THE great Irish poet, and one of the most popular playwrights in history, Oscar Wilde, has a unique take on this union called marriage and why people bother to subject themselves to it, while safe in the knowledge that it has very little chance of survival. Wilde said, “Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious. Both are disappointed.”
You may be wondering why a divorce lawyer wants you to stay married. Wouldn't that be biting the hand that feeds? The truth is, I have spent many years dealing with the break-up of marriages and I have seen first-hand the devastating effect that it has on children and the long-term problems it causes in society. I have witnessed enough anguish to know that divorce should always be a last resort.
Almost half of all marriages in most countries end in divorce. What therefore can be done to pre-empt and prevent the divorce rate from increasing here in Jamaica?
It is clear that too much focus is spent on mediation and resolving the issue when the marriage begins to fall apart, but almost nothing is done to ensure the marriage survives in the first place. We need more preventative measures.
Firstly, we must begin to teach students at the secondary school level the importance of choosing the right partner to marry and more importantly, choosing the right person to have children with.
Students are educated on alcohol and drug abuse, sex, and violence in society, yet discussions about marriage and divorce rarely occur. Choosing a partner will be one of the hardest decisions they ever have to make as it will have an impact on every aspect of their lives and the same is even more impactful if they have children.
They must be taught that abuse should not be tolerated and that if a person is abusive or a prolific cheater, it is very rare that they will change once married. It may be unconventional, but I strongly believe that a curriculum to combat the high divorce rate is the one of the best chances to reduce it. The components of the best and longest lasting marriages should be taught, along with the most common reasons for divorce. Students should even be taught how to be good, caring spouses and the requirements for it.
Many people who have come to me for a divorce admit that they realised very early on that they were not compatible; however, for various reasons, including religion, family and financial pressures, they decided to marry. Teaching about relationships and marriages will ensure that this no longer happens.
Do not make divorce an option, unless it has to be
After learning about marriage from early on, people will begin to make better choices. During the marriage, however, making divorce an option will diminish its importance. I do not believe in remaining in an unhappy situation and this is exactly why you must study your partner and your compatibility from the very beginning. Do not rush into marriage as it's a lifelong commitment. However, it would be remiss if I did not admit that people change over time and many are very good at hiding their true colours. If your marriage becomes abusive, rife with infidelity, or some other intolerable thing, try counselling, mediate, and fight for it. You made the commitment for better or for worse. If, however, you realise that things are not improving, you must leave, especially where your life or self-esteem depend on it.
If you are still married, ensure that you treat your partner with respect. Stop seeing yourselves as individuals and realise that you are now one. It is a partnership and your selfish desires have no place there, especially if it will negatively affect the other person.
Sashakay Fairclough is a barrister and attorney-at-law.