VIOLET MENGO, Lusaka
GETTING married, they say, is not an achievement, but making a marriage work is.
Current happenings in Zambia show that not all “I do’s” end in happy unions. This is very true, especially for traditional marriages that are solemnised by parents and traditional marriage counsellors or when lovers come together by way of a woman eloping from her parents.
According to statistics from the Local courts, Zambia recorded 28,101 divorces across the country’s 10 provinces between January and August 30, 2017.
The average age of couples seeking divorce is between 20 and 45 years.
The increasing cases of divorce in the country can be intimidating to someone contemplating marriage.
A number of reasons have been cited as to why couples divorce. They include lack of intimacy, unrealistic expectations by both partners, abuse, extra marital affairs and unequal sexual appetite.
But among these, infidelity stands out as a common cause for irreconcilable differences in marriage.
“Infidelity often begins as a seemingly innocent friendship,” says Grace Christian Centre overseer David Banda. “It starts as an emotional affair which later becomes a physical affair, leading to the breakdown of marriage.”
In addition, money is often cited as a major source of fights among couples.
This, Bishop Banda says, ranges from provocative spending habits to one spouse making considerably more money than the other, therefore causing a power struggle and straining the couple’s relationship. Before long, the couple would be talking about divorce.
He said other couples feud over joint accounts, dealing with debts, budgeting, how to best invest, planning for emergencies and stashed monies and investments.
“Money really affects everything and impacts people’s lives differently, depending on how they handle issues,” Bishop Banda said.
Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) director Pukuta Mwanza says communication is important in marriage. Without it, a couple could become frustrated and resent each other.
Reverend Mwanza said good communication is the foundation of a stronger marriage, and that couples should avoid yelling at each, but should rather talk over issues amicably.
Rev Mwanza, however, argues that despite the high divorce rate, he is happy that there are some Christian couples that have weathered marital storms together and are there to inspire others.
“To encourage couples to live together until death, we should strengthen couples fellowships while at the same time reach out to those couples struggling in their marriages,” Rev Mwanza said.
Statistics from the local courts indicate that Eastern Province had the highest number of divorces during the period under review, with 5,889 cases. Cruelty was the major cause.
Western Province recorded the second highest number of divorce cases at 5,537 with adultery, cruelty and conjugal rights disputes being among the major causes. Copperbelt Province had 3,764 cases, followed by Lusaka, which had 3,325.
In Lusaka, the major causes of divorce included lack of proper marriage counselling, interference from friends and family members, as well as poor communication.
Independent Churches of Zambia (ICOZ) chairperson David Masupa is urging the Church not to relent in encouraging couples to keep their marriage vows until death separates them.
“It is incumbent upon the Church to help couples to resolve their differences because marriage is designed by God and it is a wonderful institution,” Bishop Masupa said.
He said divorce can be avoided if couples-to-be seek premarital counsel before marriage.
Quoting Proverbs 18:22 which says: ‘He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favour from God’, Bishop Masupa said marriage is an honourable and beautiful covenant that should never end up in divorce.
He said it is the responsibility of couples to make their marriages intimate and special through little acts of kindness and appreciating each other.
Bishop Masupa said it is sad to see families disintegrating through divorce in a Christian nation.
Matolase Zulu of Matero township, says from her experience, divorce becomes inevitable when infidelity creeps in.
Ms Zulu moved out of her husband’s house in 2009 because he was cheating on her to a point where disputes became a daily occurrence in their home.
“I was married for 11 years to a man whom I had four children with. Initially all was well until my husband started having extra- marital affairs to the point of disregarding me as the wife,” Ms Zulu said.
When the other woman came into their lives, the couple could argue about everything, and eventually there was no intimacy between them.
Ms Zulu never expected that her marriage would end in divorce, but circumstances left her with no choice but to walk out on her husband. She says she is happy she left, although friends and family say she shouldn’t have done that.
A traditional counsellor says both husband and wife should show commitment to resolving disputes.
Gertrude Phiri said no marriage is rosy, and making it work requires commitment by either party. “Even couples with the best intentions are sometimes unable to overcome their challenges and end up in courtrooms,” she observed.
She said couples should learn to resolve issues as they crop up, failure to which, it would be difficult to fix problems when they pile up.
“Practise kindness, make intimacy a priority, go on holidays and seek marriage counselling to preserve the health of your relationship,” Ms Phiri advises.
And Minister of National Guidance and Religious Affairs Godfridah Sumaili says it is regrettable that divorce is widespread in a Christian nation.
“According to the word of God, it is only death that should separate couples. When two people enter a sacrament of marriage, it is a life covenant and not a trial and error,” Reverend Sumaili said.
She advised that people who are contemplating marriage should spend enough time in courtship before walking down the aisle so that they know each other well enough.
Rev Sumaili further said couples-to-be should not be attracted by the outward appearance or material things but rather the inner virtues of a person. The minister was making reference to the beauty of the heart and the character of a person.
She called on the Church and families of couples to-be to ensure that both the bride and groom undergo premarital counselling. She observed that in most cases, only women were adequately counselled before marriage.
“Counselling before marriage is important in that the couple is given knowledge and wisdom to handle marital problems,” she said.
Rev Sumaili, however, felt divorce was mainly driven by alcohol abuse by both men and women, infidelity, gender-based violence and negative external influence from other people.
She said couples could make their marriages work if they put Jesus Christ at the centre of their marriages and live by Christian values and principles.