Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Senior Reporter
THERE are concerns over the rising number of divorces in Zimbabwe, with analysts saying the collapse of marriages could be fueled by Covid-19 related disruptions, infidelity, abuse and job losses.
Statistics from the High Court show that at least 1 351 divorce cases were handled in 2021, up from 1 117 in 2020.
While infidelity continues to dominate reasons why spouses go separate ways, family lawyers add that the global pandemic has given people more reasons to divorce.
Increased job losses, psychological effects including anxiety and depression and the fact that couples were forced into close proximity for extended periods of time during lockdown could explain the rise.
These however are a reflection of registered marriages and do not include a majority of customary and unregistered unions that have been crumbling since the onset of the global pandemic.
Family lawyer Mr Dumisani Dube said the marriage union has been slowly losing its value which gives people confidence to give up without thinking hard about the effects on children and the community at large.
“We have noted that financial challenges often cause tension in marriages because there are a lot of annoyances that emerge when people are seated at home with no source of income.
Some spouses also allow the same challenges to drift them apart and eventually find their marriage broken down,” said Mr Dube.
“This global pandemic has wreaked a lot of havoc in families as well as many lost jobs and sources of income. During the Covid-19 lockdowns, people did not go to church and have those constant interactions with their pastors and fellow congregants who are an essential social support system.”
He said even globally, divorce was becoming fashionable and as a result some countries have resolved to no longer punish adulterers.
“The rampant use of social media has made it easy for people to indulge in extra marital affairs. The marriage institution has also lost its value, there is no respect for the institution anymore and that is sad,” he added.
Mr Dube said it is in the best interest of children to grow up in stable homes with both parents.
He urged couples to find ways to resolve challenges and let divorce be the last option.
“During a divorce spouses may act strong and all, but the whole process is draining mentally and financially.
Spouses also fail to provide adequately for their children when in separation than together hence the importance to groom emotionally secure adults by resolving issues amicably before rushing to divorce whenever they have conflicts,” he added.
For local psychologist Ms Jacqueline Nkomo, divorce may be necessary where there is abuse and unhappiness, but it yields emotional wrecks, depressed and insecure children.
“Divorce makes children lose identity; they grow up without a sense of belonging and that affects their social lives greatly.
Some blame themselves for the divorce and may struggle to have children in the future fearing they may fail as parents as they had no parental guidance.
“Some children with divorced parents grow to be bad decision makers and cannot easily make emotional attachment.
Trust issues also emerge and sometimes they may go through depression trying to figure out what could have caused their parents to separate,” she added.
Renowned marriage counsellor Dr Herbert Ndlovu said although divorces were on the increase, individuals should change their behaviour in marriages to avoid separating.
He said some divorces could be avoided by simply investing in marriage unions, which are essential to Ubuntu.
“We are concerned that many marriages are crumbling in our community and it seems to be getting worse. Our divorce cases are fuelled by economic challenges which have created distance and separation amongst couples, especially during Covid-19,” said Dr Ndlovu.
“In cases where couples have to stay apart just to make ends meet, they should put in extra work to keep their marriage healthy. Couples are also engrossed in too much work these days and no longer set aside quality time to keep their love lives healthy and thriving and we are concerned.”
Dr Ndlovu bemoaned the high rate of infidelity, especially amongst Christians, saying it was causing havoc in many homes.
“It is shocking to note that most religious people are engaged in extra-marital affairs, it’s a bad example and not expected from us who profess to be Christians. These affairs both by women and men cause tensions, which lead to divorce and many unhappy homes.”
He said both women and men should do their best to uphold their unions as happy marriages are a foundation to a prosperous country.
“I encourage women to invest in their relationships and not deny their husbands conjugal rights. They should do all they can and even buy sexy lingerie for bed to keep things alight at home.
We have heard of women also denying their husbands sex as a weapon in disagreements and that is not healthy,” said Dr Ndlovu.
“Men on the other side are known to be helpful and kind to everyone else besides their wives and this brings tension and strife at home.
You may take it for granted, but we have grown and mature men who will not even say I love you to their wives when they are married forcing women to get that much needed attention elsewhere.
Men too should never take their work home and deny their women of sexual intercourse in the name of work pressure but use the time to shower their wives with love.”
Mrs Sinenhlanhla Gumede, a cultural analyst, said customary marriages were also dissolving.
“Unfortunately, we do not have statistics to prove that this side too people are separating. Covid-19 exposed a lot of hidden weaknesses and failures and we are not surprised to see people going their separate ways even if they blame the economy,” she said.
“We are not sure how this will be fixed, but we all long for that time when the family unit was important and divorce was not as common as nowadays.” – @thamamoe