Divorce January Affecting Asians Near You
By Bea Mahmood
January is now upon us and as the wintery weather descends upon our city streets, the Arctic temperatures also seem to be seeping into marital homes. According to studies, January – specifically the first Monday – is the month where most people file for divorce. Statistics released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) from 2013 show that a shocking 42% of marriages are likely to end in divorce.
According to online divorce specialist, Divorcedepot.co.uk, an average of 1.8 million couples will have argued over the the Christmas period. Universally known as Divorce January, the month sees many couples throwing in the towel for many reasons. Divorce Depot concluded that the most popular causes for ending a marriage at the end of the Christmas season were the usual suspects: financial pressure, excess alcohol, disagreements with the in-laws and rows over chores.
With a full two weeks off for the Christmas period, it’s not surprising that spending such an extended period of time with your partner can remind you of irritating flaws you’d sort of forgotten about. Suddenly all that knuckle clicking is louder than a drum solo from a Blur song and that overbite just isn’t cute anymore. Whatever the reason for the end, it seems many people wait for the holiday period to pass before breaking the news to family and friends.
Britain has the highest divorce rate in the EU, with 2.8 divorces per 1,000 couples. Therefore, the dissolution of marriages is not uncommon in this day and age. In fact, it is becoming a very real and viable option for many British Asians today, defying the common and antiquated view that divorce is frowned upon. Recently, high-profile Asians like cricketer, Monty Panesar and Bollywood actor, Hrithik Roshan, have gone through very public and heartbreaking separations from their respective partners.
So why is divorce such a worry amongst Asian parents?
Well, marriage is the singular, most important goal that many Asian parents want their children to strive towards I suppose. In Asian culture, marriage represents stability, support and wholesomeness. Divorce on the other hand… well divorce is the complete opposite. They’d rather the couple do anything to make it work – including live in misery. In fact, Hrithik’s parents-in-law are reportedly still hoping for a reconciliation between him and his now estranged wife.
The idea that marriage is an absolute necessity then explains the significance of arranged marriages in Asian communities. Not a justification, not even well-reasoned, but an argument for all the same. While previously arranged marriages meant that a couple were bound for life, with divorce not being an option, it is now more common for young British Asians to opt out of their marriages after ‘giving them a go’. Now divorced Haider, who entered an arranged marriage three years ago, tells Entouraaj:
‘It’s difficult to admit but I was pressured into getting married. A lot of the time I didn’t really feel married at all because it wasn’t my decision in the first place. In the end, I had to do what I had to do and the only option for me was divorce. My mum took it hard but I couldn’t carry on being unhappy.’
According to ONS figures from 2013, the average length of a marriage is expected to only last around 32 years, which is a hell of a lot shorter than the initial promise of ‘forever’. The incline in divorces amongst British Asians is once again a reflection of the progress we have made. Perhaps for the older generation divorce was unheard of because in a new country, reliance on one another was heavier than ever. When you have no support system, you’d rather not lose the marital one you came with. But now, with a large network and a wealth of opportunities, divorce doesn’t necessarily bring vulnerability but in some cases, opportunity.
There is room to suggest that the disposable society we now live in discourages commitment as it allows us to commodify our partners. However in reality, divorce is not the fearsome option Asian parents had once come to dread. It is a fact of life and unfortunately, a very real consequence for a failing marriage, and it is something which many British Asians are now in favour of.