Life

How access to divorce will change us

( As of publication date, the Philippines remains the only country in the world without a divorce law. Attempts are already being made to introduce divorce to the country.)

Marriage, as all woke people know, is not sugar and spice. It is a relationship that, as years go by, tend to become complicated. Mounting bills, raising rebellious kids, meddling in-laws, mid-life crisis and career issues make marriage problematic. Keeping a relationship requires hard work, commitment and emotional maturity. Many couples are unable to cope and find themselves in troubled marriages. Feelings have changed.  The love is gone. Things have become nasty. In the absence of a divorce law, many Filipino couples are forced to stay together. Some sit down and talk, forgive and forget, and reclaim marital bliss. On the other hand, others simply tolerate, accept and bear the things that afflict them, especially if they have children to consider. These couples just go through the motions while they feel imprisoned in a loveless marriage.  They stay for want of better options since annulment and legal separation are long, arduous and expensive.

However, once divorce becomes available, things will likely change. It will galvanize unhappily married people into action.  It is human nature to seek pleasure and beauty, and to desire happiness and excitement.  It is a part of human survival instinct to flee from painful situations like having to argue with a spouse day in and day out.  If a divorce law is approved, it would be a door to escape from an unpleasant marriage, and knowing that we have that option may change the way we act and think.

Easy access to divorce will lower our ability to tolerate, accept and forgive. This will be replaced by judgment, rejection and decisiveness. An offense which could be forgiven in the present  divorce-less scenario can become unpardonable.  A wife who has been cheated and betrayed  may just decide to file for divorce. A husband whose ego is constantly piqued by his wife’s criticism may just choose to end the relationship. Grudges, which are normally hidden, are brought to the fore and are used as a basis to sever the relationship. 

Unsavory changes in physical appearance —wrinkled faces, grey hair and obese bodies which previously are accepted may be used as a justification for ending the marriage through a no-fault divorce. Why stick it out with your old, boring wife when you can divorce her and marry a young woman who sets your groin on fire? For some men, divorce is a way to awaken  their hibernating manhood without the guilt and legal repercussions.

Indeed, a divorce law may make stressed couples more receptive to other people’s affection. Instead of ignoring a romantic gesture from a third party, a person may entertain and welcome it— as a respite from their marital problems. They start comparing their spouses with this new person who seems so appealing, sweet and caring —the exact opposite of what their spouses have become. And since divorce is available, why not try it out with this new partner? We all deserve a second chance, we would tell ourselves.

Access to divorce may make us fail to realize that our troubled marriage is still repairable and redeemable.  Instead of choosing to fix it, we may choose to throw it away. There is the real danger of giving up too soon on something that can still be rebuilt. When we are hurt, it is natural to want to break free from a relationship that we feel is toxic. When we’re angry and exhausted from marital conflict, we will forget the positive qualities of our spouse, refuse reconciliation efforts and forfeit the chance to save our family. If given the legal provision, many of us would rather bet on a new partner than reunite with a husband or wife whose flaws and failures have disappointed or even shocked us. On the other hand, court officials, who are overburdened by work, may just haphazardly approve divorce applications, without first considering possible rehabilitation of damaged marriages.

Marriage-divorce-marriage-divorce. Our concept of marriage will become fragmented. It will become a trial-and -error thing. If the first one does not work, try again. If the second one fails again, go for a third.  And so it becomes a vicious cycle.

In the divorce debate, we have to consider a legal system that will swiftly dissolve high-conflict, abusive marriages while at the same time giving broken but repairable marriages a second chance at love.

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