The dilemma of Malay Marriages: Part 2

According to the Singapore Department of Statistics on Divorces in 2004, among Muslims, personality differences was the main reason sited for 30 percent of the divorces in 2004 followed by infidelity (19 per cent). The proportion who cited neglect and irresponsibility increased from 0.7 per cent in 1994 to 8.6 per cent in 2004. Proportionately more Males (44 per cent) than females (19 per cent) petitioned on the grounds of personality differences. More females (26 per cent) than males (3.4 per cent) petitioned on the grounds of inadcequate maintenance.

Why is personality differences cited as the main reason for 30 per cent of the Muslim divorces in 2004? I personally believe that there is more to Muslim divorces than just simply “personality differences”. That such “personality differences” is a result of unmet expectations in the marriage itself, that marriage is seen as an end in itself, that marriage is a solution to the problem of fornication or that marriage is a panacea that will solve all problems, especially to inculcate a sense of maturity and financial responsibility.

Marriage is seen as the eventual goal to be achieved in life, and nothing else. This level of contention disregards the possibility of a highly successful career, stellar academic qualifications and other possible life goals which you may desire (I always had a dream of travelling around the world, meeting people of different cultures and eating all the delicious food I can find). According to the Department of Statistics, Muslims divorces for males (648 out of 1855) were mostly between 25 – 29 whereas for females (780 out of 1855) were between 20 – 24. Looking at these statistics, I would argue that to most Muslims/Malays, a life of academic achievement or career development is not as important as marriage which they see as the next stage of life. Being in line with the Malay culture deficit thesis, Malays lack a certain cultural gene for initiative and progress and would rather accept the modus vivendi that is marriage itself. Therefore, marriage is the end in itself.

To add a religious dimension to the whole argument, marriage to some Malay Muslims is seen as a guard towards fornication. By marrying your child as soon as he reaches puberty, the problems of premarital sex or having teen pregnancies would be averted. In the worst of all cases, as globbed mentioned in a comment in my previous entry, the Malay teenager is forced to marry because of unplanned pregnancy before marriage. Again this contributes to the Malay teenagers marrying early, and heading straight for divorce.

One other argument which I find extremely puzzling is the belief that marriage would force a sudden metamorphosis, that the transition between being single and being married would cause an individual to be more mature, more financially responsible and more intelligent in some way or another. Or in some cases, solve all the problems the abovementioned survey noted as reasons for divorce, like personality differences, infidelity, etc. Its as if marriage is a social panacea to cure all of societal ills, or at least act as a catalyst to speed up the maturity process in adolescence. Again there’s not logical reasoning behind this belief. The largest proportion (35 per cent) of Muslim divorces was among couples who were married less than 5 years. If two people already have problems before marriage, how would being married solves such problems?

My thoughts on this issue. Its interesting hearing the responses of different people to this problem. What do you think?


5 Responses to The dilemma of Malay Marriages: Part 2

  1. ~fatma says:

    i think even if you see marriage as an “eventual goal to be achieved in life” can still achieve all the other things that you listed. it’s just how you list your priorities. like putting marriage after achieving a successful career and trying all the things you’ve always wanted.
    i guess people just grab things as they come without thinking whether it will adversely affect their life, like how getting married before climbing the corporate ladder may leave u stuck at the bottom cause you are carrying too much responsibilites (family, kids etc. leaving you with less time at the office).
    and i guess the reason why people get divorced early is because there is nothing much at stake. the longer they stay married, the more complicated it becomes (kids, assets etc) so they just stay married tho there is no love. and there seems to be a trend (now here though..i think in western countries) for older couples to divorce when their kids are all grown up. they are more likely to hold on to it because of the kids. and i guess if they’ve been at it long enough they learn to tolerate (how sad!) each other..
    and maybe they think since they are still young, so if they divorce they can easily find someone else. which is quite silly actually. might as well dont get married in the first place. hah.
    so..i guess people sometimes dont think hard and long enough before they embark on a new journey.

  2. shidah says:

    hmm i think some malay couples aren’t mature or prepared enough for the real challenges of marriage, like kids, financial management, etc. that the expectations they have do not match the reality which unfolds in married life. and perhaps the changing social structure has a lot to do with the rise in divorce rates. the malay community used to be one that consisted of supportive networks (extended family units) but now it’s largely nuclear in composition. so perhaps the number of ‘helping hands’ to help cope with the burdens of marriage are now fewer. that together with the rising economic independence of women means that divorce may be the easier way out..a lot of malay couples are young and just not financially stable enough to take on the heavy burden of marriage..

  3. yanni says:

    Hi there,

    Read my views.


  4. Libertas says:

    I have read your article and would like to share my views with you. But I decided to post in a separate post soon! Anyway, its great to hear that there are various Singaporean Malay blogger with views on this issue that plagues our community!

  5. joy says:

    i just came across this post while researching for some stuff. i am curious to know how different do malays view marriage as oppose to chinese. it is really true that malays think like what the post cites?

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