Divorces more common now

Do you know that in Malaysia, nearly half of the marriages which end in divorce break down because of financial issues?

If you are a South Korean drama fan, just like me, the most shocking news you’d have heard was probably the divorce of the SongSong couple, namely actor Song Joong-ki, 33, and actress Song Hye Kyo, 37.

Their high-profile romance began on “Descendants of the Sun”, the 2016 sensational TV drama that saw Song Joong-ki portraying a military captain in a special-forces unit and Song Hye-kyo playing the role of a doctor. They married in October 2017 in lavish ceremony.

It was Song Joong-ki who first filed for divorce in June this year.

Song Hye-kyo’s agency said the divorce was due to “differences in personality” which the couple “was unable to overcome”.

In a statement that he issued, Song Joong-ki said instead of denouncing each other and arguing over who was to blame, he hoped the divorce process could be wrapped up amicably.

The divorce was finalised recently without any alimony payment or division of assets.

Song Hye-kyo was in Thailand doing a photo shoot for an advertiser when her husband revealed to the public, he was seeking a divorce from her.

Many netizens, feeling he had sprung a nasty surprise, initially sympathised with her.

A week after the breakup news, Song Hye-kyo appeared in China at a promotional event for a Korean cosmetic company.

After that, she was in Monaco where she mingled with celebrities like Hollywood actress Natalie Portman and Russian supermodel Natalia Vodianova at a Chaumet jewellery exhibition.

Some netizens were not happy that she was enjoying herself so soon after her divorce.

Meanwhile, Song Joong-kyi is taking time off from public events, which is viewed as appropriate after a recent divorce in conservative South Korea.

I guess different people react differently to stress and life changing events; some choose to lie low while others choose to smile and carry on as usual.

Celebrity divorces are not surprising; they happen all the time to Hollywood couples. High-profile Hollywood divorces in recent years included handsome Brad Pitt and beautiful Angelina Jolie.

In South Korea, as in many parts of the world, divorce was once a taboo subject. But now, it is becoming more common as couples choose it over an unhappy marriage.

Personally, I feel sad about the SongSong divorce. I had enjoyed watching “Descendants of the Sun” and loved their performances. Soong Joong-ki looked so handsome in his military uniform. I did not know they were falling in love in real life while acting in the drama.

Do you know that in Malaysia, nearly half of the marriages which end in divorce break down because of financial issues?

In 2018, for instance, out of 8,901 cases referred to the Marriage Tribunal in the National Registration Department, 2,971 cases were related to financial problems in the family. Yes, you cannot live on love alone.

As pointed out by Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Hannah Yeoh in Kuala Lumpur earlier this year, when a marriage breaks down because of financial issues, whichever party gains custody of the children is prone to be stressed. And this, she warned, could lead to abuse of the children.

Answering a question on divorce rates and the main reasons for divorces in the country in Parliament in November, 2018, Yeoh revealed that more than one third of first-time marriages in Malaysia ended in failure within the first five years.

Citing the fifth Malaysian Family Wellbeing Index Study in 2014, she said the main reasons for the divorces were lack of understanding at 56.2 per cent, cheating wives (11.8 per cent) and in-laws’ meddling (10 per cent).

Yeoh added for the women, 38 per cent cited lack of understanding as the main reason for divorce followed by cheating husbands at 20.5 per cent and irresponsible husbands at 15.2 per cent.

The deputy minister also recalled a news report in 2016 which quoted the Selangor Syariah Judiciary Department as saying that many divorce cases among young couples were due to trivial cases.

Among the reasons that the department recorded were wives going on group trips too often, wives washing clothes at night, wives who ate in their cars, differences in political opinions, husbands’ low salaries, snoring and spouses who enjoyed shopping too much.

To tackle the increase in divorce rates in the first five years of marriage, the Malaysian government is thinking of making it compulsory for non-Muslim couples to attend a pre-marital course before getting married.

Yeoh said the course would be handled by the National Registration Department or the couples’ respective religious council.

“It is hoped that with this course, couples can better understand and be aware of the challenges they may face, and at the same time, make them more aware in entering married life,” she explained.

In Malaysia, it is compulsory for Muslim couples to attend a pre-marital course before marriage.

Marriage is a sacred union and bond. Hence, it is hoped that younger Malaysians will honour the bond and work hard to keep their marriages until death.