Marriage in Zimbabwe is a weird institution. I say that because here in Zimbabwe there are a lot of hang-ups regarding it. For all intents and purposes, most people speak about it being a union, but it gets treated almost as a right of passage. In 2017 (in Zimbabwe of course), some women are looked upon differently if they get to a certain age and are STILL not married, or if they have a child or children out of marriage. There are a few other examples but today that is not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about divorce in the Zimbabwean context.
Unfortunately, due to the make-up of the human person, divorce is something that may occur. By nature, males and females are very different and with that in mind, there are some people who are simply not a match. I can’t tell you what makes two people a match, but there are simply some people who are not and should not be married. They, however, decide to try anyway. Ultimately that is their choice. In the same way, if they decide to divorce it is also THEIR choice.
In Zimbabwe, however, there are certain schools of thought that are hard to agree with. I was talking with a colleague at work and having a debate about divorce a few weeks ago. I told her that I didn’t think that divorce was an awfully bad thing if it was done for the right reasons. She responded by telling me that if someone gets married in the church, in front of their friends and family it is their responsibility to see that marriage through till death. I asked her what one should do then if one of the partners is unfaithful and could put the other at risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. She responded by saying that they would need to work it out.
I feel (as a married man) that one should try by all means to be in a happy marriage. If the marriage is now becoming a danger to your health (physical and mental), then one should do whatever is necessary to protect yourself within the means of the law. In this instance, I would say that divorce would be the best thing to do in order to protect yourself. However, that is just my opinion.
The people who suffer the most from divorce are not the parents. The parents are adults who decided to get married and then decided to try and make each other happy or decided to make each other miserable. The people who suffer the most from divorce are the children (if there are any). There are some things that I have noticed about divorce in Zimbabwe.
- Children do no choose for their parents to divorce: I say this because there always ends up being an argument about who should take care/keep the child. Surely it should be more about raising the child together. The parents do not need to be able to stand each other or even converse with each other, but when it comes to issues of THEIR child, they have to put all the petty differences aside and agree. They have to be the adults in this situation and make joint decisions. They both got divorced, they should BOTH raise the child. One should not have more rights than the other, and the other must not give up those rights because it’s easier.
- Children are not pawns. This is not chess, this is their life: It can’t be that Parent A holds all the cards (unless there are extenuating circumstances that result in the child being kept by Parent A and not Parent B eg drug abuse). This will do nothing but sow discontent between Parent A and Parent B. It will always be about getting one up on each other. The child should not also be used as a bargaining tool. One of my friends was telling me about how one of his cousin’s wife was demanding money for the upbringing of a child he never had access to. His dilemma was that whenever he met his wife’s demands (money for fuel, to get her hair done, holidays), he would then have access to his child. To me, this sounds like a bit of bribery. It is obvious that as a loving parent, he then was willing to meet the demands in order to see his child. This will never work, but the sad story is that in Zimbabwe this is actually happening.
- The death of privacy and decency because of the wrong use of social media: More than five people have told me that social media is going to be the end of a lot of relationships. I agree. The crazy stuff that you see online these days is shocking. Every day you are bound to find someone ranting about something completely inappropriate and private on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. There is no need for anyone to tell the world how much of a useless person Partner A was or is being with regards to the upbringing of a child. Honestly, the internets do not need to know about that. If you as a Parent A, feel that Parent B does not care about a child, telling the world is not going to make the situation better. Furthermore, telling one side of the story will not help anything either. That is not a cry for help, that is simply a cry out loud to let people know that your life was never going to be private. Somethings can never be unsaid. Be the bigger person. Talk about the weather, what’s on TV, politics, football, the colour of the sky. Keep the home issues at home. Not on the internets.
- Children have impressionable minds: Parent A or Parent B (whoever lives with the child) can paint whatever picture they what to of the other parent. This can result in certain things being said about one parent to the child. The child is likely to believe what they are being told if they are told enough and very soon they will believe that. Parents need to be careful.
- The over-involvement of extended family: In Zimbabwean black culture, the extended family plays a big role in marriages. They are involved in everything from the bride-price negotiations, to the wedding organisation and sometimes funding. Also culturally there is an idea that it is good for certain select members of the extended family can act as mediators in divorce to try help with certain negotiations. Emotional support should be given. Outright demands (financial and or otherwise) should not be made because they are the grandmother/grandfather/uncle/aunt. We are supposed to act as a support network, not as though we are as entitled as our sons/daughters/brothers/sisters/nephews child. We should be ready to stand up when necessary, not to stand up on behalf of. It unwittingly shows a desperation that does not look attractive to anyone if we try and stand up on behalf of.
What do you think? Let me know…