The Global Divorce Epidemic

Michael is a very close friend of mine in New Zealand. He is half Irish or Scottish (I forget which) and half Maori. He has a short physique, and in his younger days he used to be very slim. Now he is in his 50s, for those curious. His physique was ideal for the job of a horseracing jockey, and he used to race horses for a living, in New Zealand and Australia. He was happily married to a woman he loved, and they used to live together in Rotorua with a daughter and a son. He used to love horses –as he still does. He was kicked by a horse in a stable once, which led to him losing his sight permanently. He was bed-ridden for many weeks, and was in a coma (which thankfully ended shortly) as a result of being kicked by the above mentioned horse.

Mike told me that his wife started seeing someone behind his back shortly after he went blind. She divorced him pretty quickly. Her boyfriend moved in with her and Mike moved to Hamilton to be close to some of his friends. The boyfriend went to jail soon after for embezzling money from his employers, thereby proving the adage "once a thief, always a thief". But there was no going back to her for Mike. His wife meets him sometimes, but she went from relationship to relationship after her divorce with him. He has led a pretty lonely existence in all these years. His children have grown up now, and he gets satisfaction from seeing their progress in life.

Verma is a relative of mine who went to America to try his fortune there. His sister, who was already there, helped to arrange his marriage with a local citizen. Shortly after the wedding, Verma discovered to his shock that his wife was involved with another man from before getting married to him, and was carrying on her affair with him. He lost his temper and shouted at her and slapped her once (once only). She called the police and got Verma locked up for a day. He was shut out of his own house and was forced to make weekly payments to her. He paid her what was a stiff amount for him, just to see the back of her. Later he moved back to India and he has made good progress in his personal life.

My buddy Lim lives in Singapore. We used to work together in the Lion City. He was seeing a local lady those days who he had met while at varsity in Tasmania. He later on got married to her and she gave birth to his daughter. Her attitude changed after a few years for reasons which are still not clear. She started denying him sex. Poor Lim did not even protest, and suffered silently. After a couple of years of this treatment he filed for divorce. She fired back with every law at her disposal and he had to start paying her every month out of his paltry salary. Last I got an update, they had been locked in litigation for a few years over the question of child custody, maintenance, alimony, his wife's mental health status, and the divorce itself.

'Aliya', a friend in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan is an otorhinolaryngologist of more than twenty years experience. She got married to a politician's son soon after graduating from medical school and went on to have a daughter with him. He was evidently carrying on a clandestine liaison with another woman, and pretty soon left Aliya to be with her. Aliya filed for child support in court and was awarded a small regular payment till the daughter turned eighteen. The triple shock of the collapse of the Soviet Union with the consequent descent into poverty, the loss of her 'husband', and being pushed towards an uncertain future almost finished her off. The good doctor tried her luck at a number of relationships thereafter, but gave up after she got tired of being cheated or dumped.
'Nora', a neighbour in Auckland got separated from her husband after he left in search of better prospects in Australia, in the face of her protest. They carried on the charade of a long-distance marriage for a number of years, with Nora having a series of lovers –none of whom she was ready to commit to; and her husband out there doing most probably much the same. Eventually they got tired of the game and got divorced.

'Vasanta' is a lady who I met while admitted at a hospital in Delhi earlier this year. I don't remember what her stated reason for getting admitted was, but it was clear that she was suffering due to a narcissistic husband. The man came to visit her for the first time on my third day there, and he was arguing with her and threatening her with ultimatums of leaving her whenever she tried to be slightly stern with him to get him to pay more attention to her. She was weeping and trying to reason with him at the same time. Her mother complained to the man that he did not get her admitted to the hospital, did not pay for her treatment, and did not visit her until that day. Clearly the husband was determined to get rid of Vasanta, and she was at risk of being forced to kill herself due to depression. Divorce plus high quality psychiatric treatment for the affected lady was the only solution here. I went up to her after her parents and 'husband' had left the ward to continue their argument elsewhere, and suggested that she file a dowry harassment case against him. I told her that I myself was facing a concocted case, but I still felt that this was the correct remedy for a woman in her situation. She became fearful and asked me if I was a policeman. I sighed and gave up, but I told her to see a psychiatrist before getting a discharge.

