31/05/2018 11:51 SAST | Updated 31/05/2018 12:16 SAST

Why More SA Women May Be Filing For Divorce Than Men

'The reasons for divorce are varied and complex.'

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Financial independence, the fear of becoming like their mothers, and instant gratification are some of the reasons why more women may be initiating divorce in South Africa than men, according to a relationship therapist.

Data recently released by Stats SA shows that divorce is on the rise in South Africa, with 25‚326 divorces granted in the country in 2016. In 2011 this number stood at 20,980, and in 2015 it had increased by 20.4 percent to 25,260.

The reasons for divorce are varied and complex.

According to Stats SA, more than half of the divorces were initiated by wives — 12,954 women compared to 8,651 men.

Here are some highlights from the stats:

1. Most of the divorcees were people who'd married for the first time, and four out of 10 marriages dissolved had lasted 10 years or less. More than 80 percent of divorces for men and women were from first-time marriages.

2. More than 60 percent of the divorcees are working professionals.

3. The average age for males was 44, while 40 was the average for females.

4. 48 divorces were granted for same-sex couples, of which 38 were female couples and 10 were male couples

5. Western Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal were the provinces with the highest number of divorces granted.

HuffPost spoke to Louis Venter, relationship therapist and founder of Couples Help, to help us understand why more women in the country are filing for divorce.

"The reasons for divorce are varied and complex," he said, offering four reasons he believes might be contributing to this trend.

1. Financial independence

According to labour data released in the second quarter of 2017, 44 in every 100 employed individuals in South Africa are women, and they fill 44 percent of skilled posts, which includes managers, professionals and technicians. This does not include women who are self-employed and also consider themselves financially independent.

"When women are financially independent, they have options," said Venter. This is unlike former times, he noted, where husbands were the sole providers in the home, causing women to be financially dependent on them and stay in the relationship, whether it was healthy or unhealthy.

"The balance between dependency and independence can be tricky, because relationships and intimacy require a level of dependency, and that may be where part of the challenge is," said Venter.

2. 'I will not be like my mother'

The psychological trauma of children watching their mothers live through an abusive marriage may also be one of the reasons the divorce statistics are high.

While research shows that a number of children repeat their parents' marriages in their own relationships — believing that's normal, or rationalising that their marriages are different from those of their mothers, even though the similarity is uncanny — those who consciously oppose an abusive marriage may live on the opposite extreme; fearful at the very first sign their husbands might be like their dads.

"If a wife sees traits of her father in her husband, she may be alarmed and think that will soon be her if she doesn't get out fast," said Venter. She may walk away, chiefly from fear that her husband might be like her father, and if she stays, she might be like her mother.

3. The rise of social media

Social media has been proven to play a role in the demise of marriages. A study published in 2014 in the journal Computers in Human Behavior revealed that the use of social networking sites "is negatively correlated with marriage quality and happiness, and positively correlated with experiencing a troubled relationship and thinking about divorce."

Couples who spend a significant amount of time online are most likely to consciously or subconsciously compare their real-life relationships to relationships posted online. Social networking sites are also an easily accessible means of exploring relationships outside of marriage.

Venter also pointed out that people are quick to look to solutions to their marriage problems online, to "people who have no clue about the complexities of your marriage and may quickly utter the word divorce as an option".

4. Initial reasons for marriage

People get married for different reasons, noted Venter, and these may be anything from family or peer pressure, a need for company, or financial security, to an unplanned pregnancy or wanting to be free of their parents. He argued that love is not the main reason for some, as it was in the past — and when the other reasons fall away, this may contribute to people parting ways.

Before you divorce, understand why

"Everyone who gets into a committed relationship and gets married will go through a stage of unhappiness or pain, and each pain is different from one couple to the next. It's easy for one to withdraw or one to want to control, but I'd advise that you work through the pain first before calling it quits," he advised.

"This is so when you separate, it's from a conscious place."

He cautioned, however, against staying in a relationship that is unhealthy beyond the point of being saved, especially if it's endangering your life. "Where applicable, I'd advise you first speak to a professional to try work through the issues, and if there's no growth or change from there, it may be safe to consider a divorce.

If your first point of departure is divorce without working through problems, you may carry them into your second or third marriage, and the cycle may repeat itself," he concluded.