Zimbabwe recorded a 100 percent increase in divorce cases last year, a development that counsellors and analysts say is a cause for concern.
Although divorce is often deemed as a solution to toxic relationships, it negatively impacts both parties, their children, family and community at large as health experts say divorce and separation are often associated with increased anxiety and depression as well as increased risk of alcohol abuse.
Causes of divorce range from infidelity, financial challenges, lack of communication and intimacy, violence within the marriage institution and unresolved disputes.
Statistics from the Judiciary Service Commission show that in 2020, 1 117 couples filed for divorce and the figure went up to 1 351 the following year.
Last year however, the figure doubled to 2 735 cases against 13 436 recorded marriages. In essence, 20 percent of Zimbabwean marriages are likely to end in divorce.
Of the 2 735 divorce cases filed last year at the High Court in Bulawayo, Masvingo, Harare, Mutare and Chinhoyi, 1 561 were completed.
Bulawayo recorded 613, Harare 1 731, Masvingo 145, Mutare 156 and Chinhoyi 90 divorce matters.
Experts argue that divorce is a sensitively painful change and can generate lasting feelings of unhappiness, anger and trouble. Divorce, they also say, is without doubt a strong risk factor and a source of stress.
Family lawyer Shepherd Chingarande said the main cause is that some couples make false starts by marrying for the wrong reasons.
“People marry for the wrong reasons and that is how many get it all wrong. Some are under pressure from parents and friends based on the biological clock and they just marry whoever comes into their lives first. Compatibility is key and when two do not have anything in common after sex, the relationship is likely to end in divorce. Others ignore red flags with the hope that marriage can change a person and upon disappointment, they opt out,” said Chingarande.
He said financial difficulties fuel disputes at home while life-changing decisions also have an impact on marriages as some individuals are quick to make those without consultation as if they are single.
“Marriage at a young age or lack of skills to deal with tough situations can be stressful,” said Chingarande.
He added that domestic violence cases which are on the increase in Zimbabwe and addictions related to drug abuse often lead to breakdown of marriages. “Infidelity or adultery, ethnic differences and even high expectations driven by social media can also be another source of friction leading to divorce,” said Chingarande.
Local psychologist Jacqueline Nkomo said the increase in divorces may spell more mental problems for Zimbabwean communities as the breakdown in marriages often come with several consequences for the couple, children, extended family and community.
She said those consequences however should not deter those in abusive relationships from divorcing as that may put their lives at risk.
Nkomo said those who divorce should open up to their children and explain reality so that children do not battle guilt feelings as they may suspect their existence is the reason their parents divorced.
“Although divorce is not commendable, sometimes it’s necessary to deliver abused spouses from toxic relationships. However, whenever people choose to go separate ways they must go through counselling and be equipped with coping strategies to handle after effects which are more negative than positive,” said Nkomo.
“Divorce disturbs the order of what has become normal to us as humans and once two people separate, children and family members suffer. Children whose parents divorce also battle low self-esteem and may develop depression coupled with anxiety emanating from the changes that the development brings into their social, emotional and sometimes financial lives.”
Nkomo said those who divorce often think they are strong but are at risk of bottling up issues which may also lead to stress and depression.
“We envision communities where family structures are maintained and where individual members can live in harmony. We need to get to a point where we also accept that sometimes divorce is the only way out and not stigmatise divorcees.
Some are labelled failures and they live a life of pain and regret because communities think they could not sustain their families. We should also learn to be content so that we foster love, peace and unity in our marriages,” added Nkomo.
Renowned marriage counsellor Herbert Ndlovu said despite the alarming 100 percent increase in divorce, happy and successful marriages were still possible in Zimbabwe.
He said not all hope is lost and members of the public should be willing to go the extra mile to revive and sustain marriages despite challenges such as inadequate resources.
“In my 27-year marriage, I have learnt that acceptance plays a major role. We should stop trying to remodel our partners as that often causes strife in marriage. Couples who also have high expectations of each other suffer disappointment since we are all humans hence the need for us to be tolerant and strive to bring the best. Christians are chief culprits on this as they like imposing their convictions on others, successful marriages need both partners to accept differences and live in harmony,” said Ndlovu.
He said engaging God from day one is very important as couples cannot treat God as a second option. “We need to pray together and connect spiritually from day one so that when troubles emerge, we can draw inspiration from the Creator of marriages. Couples should never relax even for a day and think that because they are married, it will stay like that. Marriage is hard work, nothing comes automatically hence we must do everything and put a lot of effort to keep marriages thriving and happy” said Ndlovu.
He said infidelity is an individual choice hence everyone has the power to stop having extramarital affairs.
“I urge spouses to be loyal to each other, be honest and easily communicate everything. Do not discuss your partner’s faults or any disagreements with anyone. Loyalty means sticking with each other even in bad times. Even when our spouses are at fault we should never discuss them with any third party even parents, pastors, family or friends,” said Ndlovu. -Chronicle