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Increase in divorce of young couples: expert

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For many people, being divorced before the age of 30 seems like a nightmare, however current trends have indicated that divorce at an early age is becoming more common in today’s society. According to Zubeida Ahmed, a marriage counsellor based at the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) it is difficult to generalise factors that contribute to divorce at an early age, but there are quite a number of possibilities.

Current trends with young couples that are experiencing the dissolution of their marriage include abuse, physical or verbal. Ahmed noted a significant contributor could be psychological abuse that one spouse subjects their partner to.

“There are also incidents where young people are still very dependent on parents and are struggling to cope with the responsibility of marriage,” Ahmed added.

Parental involvement

Those youth that end up getting marriage at an early age without being financial stable still depend on their parents for support. This could cause a rift in the marriage as the parents are still wholly involved in their child’s life. This may in some case have a negative impact on the young couples marriage.

“As a result they (couple’s) hand over responsibility of the marriage to the parents,” Ahmed added.
The parents are thus able to have a strong influence over the couple even though the couple might not want family members involved in their private lives. Some parents may also be co-dependent on their children even though they are married.

“For example you have a mother and a father but the relationship is not very good so a child gets brought into the relationship, unconsciously a lot of the time,” Ahmed went further.

“The parent may be dependent on comfort from the child and the child might find it difficult to cut from that bond and it comes into the marital relationship”.

Another factor is the psychological abuse that one spouse may be experiencing as a result of the other.

“This shows up in the form of control and it is demonstrated when one partner needs to exert power over the over,” Ahmed explained.

This could stem from an individual’s own feelings of inadequacy. Because the individual is not able to communicate their feelings it gets acted out in the relationship by trying to control the spouse.

“One person wants to be in charge of the finances solely, or they would want to be in control of the movements of the other partner, to the point of them checking up on their phones and not allowing them to have contact with friends or family,” Ahmed added.

Living with in-laws

One 30 year old divorcee VOC News spoke to said she and her husband lived in the home of her parents for four years and conflicting ideals made her marriage “unbearable”. Thuraya Mammon (not her real name) and her ex-husband got married at 19, while she was in her second year of university. He was not unemployed at the time.

“My ex-husband was in and out of jobs and didn’t earn much. We stayed at my parents rent-free and used my mom’s car. My parents even paid for my hospital fees when I fell pregnant,” she recalls.

“In the end, it put a lot of weight on our marriage because my husband felt useless. He also couldn’t deal with the fact that we lived in their house and had to respect their rules. There were constant arguments and obviously, I was in the middle. I felt like my husband had pitted me against my parents. Ultimately, my relationship with them became strained and the living situation became unbearable.”

Even after moving into their own place, Mammon said things got worse. She endured years of physical and mental abuse from a man she said clearly had “a very low self-esteem”. After six years of marriage and two children together, she called it quits and asked him for a talaq (divorce).

In the case of 28 year old Nadeem Abrahams (not his real name), living with his parents became the main problem in his marriage. Abrahams got married at 19 and his wife, 18 at the time, could not see eye-to-eye with his mother and two sisters. He remembers constant bickering and cat-fights amongst the women of the house. They were divorced four years later.

“I was the apple of my mother’s eye so she didn’t see my ex-wife as being good enough for me. At the same time, my ex-wife was very rude and disrespectful towards my mother. She felt inferior and she felt like she was being undermined at every turn. It was a very difficult time in my life.”

Female independence

During her time as a marriage counsellor, Ahmed has found that young men are still financially dependent on their parents and haven’t reached a point where they have established themselves as individuals. Furthermore, young women are being conditioned to become more independent and empowered.

When a woman finds that she and her spouse cannot form a secure unit she might opt to leave the marriage rather than stay with a spouse who does not have the same ideology as she does.

“Young women become frustrated and are opting to leave the marriage as they can depend on the own,” Ahmed stated.

“They are not willing to tolerate an adolescent nature in their spouses.”

26 year old Reyhana Essop (not her real name) got a divorce one year ago, after just two years of marriage. Essop, a business project manager, was earning three times what her ex-husband was earning during their marriage. While he was spending his money on “modifying his cars and playing X-box”, she claims she was paying the bills.

“It just got to a point where I was running the household. I had to take control when I found out he wasn’t paying the bills he was supposed to. Eventually, I took financial responsibility for everything,” she says.

Essop feels her ex-husband did not comprehend the complexities of marriage.

“I got so frustrated because I felt like he wasn’t looking after my needs. Yes I could afford to buy my own stuff, but now and then, you want to know that you have someone that will spoil you a bit. It wasn’t just about material things, he just wasn’t interested. I wanted a partner that was supportive and emotionally intelligent…someone on the same wave-length as me. It seemed that I exceeded him in maturity.”

Divorce the automatic step 

“Counselling isn’t always an easy route to follow, you have to confront the emotions that you have been avoiding,” Ahmed explained.

This could be due to the fact that many people may deny that they are having marital problems.

“Even though it (counselling) is therapeutic and healing, it is at the same time confrontational meaning that you will have to work by accepting that there is a problem and then taking responsibility for it.

“Ending the marriage is the easiest route to not experiencing the pain,” Ahmed added.

Ahmed has for the past few years worked at the MJC and has noted an increase in people seeking counselling instead of just opting to divorce. The stigma of divorce seems to be ever decreasing, but couples who are getting married at a young age are still advised to seek counselling prior to the marriage so they might have the smallest glimpse of what to expect once married.

Well known international educationist and motivational speaker Edris Khamissa deals with marriage discord and helps young people connect with each other through marital counselling. According to him, the critical aspect is that individuals should fully know their potential spouse’s character before they tie the knot.

“I give people 100 questions you need to share with each other before you marry. Through word of mouth you can get to know people and you can get to know their temperament, you can get to know your partner through people they have schooled with, went to university with etc. Also ask what they see in you and why they want to marry you. An error in judgement can sometimes have tragic consequences.” VOC (Umarah Hartley)

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  1. Why does the MJC quickly talaq if a man request a talaq? No counselling sessions…just the talaq as the husband request. And NO discussions of financial or accommodation support for the lady after the talaq as prescribed in the Quran? Does imams at the MJC just represent males?

  2. oh! this excludes marriages taking place "after the fact " of conception, but at many masajid etc when it suits the misguided ulema they blame other schools of thought through sectarianism

  3. The MJC does that because its a male run institution. Your best bet would be to form an NGO or similar among the Muslim ladies and engage in constructive dialogue with the MJC and Muslim media in this country.

    Just because the Quráan says that there should be financial or accommodation given to the lady, that is no gaurantee that it will be implemented by our local clergy.

    This is something that our Muslim ladies will have to stand up for in order to be recognised. Good luck with that, as I really don’t see this mentality of our clergy changing anytime soon.

  4. most men feel that the minimum is all that they are responsible for. Firstly they don’t know what women go through emotionally and psychologically after a divorce. For most men it’s easy to move on and find greener pastures and quickly forget about an ex and children. Most of them are just cowards and cannot or won’t take responsibility for their actions and the oath/nikah they took when they married. The mjc cannot be responsible for those men but can surely guide them and follow up on them and their exes. I personally feel that women should educate themselves more regarding talaq and what follows because these men take advantage and hide behind certain ayats in the Holy Quran. They should be taken to task and dealt with for financial implications they are liable for.

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