‘The increasing divorce rates in Oman (over the past few years) indicate a shifting perspective on marriage and divorce, and emphasise the importance of family in social development,’ says counselling psychologist Sahar Salmanian, head of relationships department, Whispers of Serenity Clinic. Excerpts from a candid chat with Muscat Daily:
Does the steady increase in divorce cases annually not sound the alarm bells on social order and invoke corrective action?
Divorce is a complex issue with various impacts on individuals and society not only in oman all around the world. The increasing divorce rates indicate a shifting perspective on marriage and divorce, emphasising the importance of family in social development.
From my own experience, COVID-19 played a role in bringing underlying issues to the surface by forcing families to spend more time together at home. This situation made families confront their ability to effectively cope with challenges and exposed both strengths and weaknesses within relationships. To gain a better understanding, we must analyse factors like marital history, reasons for divorce, and the aftermath. While divorce can be a concerning matter, in some situations, it may be the right solution when all other options to salvage the marriage have been exhausted.
When divorce cases mount, it also indicates a rise in broken families and subsequent mental trauma for children, too. Comment.
Psychiatrist Murray Bowen described family as a system for the first time as it functions as a dynamic interconnected unit, where each member’s actions and behaviours influence others. When significant changes occur within the family system, such as divorce, it can have major impacts on all its members.
It’s essential to note that not all children from broken families will face negative experiences. Resilience, support from other family members, and access to professional help can ease mitigating the effects of family changes. Additionally, families can work together to establish open communication, provide emotional support, and maintain stable and nurturing environments to help children cope with these changes more effectively.
What, according to you, are the typical/common causes for divorce in Oman? Do you see any particular trend?
The causes of relationship conflicts can be divided into two groups:
Internal Causes: These include interpersonal disagreements between the couple, lack of trust, commitment, and intimacy, sexual problems, and issues related to infidelity.
External Causes: These involve factors such as interference from family members, financial crises, and social pressures.
Above all, the lack of effective communication is a major contributing factor to conflicts in relationships, and it can also lead to the development of other issues.
In 2022, there were over 4000 cases of divorce in Oman as against 3800plus cases in 2021. There could be many more suffering in silence…
There could be. The silent suffering is an ’emotional divorce’ that refers to a situation where a married couple becomes emotionally disconnected from each other, even if they are still legally married and living together.
Emotional divorces can be challenging and painful for both partners. While they may still be living together, the lack of emotional connection can lead to feelings of loneliness, frustration, and unhappiness. In some cases, emotional divorces may eventually lead to legal divorces, while in others, the couple may seek counseling or support to address their issues and work on rebuilding their emotional connection.
Do you agree that with rapid urbanisation, education, and realisation of women’s rights, more women/men are getting bolder to come out in the open to end their marital suffering?
Certainly education and advancing technology play a significant role in empowering individuals to be more aware of their rights and act assertively in marriage conflicts. Although, with access to information and resources there could be negative impacts such as wrong information, toxic trends, and destructive influence but both, men and women, need to be wise in making decisions independently.
On the other hand, the accessibility of online resources and platforms allows individuals to seek support and guidance when facing challenges in their marriages. Couple therapy and divorce counseling are becoming more widely accepted as means to reflect on the relationship and make informed decisions.
Can partners detect early the problems in a relationship that can lead to divorce at a later stage?
Definitely. Couples can maintain a healthy relationship through regular check-ins. They should encourage open communication, individually and as a couple, creating a safe and non-judgmental space for expressing feelings and concerns. Paying attention to how they interact, looking for signs of respect, empathy, and active listening, while also noticing negative patterns such as criticism or defensiveness, contempt, or wall stoning is essential. Observing body language during interactions can reveal underlying emotions. Identifying external stressors, like work, finances, or health concerns can also be helpful.
What is your advice to young working women, for maintaining harmony and peace in the family?
Promoting women’s independence and self-reliance is crucial. But as a young working woman, maintaining harmony and peace in the family can be challenging. But, with some thoughtful strategies for the whole family, it’s possible to achieve a balance between work and family. Open and honest communication with family members is important in understanding each other’s needs and expectations.
Prioritising and setting boundaries to balance work and family commitments helps manage time effectively. Sharing responsibilities and promoting teamwork within the family fosters mutual support. Taking care of oneself both, physically and mentally, is vital to handle the demands of work and family life.
Remember that achieving perfect harmony might be unrealistic, but with patience, understanding, and a willingness to adapt, you can create a fulfilling and balanced life that works for you and your family.
Does higher earning potential of women become the cause for problems in a marriage?
Not necessarily. When higher earning leads to problems in a relationship, it can often be a sign of underlying issues such as a lack of intimacy, self-esteem, and trust. In a healthy relationship, couples support each other’s growth and success.
Is there any mechanism of marriage counselling available for couples?
Marriage counselling will be effective when partners are willing to work together. However, there are some instances that change the counselling plan:
Couple counselling: Here, the counselor listen to both narratives as an unbiased facilitator to ensure open communication.
Individual counselling: When only one partner is ready to attend the session, it presents an opportunity for self-growth and self-reflection.
Combination of both: A combination of couple and individual counselling sessions help in addressing shared issues and personal concerns.
How can society tackle this problem?
Let’s promote a shift in families’ perspectives on marriage, highlighting that marriage is not just a task to be done in a certain age or a solution for problems, but a critical choice made with autonomy and awareness of its consequences. Encouraging pre-marriage programmes and workshops in the education system can foster awareness among youth and enable them to make informed choices to find compatible life partners.
Is there any particular gender bias that needs to be tackled first?
Gender discrimination affects men and women differently. Women may face expectations of traditional roles, limited decision-making power, and higher rates of domestic violence and abuse. Men can encounter pressure to be primary breadwinners and may face challenges expressing emotions – they can also be victims of domestic violence.
To create a fairer society, we need to create greater awareness of individual rights and empower individuals to advocate change. It is a crucial step in promoting equality and combating discrimination.
What pros and cons should one weigh before taking any decision?
Before deciding on divorce, both, women and men, should consider essential questions to gain clarity about their situation:
How did we reach this point? Understanding perspectives from both sides can shed light on the underlying causes of issues.
What efforts have we made to heal the marriage? Reflecting on attempts to resolve conflicts can help determine if further efforts are worthwhile.
What are my current needs and wants? Identifying fulfilled and unmet needs can highlight areas of concern and potential for compromise.
What is my support system? Evaluating available emotional and social support is crucial during and after a divorce.
What are my personal aspirations? Considering individual goals and life plans can provide insights into how divorce aligns with the future.
By honestly answering these questions, individuals can make informed decisions about divorce, understanding its consequences, and exploring alternative paths, if necessary.