dysfunctional married life that I’d like to explore here, although parenting is an extremely important issue, as well.

7 Dia July 17, 2010 at 10:14 pm

Nice post Haider! I think if we focus on communication, loyalty, honesty, and other positive things, we would reduce the divorce rate tremendously. The real problem is with lack of communication, lack of loyalty, and among other reasons. Thanks for sharing Haider
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8 Haider July 18, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Thanks, Dia!

Communication is definitely a huge factor. It can either be misused or avoided completely, which allows problems to grow. I think we should all agree that throwing a vase at your partner is bad communication! :P

9 Farnoosh
Twitter: prolificliving
July 24, 2010 at 10:24 pm

Excellent post. What I always say is that two happy homes are better than one unhappy one – to those who want to “save” the children – There are so many, many whom I have met over the year, in every culture and ethnicity, where they settle for these dysfunctional relationships and I find it very sad. Divorce is absolutely not the issue you are right and sometimes it is the solution to a better life. Very nice thought process here. I enjoyed it.
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10 Haider July 25, 2010 at 1:43 am

Hi Farnoosh!

Welcome to my humble blog! :D

I agree with you agreeing with me. If only more people do that, and more often. :P

From what I’ve noticed, many people expect relationships to be dysfunctional. To them that signifies a functional marriage!

In fact, they get worried when they don’t argue as much as they think they should. Having “dysfunctional” enter the relationship vocabulary is a healthy thing, I think. It makes people realize that marriages don’t have to be that way, and that there’s an enjoyable approach to relationships that they are overlooking.

11 Mona August 11, 2010 at 3:29 pm

Salam Haider!

I am re-posting my FB comments here to your wonderful blog! Thank you for your response and for all the interesting topics you bring to our attention.

Original comment:

It is a problem. As you say, it is a symptom of a “dysfunctional relationship.” The continuous rise signifies we have more dysfunctional relationships that are occurring at the cost of individuals, children, and society. And while the divorce rate is a good symptom or indicator of this problem, it under represents the issue because it only includes marriages and not the dissolution of relationships that occur outside of a documented marriage.

On a side note, it would be more effective if you could support some of your statements with supporting evidence. Take for example the following statement:

“Women’s empowerment: Women haven’t always had a say in who to marry, let alone choosing to leave their husbands. That a wife can now exercise her right to leave a marriage is a very healthy development.”

While I can certainly think of cases where this is true, I can also think of cases in which it is not. For example, the divorce rate in Ontario in the years 2001-2005 saw an almost 10% rise, yet there was no change in women’s empowerment that occurred during this time period. It would be nice if we had a reference of time or region that you are describing.

Also, I would like to contribute to the following :

What have you noticed in your own relationship, or in other people’s relationships, that compromise happiness, rather than foster it?

One thing I have noticed is an issue with mentality. So…me people are disillusioned into thinking marriage makes you “complete” and “happy.” While it certainly adds to the quality of your life in many ways, we should strive to be happy and complete prior to marriage so that we can have a union of wholes instead of halves.

Furthermore, individuals should try to understand the other person’s values, morals, and personality prior to marriage to ensure a good fit. This type of research needs to be a priority and should be done before “falling in love” so that people can make good decisions without any emotional ties. If you lay down the proper foundation first, then you would have created a safe environment for love to flourish.

12 Haider August 11, 2010 at 7:22 pm

Salam Mona!

Welcome to my blog! :D

And here is my FB response (with slight modifications):

Thank you very much for your valuable feedback.

I definitely agree with your take on the mentality we approach marriage with, and how we develop an unhealthy dependency on our partner to feel complete. Partners can’t complete each other. In fact, the tendency is usually to point out each others’ weaknesses. :/

I didn’t include supporting evidence to back up my claims because I didn’t want to make divorce the issue. It was dysfunctional relationships that I wanted to highlight.

The rise in Ontario’s divorce rate sounds scary, and it would be interesting to find out why that happened. But it doesn’t take away from the fact that women do exercise greater freedoms today than they did in the past, even if that doesn’t directly correlate with the rise in divorce you mentioned.

(Thanks for sharing your comment here! I really appreciate it!)

13 WN August 31, 2010 at 12:08 am


I agree with you that dysfunctional relationships is the issue. But the idea that relationships can somehow be functional is also a flawed one. Focusing on relationships as your starting point to happiness is probably our biggest epidemic. This thinking leads inevitably to hasty marriages and babies being born for the sake of “saving” the relationship. Divorce becomes the only way out of this vicious mentality.

I’m personally not a proponent of marriage. I have a young boy with my “girlfriend” and I have no plans to ever marry. I doubt that we will last as a couple for the foreseeable future, but for now, we need each other to raise our son for at least a year or two more.

Let’s all get into the business of finding happiness outside of other people, and then perhaps the right mate will follow after, or maybe not.

Brave post, Haider!

14 Haider August 31, 2010 at 1:42 am

Hi WN,

Nice to see you here! ;)

I definitely don’t believe that the starting point to happiness is relationships, and get very irritated when people start off with: “As human beings, we’re social animals. So… blah blah blah.” Social relationships are a part of our lives, and can help enhance (or diminish) the quality of our lives.

And as Mona said in her comment: “We should strive to be happy and complete prior to marriage so that we can have a union of wholes instead of halves.” To be whole has a lot to do with psychology and having a healthy connection with the Self.

As for marriage, I think it’s approached in a very dysfunctional way. Lots of role-playing, expectations, misunderstandings, etc. We definitely need to revisit what makes marriages healthy, and I prefer to focus on individual well-being and the actual relationship between the individuals rather than the “institution” of marriage. :)

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences! :D

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