I am observing a fascinating trend amongst my clientele. I currently have four clients that are divorcing from arranged marriages. It appears that divorce from traditional arranged marriage is becoming more frequent.
I am writing about this topic with the hope to reach individuals who are in unhealthy arranged marriages. I am by no means an authority on arranged marriage. This article is merely a sharing of my experience and insights.
Reasons for separating
The reasons for divorce in arranged marriages seem to be exactly the same as in non-arranged marriages. Common reasons include infidelity, incompatibility, and differences in parenting styles. There do seem to be a few complicating factors that may be specific to arranged marriages such as non-transparency during the courting period, familial interference in the marriage, and cultural differences in communication. These factors may heighten disharmony and create a need to separate.
Several of my clients divorcing from an arranged marriage have indicated that they were unaware of the true history of the person that they married. I am not referring to small nuances that you may discover once you start living together. I am talking about major red flags that were intentionally concealed during the courtship such as: previous marriages, debts, addictions, medical issues and psychiatric diagnoses. Currently, I am coaching individuals whose ex’s are plagued with alcoholism, violent behaviour, and chronic lack of employment. My clients feel duped, like they were sold a bill of goods. This phenomenon can equally occur in non-arranged marriages.
In some traditional marriages, it is common for the couple to live with one set of parents. Imagine moving in with three people at the start of your marriage instead of just your spouse. This is tricky business and one needs to manage expectations.
The parents may have a different culture when it comes to marital relations and child rearing. This can become a problem if they interfere and impose that culture on the household. Many of my clients report highly abusive behaviour by their in-laws, or an inability to please their in-laws. The final breakdown of the marriage is often caused by the spouse (to whom the parents belong), siding with the parents in conflict situations.
Inappropriate communication and abuse
Inappropriate communication including shouting, demeaning behaviour, shaming, and physical violence occurs in many high-conflict marriages and divorces. Abuse is a subjective term and not everyone will consider behaviour that does not leave a physical trace to be abusive. Certain cultures, including my own, enable some form of abuse toward women. Unfortunately, there has been some degree of abuse in every case of divorce from arranged marriage to which I have been involved. This is not gender specific, and I have seen it on both sides of the equation.
Obstacles to divorcing from an arranged marriage
- Shame – I believe that anybody who leaves a marriage may experience the shame of a failed relationship. In a more traditional family, there may be an even greater stigma. Some cultures consider it sinful to expose domestic violence and will shun the those who do. I coach individuals through these challenges. We work together to question and re-program their inner belief system. Often it has been passed down from generations. Our goal is to realize that nothing has gone wrong, you are completely worthy and whole and you have chosen to divorce.
- Financial hardship – This is actually not unique to separating from an arranged marriage. Many individuals feel shackled by their inability to have access to marital funds to support themselves when they leave. Seeking family support and cleverly planning ahead are great strategies.
Although no longer an outright taboo, divorce in any culture is considered a private matter. It is a privilege to work with any individual who has chosen to leave an unhealthy arranged marriage.