Stats: More than four in 10 marriages in South Africa end in divorce

By Charlene Somduth Time of article published Aug 31, 2018

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Durban - More than four in 10 marriages in South Africa end in divorce before couples get to celebrate their 10-year anniversaries. 

The latest figures from Statistics South Africa show that 44.4% of divorces in 2016 were couples whose marriages lasted less than a decade.

According to that year’s statistics, the highest divorce rate was among couples who were married between five and nine years and the number of South Africans getting married rose by 12.3% compared to the previous year, with 37.1% of these marriages happening in the Gauteng region.

“In 2015 there were 25260 divorces, while 2016 had 25326, which is an increase of 0.3%. So how does the divorce statistic of 2016 compare to previous years? 

"When you consider the divorce figures over the past 13 years, the numbers show that 2005 was the year that the most divorces took place, a staggering 32848; the lowest divorce rate was in 2011 with 20980 cases of divorce,” the report stated.

In 2016, the average age at which men and women divorced remained unchanged: 44 and 40 years old respectively.

The latest statistics show that women are initiating divorces slightly more than their male counterparts and that 55% of divorces impact children under 18.

Clinical psychologist and sexologist Wilmé Steenekamp admits that the demands of society are always changing, making changes in marriages unavoidable, but she adds that humans as a species have evolved to adapt to different conditions.

“Communicate things that are bothering you and state your needs clearly.

“Negotiate with your partner on how you can meet each other’s needs. Plan how you will continue to sustain and improve your relationship. Both parties in a marriage have equal responsibility in committing to the success of the marriage. Both partners needs are important and valid, which is why honesty and negotiation are the keys to success.”

Wilmé said it was important for couples to ask the question: What is our goal for our marriage?

“Then you need to do what it takes to stay focused on achieving that goal by first focusing on yourself and then by working on the marriage. When a challenge or hurdle arises, ask yourself, is it really worth throwing in the towel now?”

Shivy Harilall from Families South Africa said marriage and relationships are complicated.

“The initial period of the marriage is often referred to as the honeymoon phase, the period when we feel as if we are on cloud nine, blindly believing nothing can go wrong. Unfortunately many marriages are a rude reality check, which contributes to the high divorce rate.”

Harillal said a lot of the time people rushed into marriage without assessing what they needed or whether their chosen partner could meet these needs.

“Also, we seldom look at what we have to offer to a relationship and the ways in which we understand commitment. Many people seem to invest more in their wedding day than their marriage.

“These are some examples of issues that lead to future conflict, if it is not addressed during courtship: How often will we visit our in-laws or parents after marriage? What type of marriage contract will we enter into? How will we manage household chores and budgeting? How do we handle conflict?”

Harillal said making well-thought-out decisions does not take the romance out of a relationship.

“It signifies that you regard marriage as important and for life. There is no formula or guarantee that our choices will be the right one, but being realistic and talking about your relationship is essential.”

Liezel van der Merwe, the founder of SA Marriage Week and managing editor of the magazine INTIEM, said the idea for SA Marriage Week was aimed at inspiring and motivating couples to focus on the wellbeing of their marriages, an effort which spilt over to contributing to the wellbeing of their families and as a result helped establish healthy communities.

“Our vision is perfectly encapsulated by the Chinese proverb that goes, ‘when there is love in a marriage, there is harmony in the home; when there is harmony in the home, there is contentment in the community; when there is contentment in the community, there is prosperity in the nation; when there is prosperity in the nation, there is peace in the world’.”

Their mission, she added, was to equip couples with the vision, knowledge, inspiration and motivation to build happy and strong marriages.

This year’s theme is “Invest in your Marriage”.

She said couples were encouraged to invest in the emotional, spiritual, physical, financial and mental spheres of their marriages for a positive and sustainable outcome.

“In short, if you invest wisely, your marriage will be rich. People who invest wisely understand the importance of keeping the long-term goal front and centre in their minds, regardless of what’s happening in the short run in the stock exchange market.” She said marriages worked in a similar way.

“Regardless of the undercurrents that will arise in your marriage, a couple needs to make sustainable, regular investments to ensure the long term success of their marriage.”

South African Marriage Week is a non-profit campaign started in 2014 by INTIEM and it forms part of International Marriage Week, celebrated in 19 countries.

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