FaithPathology of Divorce

Pathology of Divorce | Part 2 | No mutual understanding

Based on Lectures by Sheikh Mansour Leghaei written by Abidali Mohamedali

The Main Causes Of Divorce

To fully understand a problem, the first point of discussion has to be the causes of the problem so as to alleviate the likelihood of that problem recurring.  But in all cases, prevention is certainly better than cure. It is therefore important that before delving into discussions on the causes of divorce that the very first step to marriage, i.e. spouse selection be analysed. It is certain that if the reasons for marriage and the choice of souse is not ideal, the possibility of marital problems and therefore divorce is greatly increased.

The human being has 4 major stages of life,

  • The crisis of Birth- In this stage it is not only the baby but the mother as well undergoes severe crisis, apart from the pangs of childbirth, the child is extremely sensitive to the environment and is fragile and weak. Inappropriate care at this stage in life could mean disability and problems for the rest of life.
  • Crisis of puberty and Adolescence– this is the crisis a human faces when he/she becomes an adult and therefore faces adult responsibilities after life of being a child. This stage involves numerous physical, biological and mental challenges that are often misunderstood or not well understood by parents. This often leads to family problems. Again, severe mistakes or correct decisions made at this stage can result in a miserable or misguided life or a happy and well adjusted life.
  • Crisis of Marriage- In this stage again, one is expecting to live with the person of choice for a long time usually more than half of ones life and more than the time one has spent with their siblings and parents. This critical aspect of ones life would determine if he/she is happy or miserable the rest of their lives.
  • Crisis of Death- This is the last stage and perhaps the most critical as it can determine the nature of life in the hereafter.

Of all these stages, birth, puberty and death are natural challenges for the human. These challenges face all humans and are usually never controllable or predictable. One has to deal with them as and when such crisis appears. The only one that the human has full control over is the crisis of marriage. There is no pressure or force applied by Islam in spouse selection and once selected one can only blame or be proud of oneself only for that decision. This therefore means that the decision of being happy or miserable in marriage is entirely up to the individual.  Therefore one of the primary causes of marriage is the incorrect decision one makes at the time of marriage. Nevertheless, having made such a decision, there are several factors that catalyse or precipitate the outcome of divorce.

The only one that the human has full control over is the crisis of marriage.

These causes fall in two broad categories,

  1. Causes of divorce claimed by applicants themselves
  2. Real causes, or other causes, causes that are often not acknowledged nor apparent to the applicants

Of these there are 5 typical causes of divorce:

  • No mutual understanding
  • Domestic Violence
  • Drugs, alcohol and gambling,
  • Remarriage (or infidelity (cheating))
  • Critical financial problems

Below, we shall analyse in detail each of the causes and tease out the real and apparent reasons for such causes and how to tackle such problems.

No Mutual Understanding

Almost every single case of divorce is due to some form of family problems which arise due to some form or misunderstanding that usually snowballs into a serious problem. Although as humans we are gifted with the ability to communicate, often this very communication can lead to our undoing. There are several disadvantages to verbal communication, some of which will be highlighted here in the context of relationships.

  • Problem of expression of thought– As humans, we do not have the ability to read minds which may seem like an obvious statement but is often one of the fundamental causes of misunderstandings. The human language by its very nature is very limited by the ambiguity of statements and the use of similes and synonyms which often do not correlate with the thought process. The classic example of this in Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ where Romeo says ‘tomorrow you shall find me a grave man’. This word ‘grave’ can have the meaning of sad or alternatively the meaning of ‘dead’!
  • Problem of dialogue between the deaf!- It has been proven psychologically that we listen to words and interpret them on personal experience rather than the reality of the words spoken. It has been shown that the conclusions we make from what we hear is based on what is talked about and what experience we have had previously in regards to that issue. An example which is often sited in this context is the rather hilarious yet relevant and poignant tale of the family of the deaf. The tale is that a poor, unemployed deaf man happened to meet one of his friends who greeted him. The deaf man assumed that he was being offered a job and rushed to tell his wife what he thought he had heard. The wife, also deaf, assumed that the husband was informing her that he has bought her a necklace that she had always dreamed of! She ran to her daughter, also deaf, who longed to be married, with this wonderful news. As expected the daughter got really excited assuming that the mother was informing her of a suitor! She ran with this news to the grandmother, also deaf, and told her of this. The grandmother, who was thirsty told her ‘apple juice is fine!’. The story could be extrapolated any number of ways but importantly serves to make the point that it is often we do not talk to each other but interpret what we hear and therefore if we do not associate a person or an issue with something positive, we cannot appreciate what is being said or the person saying it!
  • Ambiguity– often what is said is not what is meant. Again pointing to the deficiency of this form of communication
  • Reticular Activating System (RAS)– This is the part of the brain which interprets stimuli from the senses based on previous experience or consciousness. A person driving a new red car would suddenly more clearly be able to notice other similar red cars on the road while one who has no such experience would not even notice this phenomenon. Similarly, in conversation, it often happens that one party would focus on a statement or word that activates the RAS, whether or not that statement neither was relevant to the situation nor was it said with particular intent, malicious or not.

The classic situation and thought processes outlined below demonstrates these phenomena and prove that a slight change in thinking can make a world of difference in any relationship.

