If divorce in Sri Lanka had the same level of social acceptance as in America, our divorce statistics would be off the chart. Comparing Sri Lanka’s divorce statistics to that of America leads to a sense of false social superiority.
A low divorce rate is not an indicator of marital success. It is an indicator of BOTH marital success and a society’s willingness to suffer unhappiness in order to conform to social norms. In the U.S. more and more people are unwilling to be unhappy. And western societies tend to accept and support divorcees while we shun them and frown upon them, adding insult to injury. Divorce is blasphemy. People remain locked in unhappy marriages and children grow up under the influence of unhappy marriages. A civilized split is better than family strife. (It is better to seek statistics than trust the television: not every divorce in the America narrowly averts murder. Sometimes it is just “irreconcilable differences”)
But there may be another force at work. Americans in particular seem less and less willing to compromise and accept flaws in a potential partner. Many Americans are single because their standards of Mr. and Ms. Right are too high. But that part of the equation is not my concern. My concern is how the statistics lie about one of our most serious social problems. I will go so far as to say that the majority of Sri Lankan marriages are unhappy. Even if we cannot be certain of that, we can be certain of this: most Sri Lankan married WOMEN are unhappy. It is often the wife who is left “holding the short end of the stick” in a marriage. Also, in our Indian/Hindu-descendant culture, even after a divorce or breakup it is the woman who is often considered at fault. Surprisingly, women themselves perpetuate this system. Until she herself has to face family strife or divorce, the average Sri Lankan woman is the chief component in the system of ostracism against divorcees.