Building Relationships We Can All Be Proud Of

Saturday, 27 September 2014


Divorce rates in Ghana is supposedly higher than that of England according to a report read on air by Joy Fm to have been published by the Ghana Statistical services. This comes at the backdrop of the common notion that Ghana is a noted religious anti- divorce society. So what could be causing the rising rate in divorce?
Yesterday there was a discussion on the issue on Joy Fm. And to find a springboard, they looked at the recent sermon by Bishop Dag Heward Mills, in which he mentioned a lot of indicators leading to the high rate of Divorce. Even though i perfectly agree with the things he mentioned, I believe we can extend his sermon to add a few things.

The Joy Fm discussions, unfortunately, centred narrowly on sex, and the lack thereof, as a major cause of divorce. I rather think that the Lack of sex is the manifestation of other problems in the marriage. I have a WhatsApp group for Married Couples and we have discussed this issue on many occasions and under different scenarios. When it comes to the issue of sex, couples are not having it because of the prevalence of other problems in their marriages, not because they just stopped having sex.

Before I touch on some of these problems, let me say that lack of sex mostly does not lead to divorce; it leads to infidelity.  And infidelity, until discovered, USUALLY doesn't lead to divorce. Unless the cheating partner finds something else in the person they cheating with, which they agree their partners don't have but they need, usually,  they go out, do their own thing and come home. And if a cheating partner can back their infidelity with a bold step to say I want a divorce, then it is not just sex they are getting outside, it is more than sex. Which brings me to the point that lack of sex is not a course of divorce,  it is rather the manifestation of other things missing in the home which can invariably lead to a divorce.

We live in a society where men who get it to the brim at home, still go out to dabble in girlfriends business. So these man are not out there because they are not getting it at home, but because other things are making them do it be it intrinsic causes or extrinsic causes. Men who don't get it at home tend to get it from outside and mostly stay married for as long as they want to. Hardly do you hear a man citing lack of sex as the reason they want a divorce. There are other problems, some of which are manifesting in his lack of desire for his wife, or his wife's lack of desire for him in a sexual way.

It is rather easier for a woman to seek divorce if it is a problem of lack of quality sex - in this case, we are looking at medical or psychological factors that may affect a man’s ability to crank the engine and ride all the way to Colorado and hand the keys to the inn keeper with pride. But even that, a smart woman will know how to play her cards rather than seek an outright divorce. But generally, lack of sex in itself is not a cause of divorce in most cases, it is when the lack of sex is a culmination of other problems in the home.

If we limit the argument to just sex, we can never contain the problem.

So what are some of the things that may lead to divorce - some of which may, just before the divorce,  lead to lack of sex? I touched on just five.

1. Reduced gravity and respect for the institution of marriage. There was a time divorced was not contemplated as an escape route for any problem. Marriage was an end in itself for any man or woman who cross that line of the marital ceremony - till death do us part. Those who dared to break free were the aberrant of society. The church, the family and even the law placed considerable impediment in the way to make that choice a very unpleasant one. The usual window of hope was mostly left to men....and some men took it. Others would rather marry another woman in addition to their wife.

Now it is not so. Society has reduced the gravity of that institution, making it easy to go in and come out as one pleased. And because women are now empowered economically and politically, ( which is evidence of a general cultural empowerment) it is easy to initiate divorce from their side. In my few years of being a small town counsellor,  I have heard more women throw that word around than men; and they are all empowered women.

Let me say that previously,  one of the motives for marrying, for a woman, was social acceptance,  economic upgrade and opportunities and sustenance. Now let us look around us; how many women in Urban Ghana need a man in order to attain these? So the question is simple, 'Which woman has time for a cheating,  self conceited,  controlling, on-the-same-financial-level, abusive and unsupportive man? Few empowered Ghanaian woman! And which of these women after all these drama would want that man to come on top of her in a cheap meaningless sexual bout? None!

Again, when a society is empowered,  religion is relegated, to a good extent, to the background.  There will be evidence of religion,  but it lack its spiritual spine. This means that instead of a woman praying and saying God will do it, she looks at her situation carefully and makes rather shocking decision- A Logical Decision not an emotion one!!!! And this is just one of the causes of divorce!

2. Another cause is perception and commitment.  How we perceive a relationship-in this case marriage- influence our approach to the responsibilities that attaches to that institution.  If we see it as a daunting task and every duty is perceived as a wearying one, then even the slightest act of sacrifice becomes back breaking. But if you see it as a must keep and this-is-my-life-my-all-forever-and-ever, then you get to the Bruno Mars state where you start catching bullets for your spouse and the marriage.

I was trying to explain this view yesterday on air when JoyFm called me when I was taken off air, I presume because time was almost up. I used the simple analogy of the standard size gas cylinder we use as home and how heavy it comes when we are called to lift it up, but we do not find it burden if we are to lift a child of same weight or more, or a woman of even 50kg weight. Aside the explanation physics can give to this, one is more of a chore, while the other is something we do for fun or are excited about doing. You lift a child up in excitement, you lift a woman up in excitement. But I don't see how lifting that cylinder all over a place gives anyone excitement, unless that is a part of a body building regime. 