People like Vasanta, Michael, Lim, Aliya, Nora and Verma do not divorce because they love the idea of divorce, but because they have been kicked out of marriages by their narcissistic wife or husband.

This phenomenon of extreme narcissism followed by divorce has assumed epidemic proportions in recent years all over the globe. This is, essentially, not a divorce epidemic. This is in fact a narcissism epidemic.

What are the reasons for this?

Well, first of all there is the global empowerment of women. Women have more rights than men in most countries. Men are the same as they used to be, according to feminists as well as laypersons. Whereas women have become more liberated than they used to be. They have a lot of options to choose from, and men are finding it hard to keep up with them. Successful and beautiful women have no shortage of admirers. There are many who can never be satisfied with any man. If they land a 'hunk' they want a billionaire. If they hook a billionaire they want a hunk.

There are also many women who are genuine sufferers. They are now able to get divorce, and get it on their own terms in many countries. But this option is available to other types of women too. Is it therefore a good thing or a bad thing that divorces due to termination of relations by women have skyrocketed?

Gender biased laws have proliferated in the name of gender justice worldwide. Men are often left holding the bag, while women get easy divorce/ revenge/ perceived revenge/ monetary gain in modern divorce laws and jurisprudence.

Psychiatrists have reported that there is a discernible growth in narcissistic attitudes in the youth who attend educational institutions. There have been many studies in this area, with similar results. The average young person has become more narcissistic, and the whole population of the youth has seen an increase in the proportion of narcissists. This is a phenomenon which is not just limited to the young, as many people will testify anecdotally.

Then there is the easy availability and constant presence of visual information about glamorous people and their lifestyles. Newspapers have been tabloidised. They now carry large daily supplements which showcase the lifestyles of social butterflies, fashion models and designers, billionaires, movie stars, rockstars, and people like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, who are either famous for being famous, or serial divorcers, or both. There are also invariably photos of 'hot' women and men in very little clothing to excite the sexual instincts of readers. Readers become used to this sort of stuff and it becomes aspirational for them. They then inflict these aspirations on their spouses and the result is there for all to see.

Television channels have mushroomed. India for example has more than 700 channels. Many of these channels show salacious material or material which does not reflect the lives of ordinary people, and they are a hit with young and old alike. People get influenced by such media content, and develop unrealistic fantasies about their desired partners. The effect on men and women, and its impact on the divorce rate is the same as that above (in the case of the tabloidised newspapers.)

The internet is another source of garbage. Porn and glamour are available to all and sundry, and social networks enable communication at a moment's notice. With the increasing logged in time per person per day, the influence of people who wish him or her no good is increasing upon the individual. This argument is based upon the logic that the number of well-wishers that a person has is very small compared to mischievous elements. Such people misguide individuals and impair their judgment of good and bad. This has an impact on the personal relations of such people, including those relations which they have with their spouses.

Mobile phone communications have increased the scope for communicating instantly. It is a great way for people to contact their friends and family if they wish to share something with them or know their whereabouts in times of worry. However these gadgets are also a great way for outsiders to interfere in the relationships of husband and wife. Outsiders may include malfeasants and employers. It is simply not good to be contactable by such persons all the time.

Dating and matrimonial websites have proliferated, thus giving the illusion of great choice in romantic matters, and providing incentive to end relationships which may be improved with some effort. Millions of people are flirting with millions of other people online with no result except destruction of existing relationships, and creation of relationships which do not endure.

Social networks and micro-blogging sites have the individual and all his activity as a central element. Women and successful men get a lot more attention on these websites than most normal or ordinary men. Many of them can get fifty or a hundred reactions on their comments / thoughts in the space of five minutes, from people with all sorts of motives. This gives a bloated sense of self-importance, and affects their ability to see the world as it really is. As if it was not enough that such people were getting a lot of attention in the real world, now their partners have to deal with their virtual popularity also.

These are some reasons. Can you think of more?

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Published by Manish Udar

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Last updated on 1st October 2013
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