Why couples here go for divorce

One in four divorcees surveyed cites adultery as the main reason for seeking separation


Last month, findings of a wide-ranging study on divorcees here were presented for the first time at a symposium organised by the Singapore Association for Counselling (SAC).

Dr Jessica Leong, vice-president of the SAC, did the survey of 134 divorcees - 45 men and 89 women - in 2011 as part of her PhD research. She has counselled couples in troubled marriages for over 15 years.

Commenting on the sample size, she told The Straits Times: "It is challenging to get divorcees who are... emotionally ready to complete the survey.

"They also need to revisit the event of divorce again."

The respondents were asked to fill up a form with questions ranging from the early indicators of marital instability and the trigger event that led to the divorce, to their experiences - how they felt, thought and behaved - after the split.

They were also asked if they felt that anything could have been done to save the marriage, and what factors helped them to positively adjust after the divorce.

Nineteen respondents were later asked to elaborate on their answers in in-depth interviews.

Most of the divorcees surveyed were friends of other counsellors who referred them to Dr Leong; the rest were the counsellors' clients. About seven in 10 of them had children. They were not asked if they initiated the divorce.

Stories differ inside and outside court

It appears that divorcees tell a different story in and out of court when asked why they broke up.

One in four respondents cited adultery as the main reason for their divorce, going by a survey of about 130 divorcees presented last month by Dr Jessica Leong .

This figure is similar to official data on Muslim divorces, but contradicts that of non-Muslim divorces.


Erasing the scars, dealing with the hurt

More than six months after splitting up, divorcees still carry the scars and the hurt deeply, with some unable to sleep and others drowning their sorrows in alcohol. But some factors, such as having a support network or not viewing divorce as a personal failure, can help one to adjust to life after divorce.

This is according to a study of 134 divorcees here by Dr Jessica Leong.

Part of her study asked respondents to recall how they felt and behaved at different points after the divorce - immediately after it, within six months, and more than six months after the divorce.


Sadness top negative feeling, post-divorce

Fourteen years on, Belle still remembers the scene when she caught her then husband hugging another woman - and the exact date they last quarrelled before she called off the marriage. "I waited for him near the woman's house, and I saw her hugging my husband, and they went into the car.

"I interrogated him and he admitted (the affair) indifferently and shamelessly... He claimed he loved her," said Belle (not her real name) in an interview with counsellor Jessica Leong in 2011, as part of a study on divorce in Singapore.

"Then the next day - I remember it was Nov 1, 1997 - I said to him: 'Since you don't like to be tied down, and you don't like to look after your children, and you still like freedom and women, why don't you just leave? So he packed his things and he willingly left the house. I then filed for divorce."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2015, with the headline Why couples here go for divorce. Subscribe