In the same way if you are excited about your marriage, you do all it takes to make it work without seeing it as a back breaking task. You want to talk to your partner,  share your day with them, bounce your ideas off them, find out what is eating them up, notice the changes that are constantly taking place in them, from the slightest change in their hair color or cut to the dress they wear, even to the more subtle aspect of the emptiness in their eyes. You think about them and telepathically they think about you and call, you end each other's statements. Exciting. However, if you are not excited about your partner or your marriage, even the sight of them, puts you off let alone wanting to hear their voice or opinion.

3. Another cause of rising divorce in Ghana is distraction.  We are distracted! Now there are many things begging for our attention; so many things available to compare or marriages to. There are so many ideas we pick online and on TV, realistic or unrealistic thoughts and impressions and one's partner's inability to go along those lines. OPINION has lost its value everyone can afford it lately and afford an extra one to share with you for free even if you don't ask for it. So people are talking too much we can't help but listen. And not every solution that worked for one person may work for you. We are so distracted we do not have time to study our partners to know and appreciate their uniqueness and more importantly embrace these uniqueness in them and adjust or find well negotiated ways of managing them. We have become fixated with what WE THINK and WHAT WE HEARD and WHAT WE READ. How about a simple HOW DO YOU WANT ME TO TREAT YOU? Spell it out and let's get on with it! 

We are distracted by flashy and beguiling things; social media and the lying monsters that lurk behind the crisp super Amoled screens that illuminate our faces everyday. Chats, nudes, sexting, flirting and the sweetest icing to go with it- A vault to conceal it all until it blows up in our faces - Passwords!  
So instead of fixing our collapsing homes due to its lack of communication and support, we would rather spend time chatting. Your partner is not in a good mood and you only find out when you have time for them. And like a doctor,  probe, observe and attempt a diagnosis.  But you don't have time because many people are begging for a shard of that precious twinkling little minutes that are so fast fading into the void of the day you would rather give it to the one that gives you the best of returns. And this person could be anyone who meets you at your basal desires not a boring, nagging unexciting partner. 

So we have all become like the doctor I went to see in my freshman year in the university who got upset when I suggested to him to treats me for typhoid instead of Malaria. He thought, without a test he could just look at me and under 5 minutes decide I have malaria parasites in my guts rather than typhoid. We look at our partners and diagnose them without even consulting them and always decide they are on their own, while we slip our beautifully manicured fingers across the Gorilla glass screens of our smartphones chatting and calling and stepping out to chill and to blow off steam. We watch communication die a gruesome death and get into a blame game at their solemn funeral.

 Faulty premises for marrying is another reason for divorce. There are a lot of these premises, but one of them I will touch on is the notion of 'no one is perfect.' I get that a lot and it saddens me. When people say, no one is perfect so do not look for a perfect person, but look for how you can live with their imperfections,  I ask so why do they divorce them and cite their imperfections as the reason for the divorce. You knew he was lazy and opportunistic,  you knew she was unstable and insecure. You knew all that and went ahead to marry them telling all of us to go romance satan because no one is perfect and we all have our weaknesses so we should not judge. Why do you want a divorce now? How have they changed? All these things you are telling us now....did you not know them? Did you not see them years before you saw the altar or the marriage bureau?  So why are you playing the victim here? We sing that song and refuse to demand for better standards while dating. We take the same trash down the aisle and come crying wolf 18 months down the road! 

Oh when we get to the bridge we will cross it! You walk for 15km to the bridge and you realise you will need ropes to help you cross and as it stands you don't have any. How about asking, even before the journey starts, how this bridge would be cross? How about finding out how we can deal with eventualities when we get there and it is not a smooth crossover. We shelf the most important things of the relationship and hope when we marry it would die out. We marry not knowing  jack about his financial standing, his or her health status anything that is key to the marriage like dreams, ambitions and career aspirations. We get in and as life unfolds, we start having problems when these things do not find a point of equilibrium with our own set of expectations. How about finding out before the Altar, because I would prefer a broken relationship than a broken marriage. It is a fact that over 70% of all divorces happen between couples who knew they may most likely survive marriage even before they married.

Oh we did not want to rock the boat! Well rock it so you can test the integrity of the boat before you take it to the high seas of marriage! 

 Unsupportive spouses. And with this one, I touch on men. Clearly, if you want a less stressed-out woman, always with her groove on and darkness- piercing spark ready to rock your world in a pornstar fashioned sex, then you need to help her with her load. She works, like you. She goes through everything you go through in the day. So at home you help her, otherwise, that is an unfair balance right there. How on earth do you intend for her to be all kinky when after the day's stress she has to handle the home stress all alone? And how do you manage her complaints?  You resist them. That is a recipe for trouble. Another guy will just creep in with the same things you are not doing. 

Sometimes the woman is not asking for much; attention, interest, support - be it emotional or psychological.  She needs a listening ear. She just wants you to stand at the kitchen door and chat her up while she fixes dinner even if you won't lift a finger. a man that has time for her not the one who places the boys above her. Too much to ask?

These and the many more common reasons we all know are wrecking homes. Lack of sex will always manifest where most of these indicators are available. 

Marriage is a life long journey and must not be entered lightly.

PG Sebastian
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