India’s Rising Concern of ‘Separation without Divorce’

The rapid rise of this new phenomenon is becoming a threat to society. This is because Indian society is going through a transition and lacking experience in understanding the needs of upbeat educated financially independent women. Does our policymakers have any take on this?

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India's Rising Concern of 'Separation without Divorce'

When Laxman abandon pregnant Sita near valmiki ashram, it seems, that was first recorded case of separation without divorce. There was love and attachment between the holy couple but social pressures weighed high on the all mighty lord Rama and he abandoned his pregnant wife. This is mythology and so it is vested in holy ambiguity but real life is not so.

The status of marriage as an institution that provided security, stability, satisfaction and surety is in jeopardy as separation without divorce is on rise. Separation without divorce is a convenient alternative to divorce, as in our society divorce though on the rise is not socially acceptable. With many other factors complicating the process of divorce, future of children in mind the married couple who do not want to marry again are choosing this option of separation without divorce.

Entering into a marriage is as good as entering into uncertainty, but the instinct to procreate impels most to enter this hazy world of married life. Married life was much easier when women were not educated and financially independent. In those times, marriage though full of all the flaws and pain it has today provided the so called social and financial security to women. The education of women has made them assertive, education has made them financially independent so the factor of financial security no more intimidates them to remain under the forced cover of monetary security that marriage may provide. The problem is the society has done well in educating women but society is far more uneducated when it comes to understanding the minds of educated women.

It’s not that men are mistreating women it is just that society is going through a transition and there is lack of experience in understanding the needs of upbeat educated financially independent women. There were times when the roles were clearly marked. Our grandfathers never expected our grandmothers to go to the market and fetch vegetable or go to the bank and get things done. There was change in this when our educated mothers helped doing some chores that required application of brains and also chipped in by taking up jobs.

Our mothers expanded the range of their responsibility without expecting any credit for it. And husbands of that generation were proud of their smart wives. But the women of our generation are educated, assertive and seek acknowledgement for their contribution to the family. Acknowledge does not mean just the verbal acknowledgement but the one that gives them their space and respect as equal partner in running the house. Here is where the problem starts because Indian household is not only about husband, wife and children, but also about the in-laws of both the partners. This family has its advantage but then it has its flaws too. Marriage is all about adjustments and the first adjustment is with the partners in marriage which itself is a difficult preposition but to add to this woe Indian marriage brings in the entire family with different personalities and that is a difficult task.

Many people keep their marriage in suspension and live separately without divorce because of this reason. However, joint family is not a problem, it’s an assets but the interference of family members makes it a liability which is shed away at the earliest. Many think nuclear family gives them the freedom, and that may be so but it also puts a load of many responsibilities on both partners in marriage and child rearing is one of the most difficult of them. And when the partners in a nuclear family are at war the child is the one who suffers the most.

When Geeta returned to her parent’s home after a fight with her husband she was confused. Both she and her husband were working in IT firms’ almost in equally important positions but she was expected to return home early and take care of her children and many a times she could not manage, that was the reason of differences between the couple. Her parents were supportive initially but they could not understand what the problem was as for them it was natural and absolutely to expect the mother to take care of the children. Now Geeta lives separately with her children with the responsibility of earning the living and rearing the children singlehandedly. Now she feels that living with her husband was better option than this as their differences were not of emotional but practical nature. But much water has passed since they have separated now it’s an ego issue.

Her children are in teens now and the real pangs of separation are now showing its becoming difficult to manage the children. Her husband in his fatherly love supports the children by giving whatever they may ask. Geeta feels he is spoiling them by giving them gadgets and money which is strict about. Whereas her husband feels that is the only way he can show his love for his children. In the entire arrangement it is the children that have suffered in the clash of egos of parents. One wonders and feels why such people marry at all because such marriages are shattered for no real or solid reasons.  If one observes GEETA who separated as her husband refused to take some of the responsibility ended up taking the up the entire responsibility and that too single handedly that means her separation did not end her problem so what was the point in the entire exercise.

Both the partners and the children suffered unnecessarily. Here the husband did not understand the needs of his equally qualified wife, he did not cooperate to ensure that his wife get equal relief from the domestic responsibility. They both loved each other and never ever expressed the desire to enter into another matrimony. But wasted precious years of life because of their egos.

Sangita’s husband has an affair yet Sangita does not divorce her husband, she lives under the same roof with lot of bitterness because she feels his presence gives security to her children he has been disloyal to her for almost a decade now but still she refuses to take things head on .  “I do not want the children to suffer because of our divorce”. Her children suffered a lot because of their differences and also because of the reality of their father’s extramarital affair. They felt humiliated and confused and this resulted in their becoming violent and psychologically unstable. Warring parents always put the future of their wards in danger.

Deepak was shocked when his wife refused to return from her Maayka (parents’ place), she had taken the children with her and insisted that he should also come and stay in her parents’ house and shift his business there. This was unacceptable to him so he remained in his hometown and she with her parents. For no solid reason they were separated and as time passed simple things became complicated. Now they are separated without divorce. There was no real reason nor any warning before his wife walked away and refused to return. She wanted to take care of her parents and that was the reason for her walking away. Distance bred misunderstanding and miscommunication watered it and the weed of misunderstanding prospered.

There is wave of intolerance that is rising steadily and with the nuclear families in the house support and counselling which helped in steading the ship of marriage is not available. Young couples are on their own without the readymade and reliable experience of the well-wishers they in their immaturity are preferring to separate and live separately. If they have a child then the matter is more complicated than it seems on the surface. Children of such separated families are the innocent victims of dire circumstances, they know not what to do. They are dangerously placed in a fertile breeding ground for psychological problems. The insecurity they go through take a toll on them.

Research says that divorce rate will grow with education and it has been proved to be so. This arrangement of separated without divorce is posing varied and complicated problems to the health of the society. A separated person while retaining the marital status gets the freedom of the single or unmarried person. Here’s an example when Surekha started living separately, leaving her husband in a far off country she was lonely in her hometown, while trying to fix up her loneliness, she  got emotionally involved with a married man, her far off husband had no issues with her affair but the family of her married boyfriend got disturbed.

His wife refused to take him back for she could not accept his disloyalty. If such separations have a cascading effect and trigger a chain of separations then it’s a threat to the society, a victim fears.  Some may say that this is a hypothetical threat. But the increasing separation without marriage shows now it is no more hypothetical.

Many couples are opting for separation without divorce for the sheer social convenience this arrangement offers. The process of divorce is very complicated and costly a friend says, besides fixing the responsibility of fallouts of marriage is a difficult task. Taking responsibility of children is a prime bone of contention. While monetary responsibility can be fixed, there are no answers for the psychological problems such separations pose.

Separation without divorce is a solution that also gives the married couple a chance to rethink on the priorities of life. It is a stop gap arrangement to see if marriage can work after the mini divorce without any effect. Hope this arrangement has short life and most people realign their life and understand the commitment that marriage demands. If one has not anticipated the demands and adjustments that a married life needs separation gives a second chance before actual striking off the marriage by getting divorced.