It is a general maxim that marriages are made in heaven. But they are being solemnised and divorced on earth. The inclusion of the provision ‘irretrievable breakdown' in the Hindu Marriage Act is a significant step as far as the institution of marriage is concerned. It must have come like a big relief to those who are seeking divorce due to ‘irretrievable breakdown' of their marriage, but owing to the lack of that provision in the ‘Marriage Act', they are grudgingly locked up in the knot of marriage experiencing psychological stress and mental agony.

This new provision will facilitate divorce to become an easier and less painful affair; at the same time, it is felt that its ‘misuse' cannot be ruled out. Also, it is for the families to sort out the issues within the families and not through the family courts. If we look at Section 498 (A) of the Indian Penal Code, there are instances that these provisions are more ‘misused' than ‘used'. But it does not certainly mean that this cannot be a ground to scrap the provision of ‘irretrievable breakdown'.

As a psychological counsellor, it is my experience that in a majority of cases of marital discord, it is the clash of egos that culminates in divorce after a protracted legal battle. What starts as an insignificant disagreement on trivial matters snowballs into a serious issue, affecting marital harmony and destroying family life. A young couple, well-settled in their professions and earning handsomely, came to me for marriage counselling. Both seemed thoroughly frustrated with their four years of married life and they were even mildly contemplating divorce. At the same time, they were willing to re-discover the lost ‘happiness' of life.

After conducting five counselling sessions, certain interesting facts came to light. The husband was found to be behaving most of the time from what is called ‘parent ego state' with his wife. He was also found to have certain ‘irrational beliefs' coming in the way of their married life. Before coming for counselling, he was not aware of these irrational beliefs, leading to unmanageable anger, restlessness and avoidable stress. As ‘irrational beliefs' are not consistent with reality, are dysfunctional and self-defeating, this awareness came like a new revelation and shock to him. As the desire to bring back his married life on track was present in him, he embarked on an action plan to correct himself and replaced his irrational beliefs into ‘rational beliefs' leading to greater control over his unhealthy emotions/feelings and its resultant destructive behaviour.

‘Irrational beliefs' are typically characterised by attitudes and behaviour like ‘awfulising' and ‘I can't stand it' — a corollary to awfulising, hypothesis like using ‘should,' ‘must,' ‘have to,' ‘exaggerating the realities,' which stand in the way of effective living. As per the feedback given by the above couple, they are now leading a harmonious and peaceful married life and there has been a visible attitudinal change in the husband's beliefs and behaviour.

The term ‘irretrievable breakdown' is, therefore, a matter of perception stemming from the above ‘irrational beliefs', which get deeply embedded in the mind and it depends on person to person and hence the same cannot be generalised. What is normal and rational to someone may be something unbearable to some other and therefore there will be an ‘irretrievable breakdown' owing to the irrational beliefs facilitating and precipitating marital breakdown and limitless misery.

Similarly, lack of ‘compatibility' is often cited as a reason for matrimonial breakdown. The term ‘incompatibility' is being used by certain people as a ‘euphemism' for dislike or to hush up any ‘ulterior motives', whereas the real cause of ‘incompatibility' could arise from certain irrational beliefs.

The provision ‘irretrievable breakdown' to be included in the Act as a ground for seeking divorce is not bad in itself. However, it is certain that these provisions can be ‘used' and ‘misused'. Therefore, the challenge lies with the courts to identify the real cases/causes and grant relief accordingly. Divorce can be granted to the couple as a last resort keeping their future in mind and their children as well.

(The writer's email is alimahabub@gmail.com)

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