ACCORDING to the latest Stats South Africa data, it seems ‘till death do us part’ is just a myth in South African marriages. In 2016 alone, over 25 300 divorces were granted in the country and many of these marriages lasted less than 10 years. Between 2003 and 2016, divorce among white South Africans declined by more than 50 per cent, while divorce among Africans increased by almost 40 per cent.
WHAT CAUSES DIVORCE?
Irene Motaung, a counselling social worker and mediator at The Family Life Centre (Famsa), says there are many causes of divorce, with communication breakdown, cheating and money issues as some of the most common causes.
“Good communication is at the heart of a strong and healthy relationship. Withdrawal happens when spouses feel that they are not listened to and respected. The more they withdraw, the more assumptions and suspicions creep in. As a result, the couple grows apart, leading to divorce,” she says.
Irene says many couples have expressed infidelity as the primary cause for ending their union.
“Many individuals find it hard to go back to their intimate and secure relationship once they find out that their partner has engaged sexually with someone else,” she says.
Financial challenges tend to affect a married couple’s family life. According to Irene, the best way to deal with money issues always goes back to open communication and honesty.
“You should talk openly about your feelings in an environment of acceptance and emotional support so that this does not impact on your relationship,” she advises.
Physical and emotional abuse can sometimes cause a couple to discontinue their marriage. Irene says deep childhood trauma is usually the reason for abuse and it is important for you to seek the assistance of professionals such as psychologists and social workers to help you deal with your emotional pain.
THE IMPACT OF DIVORCE ON CHILDREN
According to Dr Angela du Plessis, an accredited and experienced mediator in divorce at Famsa, research has shown that it is not the divorce per se that harms the children, but the level of conflict between the parents.
“Divorces that end up with lawyers fighting each other to get the best deal for their clients may be drawn-out and end up extremely costly beyond most couples’ resources as they face establishing two homes for themselves and their children.”
Claudia Abelheim, an education psychologist, also at Famsa, says children often get tangled up in their parents’ mess, who are spitting fire at each other and are not focused on raising them.
“Remember that your children did not choose for their parents to get divorced. While lifestyle changes are inevitable, good co-parenting will reduce the amount of stress that a child will experience when going through a divorce process,” says Claudia.