Love stories can end in divorce

Updated: 2013-03-27 07:33

By He Na (China Daily)

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Rising divorce rate

Love stories can end in divorce

China's divorce rate has risen sharply in recent years, sounding alarm bells across a nation that attaches great importance to family harmony. Experts have warned that more measures are needed to save increasingly fragile families. If they fail, the consequences could be disastrous.

Thirteen million couples were married in 2011, an increase of 4.9 percent from 2010, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs. However, the year also saw 2.87 million marriages end in divorce, a rise of 7.3 percent from 2010 and equal to more than 5,000 couples divorcing every day.

The reasons can seem trivial and sometimes even comical. Shu is working on a case in which a husband has filed for divorce because he and his wife are unable to agree on which set of parents they will stay with during Spring Festival next year. The husband insisted on the divorce after his wife muttered some vague, angry words about his parents.

Another seemingly trivial case Shu recalled was that of a businessman who wanted to divorce his wife after she inadvertently broke wind and embarrassed him in front of important business partners during a very formal meeting.

"Many cases have been reported where the couple divorced within a year of marriage. In the most extreme cases, couples have registered and divorced on the same day. People are too hasty in getting married and lack a sense of responsibility to both family and society," said Wu Changzhen, a professor who specializes in civil, marital and family law at China University of Political Science and Law.

"No nationwide data is available on cases where divorce has resulted in criminal activity, for example when a spurned spouse has arranged for his or her former partner to be beaten or worse. But our research during recent years indicates that the high divorce rate is actually proportionate to a rise in criminal cases. Most murders are the result of extramarital affairs. It's of the utmost importance that we take the necessary measures to intervene and save failing marriages," she said.

Chen Yiyun, a marriage researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said: "Many people will laugh when they hear some of the reasons for divorce, but for me it's not funny at all. Society will disintegrate if the family dissolves, and this is a fundamental cause of many social problems. It not only affects the lives, work and families of those who divorce, it also affects their children's upbringing.

"The rate of juvenile crime committed by children from single-parent families is three times higher than that of children from integrated families. The rising numbers of extramarital affairs and domestic violence also increasingly threaten social stability and greatly raise the cost of law enforcement."

'Marital medics'

"Running a marriage is just like running a business. Couples need to communicate and a 'cold war' is never recommended as a way of solving marital problems. On the contrary, the longer a failing marriage keeps limping along, the greater the likelihood of an irrevocable breakdown," said Chen.

"If a person is in poor health, they need to see a doctor, otherwise long-term neglect could eventually lead to a fatal disease. Failing marriages are very similar. When problems arise, the couple needs to see a 'doctor' to diagnose the problem and regain their marital health," she said.

Realizing the social hazards inherent in high rates of divorce, while seeking to improve the quality of marriage and help people solve their marital crises, the Ministry of Civil Affairs is promoting the Family Harmony Project.