Main Causes of Misunderstanding " class="index-title">

Main Causes of Misunderstanding

There are a few major causes of misunderstandings between people in any relationship

  • Different perspectives– often people do not place themselves into the situation of the other to understand the attitudes of the person. An example would be a man coming home, having lost his job, would be depressed and sad while his wife, having heard of the birth of her niece would be happy and elated. If not handled properly, this could be a source of friction and conflict.
  • Hidden thoughts– Often hidden thoughts lead to misguided judgments and misunderstandings
  • Choosing the wrong time to discuss things- This often leads to conflict as the mind is not able to grasp the issue as it is distracted by the current situation
  • Pessimism– Negative thinking often leads to inappropriate interpretations of actions and words and leads to the vicious cycle of thought and action as illustrated above.
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Etiquette of Conversation

In order to tackle this particular cause of divorce, and in fact contribute to every form of relationship, significant changes need to take place in the method of conversation. Simple yet effective techniques may alleviate many relationship problems. Some of these etiquettes are outlined below:

  • Think before you talk. It is a fact that, once something has been said, it is very difficult to take back especially if the consequences have already taken place. It is therefore imperative, that in order to have a healthy relationship, one chews ones words before throwing them out. Thinking about the consequences, benefits or harms of the words often would lead to holding back of those words.
  • Choose your worlds carefully– It is important that in a marital relationship, it be kept in mind that the spouse is a loved one and therefore deserves more respect and appreciation than . It is important for men for instance to go home with a smiling face and be happy about going home, joke with their wife and not with others or others’ wives! Similarly, it is important for wives to be smiling with their husbands and choose words carefully when speaking to their husbands.
  • Stand under– This is the real meaning of understand!- It is important to stand in the shoes of the other party and understand the reasons and motivations of the spouse before commenting, having negative thoughts and making judgments. This also includes standing on ones own ego and suppress pride to be able to let in the thoughts of other people especially ones loved one.
  • Listen attentively and positively– This is often the major problem for both spouses as seen in the dialogue of the deaf. For both, leaving work at work is often a good place to start. Focusing and being sympathetic to problems of the spouse however trivial they may seem, paying attention when being spoken to and using body language to assist communication.
  • If needed, ask the speakers to explain what they really meant– It is often best to ask the spouse about that they really meant than getting ones own interpretation or an interpretation of a third party. It is important not to jump to conclusions without clarifying the idea or what was said. Why would one seek the interpretation of a verse of the Quran, from other than the H. Prophet at the time of the prophet?
  • Ask – but amicably– When clarifying a statement or a comment, it is important to ask with humility and with a sincere and genuine need to clarify the issue not arrogantly and with anger and hatred.
  • Choose the correct time– It is fundamentally important to choose the correct time to ask a question or to raise a sensitive issue. Having lived together, spouses are expected to understand the sensitive times or frame of mind their partner may be in and therefore avoid bringing up sensitive issues at that time.
  • Avoid sensitive jokes– Psychologists say that up to 60% of jokes are serious! It is therefore important not to joke about what is sensitive to either partner. Sensitive issues such as joking about member of the opposite sex will often lead to conflict due to the presence of the zealot nature of both sexes especially that of males.
  • No Honesty!- This advice may at first seem contrary to intuition but is often a cause of friction between couples. Often, just to fill conversation gaps, a party may talk about bad things one may have committed in the past that either may have no relevance to the conversation or indeed to the future. It is advised that certain secrets be kept secret i.e. not exposed to the spouse as those secrets are probably things that one has already regretted and repented for. Not everything in ones previous life need to be discussed especially that of previous relationships, as this can plant the seeds of jealousy and suspicion.
  • Men and women communicate differently– Just as there are physical differences between the sexes, the verbal communicative differences can sometimes be overlooked. It is important to understand the technique of conversation of the spouse so as not to misunderstand. It has been shown that women have a more advanced communication skill than men. Other differences that need to be understood include:
    1. Women enjoy talking more than Men– This has been proven scientifically
    2. Women ask to continue conversation while men ask to get to the point– Women often enjoy conversing with their husbands and therefore prefer to talk.
    3. Most women, at time of distress, talk to other women– This is a problem women need to overcome. Although this is not a problem entirely due to women, men often do not listen or pay attention to the problem driving women to speak to others. It has been shown that up to 68% of women prefer talking to a female mate (mother, sister, friend) at times of conflict. There are 2 major problems associated with this behavior:
      1. Rumors– The personal family problems inevitable spreads to the entire community and therefore making the situation even worse
      2. Wrong advice– Friends, parents or siblings often give the wrong advice therefore resulting in a further aggravation of the situation.
    4. Women reveal their feelings more than men when they talk- The classic ‘tears on tap’ is often as a result of the emotional thinking and often misunderstanding of the real situation.
    5. Women believe that communication can solve marital problems- This is a correct assumption as men often believe there is nothing to talk about. This is often rooted in the mans’ pride, arrogance and fear. It is absolutely imperative that problems are solved early and misunderstandings clarified early before any permanent damage is done. It important that couples do not visit secular counselors due to their poor understanding of the religion and divorce in particular in addition to their financial motive for assistance. Speaking to a qualified experienced religious counselor early and regularly after marriage can often solve all such problems.
Some Advice" class="index-title">

Some Advice

The Ahlul Bayt have, on numerous occasions, given advice about verbal communication. Only some are shown below but an entire book could be written only on this issue!

Imam Ali (AS) has said :

  • The tongue is the scale of man.”
  • “Talk and you are introduced, for man is hidden beneath his tongue.”
  • “The beauty is in the tongue and the perfection is in the intellect.”
  • “The slip of the tongue is more severe than the wound of the spearhead.”
  • “How much blood that is shed by the tongue.”
  • “Allah will punish the tongue with a (severe) punishment that no other organ is so punished.”


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