According to data released by Statistics SA recently, the national divorce rate has increased by almost 5% since 2012, while the number of weddings has decreased.

The findings are based on the 21 998 completed divorce documents that Statistics SA received and processed by the end of September 2014.

The number of divorces (21 998) indicates an increase of 1 018 (4.9%) divorces from the 20 980 cases processed in 2011.

The data indicates that more than half of all divorces are between couples with children under the age of 18 and that the most divorced couples were married for between five and nine years.

The average age of men getting divorced is 43, while the women’s average is 40.

About 80% of divorces occur in a first marriage.

“It is often the difficult phase of the marriage when big changes take place and the couple is confronted with numerous adjustments. The stress which a couple experiences at this time can even lead to extramarital relationships,” explains Liezel van der Merwe, managing editor of INTIEM-magazine and founder of SA Marriage Week.

“It is during this time that a couple decides to push through with divorce.”

Other causes for divorce include unrealistic expectations, communication problems and financial difficulties.

One of the reasons for the decline in marriage is probably the increase in the popularity of live-in relationships as well as people’s fear of the high divorce rate.

“During SA Marriage Week, we want to inspire couples to stay strong and work through their problems,” says Elanie Bell, co-ordinator of SA Marriage Week.

“There are cases where a divorce cannot be avoided, but couples should always see it as the very last possible solution.

“So many things can be done before a marriage reaches that point.”

Rakhi Beekrum, resident psychologist at eThekwini Hospital and Heart Centre, shared these tips on how to preserve a healthy, happy marriage:

* Compliment more than you criticise. It seems so much easier to complain, but make a concerted effort to compliment your spouse, give genuine compliments and express gratitude. When someone feels appreciated, he or she is often willing to do more.

* Quality time is the key! Spend time alone together doing things you enjoy. Couples who laugh together, stay together. Commit to making this a regular practice, such as making weekly date nights or taking a Sunday morning walk on the beach.

* Balance we-time and me-time. While quality time is important, it’s even more important to have time by yourself, away from your partner, cultivating your individual interests. This keeps a relationship interesting because you have more to talk about.

* Say what you mean and mean what you say. Your spouse is not a mind-reader. Do not send mixed signals. Be clear about what you want and expect, and communicate this clearly to your partner.

* Be aware of your own weaknesses. Think about your bad habits in the marriage that upset your partner and make a concerted effort to change.

* Effective communication requires that you are a good listener. A good listener is able to see things from the other person’s point of view and increases empathy.

* Be there in times of need. Whether it was a rough day at work or the loss of a loved one… always be the person your partner can rely on for support.

* Don’t bottle up frustrations. Speak about problems as they arise – use factual language, express how you feel and why (without criticising) and decide on a solution together.

* Revisit your marriage vows on a regular basis to ensure that you are on track

* Work as a team. If you always regard yourselves as being on the same team, you are likely to work together better for the success of your marriage.