Marriage and Family

May 1, 2015

Divorce is incredibly expensive

Divorce is incredibly expensive

*The fanfare of `a hole in the pocket’

By Francis Ewherido
Divorce is incredibly expensive, especially in other climes. Check out the figures. Harold Hamm, shale oil billionaire, paid his ex- wife, Sue Ann Arnall, about $975 million in divorce settlement.

Anna Torv, second wife of media mogul, Rubert Murdoff, won $1.7 billion in assets and $100 million in cash in divorce settlement. American Basketball legend, Michael Jordan, paid his ex-wife, Juanita Jordan, $168m. Golfer Tiger Woods paid his ex-wife, Elin Nordegren, $100m. British singer and songwriter Paul McCartney was a little luckier. He paid only 25 million pounds to his ex-wife, Heather Mills. These figures are humongous.

Beyond alimony, studies show “that divorce and family fragmentation cost American taxpayers more than $112 billion every year. The legal process of divorce itself can cost thousands of dollars, not to mention additional legal costs to enforce the divorce settlement agreement in some situations. Furthermore, both men and women suffer financially after a divorce.”But the financial cost of divorce does not seem to deter married people, especially Americans, who have the highest divorce rate of over 50 per cent in the world, from getting entangled in it. There are no available statistics on the rate of divorce in Nigeria, but court records seem to suggest that it is on the increase.

Divorces are caused mainly by breakdown in, or lack of, communication between spouses, infidelity, (especially in Europe and America. Nigerian women scarcely divorce their husbands because of infidelity, although Nigerian men are less tolerant of unfaithful wives), incompatibility and “irreconcilable” differences, unrealistic expectations, immaturity, money matters, religious differences, drug and alcohol addiction, spousal abuses (physical, emotional, psychological and verbal),drastic change in life style, sexual problems, family and parental interference. Ordinarily, some of these issues should have been resolved during courtship, but most times would-be couples focus on temporary pleasures and gloss over fundamental issues. The reality only dawns on them after saying “I do.” Sometimes those who are aware of these detrimental traits assume their spouses will change after marriage.

Divorce does come with a trailer-load of baggage. Beyond the financial implications, “studies suggest that divorced men in most developed countries have twice the premature mortality rate of married men, and divorced women are also more likely to die at an early age than married women.” A US research, though inconclusive, also suggests that divorcees are more likely to have a heart attack than their peers who stay married.

It is also on record that divorced couples often have homicidal tendencies (with the ex or their spouse as the likely victims), or suicidal tendencies. Children from divorced parents might experience depression, personality disorder and divided loyalty, among others. We do not have much database here in Nigeria, but from newspaper reports, the confessions of many armed robbery suspects show they are from broken homes or parental care during formative stages was inadequate. We have also read reports of stepmothers maltreating their stepchildren and in some cases reducing them to house-helps.

The Nigeria society has not quite accepted divorce, so divorce is still a “taboo” and a last option for many couples. Some couples stick together even when the marriage has broken down because of the children, family and what people will say. I would rather they found the will and resurrected their marriages rather than cling to a dead horse. Sometimes, marriage is a hot and stuffy kitchen, but you have to hang in there and look after your food (all that you have laboured for) or it will get burnt. Open the windows, install air conditioners; look for ways to reduce the heat (explore ways to make your marriage work). The truth is no marriage will survive in the absence of forgiveness, patience, tolerance, perseverance and sacrifice.

For Christians, from the beginning the Bible sets the tone on divorce: “a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife and the two of them become one body” (Genesis 2:24). Jesus Christ then added: “what God has joined, man must not put asunder” (Matthew 19:6). St. Paul amplifies further in 1Corinthians 7: 10-11: “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.”

Marriage is tricky, so it is difficult to understand fully what goes on in the other person’s abode (uwevwirohwofabeno). So you cannot really “judge” people, but some of the reasons people give for asking for a divorce look very flimsy on the surface. For instance, a wife asks for divorce because the husband is a spendthrift. How is she sure her next husband will not only be a spendthrift, but a chronic debtor, drunkard and womanizer? Hang in there and help your husband curb his excessive spending, instead.

From every angle—financial, emotional, religious, etc.—divorce is an incredibly expensive business and the opportunity cost is usually enormous. In spite of all the negatives, there are a few sticking points. For example, what happens when you want to continue with your marriage, but your spouse wants out? I, certainly, will not advise anybody to force himself/herself on an unwilling spouse. One of the challenges of marriage is that only one party cannot make it work.

I will not also advise anybody to hang around in a marriage if his/her life is at risk. Marriage is a sacred union, not a death sentence. My advice is that if it’s a Christian marriage, it should be annulled, that is, it is assumed it never took place because it is built on faulty foundations. Some people also come out of miserable marriages and live much happier post marriage lives.

Notwithstanding the challenges, I still believe that like diamonds marriage is forever. Diamonds get finer through chipping and filing, so also with marriages. Every marital breakup diminishes the Body of Christ.