17 Sep 2023  |   06:06am IST

Tied in loose knots

Over the last couple of years, Goa has witnessed a rapid increase in the number of marriages that have ended in either annulments or divorces and it’s likely that these figures will continue to rise. KARSTEN MIRANDA speaks to experts who offer their perspective about what’s behind this trend and why these issues need to be handled with care, empathy and a more pragmatic and honest approach
Tied in loose knots

A marriage break-up is certainly not the fairy tale ending, couples dream of when they tie the knot with glee and a hope for a blissful life 


But in the State of Goa, which has become a wedding destination for rich and glittering celebrations, the fact is the number of marriages crumbling is on a high. This exposes the underbelly of what’s really going on and how all is not well in our society, irrespective of what may be portrayed in public.

In the recently-concluded Assembly session, in response to a question raised by Benaulim MLA Venzy Viegas, Law Minister Nilesh Cabral provided information about the number of marriages that were registered and nullified in last five years.

While nullified marriages refer to those that were annulled, the divorce cases are a separate list and their numbers over the last few years show an alarming  trend.

For perspective, there were 44,346 marriages registered between 2018 and 2022 out of which 1,265 marriages were nullified. Salcete taluka led the list here with 528 nullified marriages in five years, followed by Mormugao (202),  Ponda (185) and Quepem (97) talukas.

Moreover, there were 1,199 divorces registered in the last three-and-a-half years. 315 of these were in 2020, which had seen 6,727 marriages registered that year. Similarly, in 2021 there were 248 divorces in 8,591 marriages; 382 in 2022 that had 8,954 marriages registered and 254 divorces until June 2023, which had 5,041 marriages registered in these first six months.

If one had to pursue the information provided in the Assembly, such as the years between 2014 and 2018, the numbers for marriage cancelled via annulment or divorces were comparatively lower. 

Professional health experts speak

“As times are changing, marriages are changing as well. In the age of non-binary relationships, the causes of break-ups and specifically divorce/annulment can be unique, confidential and sometimes bizarre as well,” said Dr Pallavi Dhakne, Consultant Psychiatrist, North Goa.

“Divorces can be painful and complex when children are involved. If both parties decide to be mature and responsible, the couple can maintain the stage of wholehearted love,” she said.

“To surmise, if couples choose premarital counselling and psychotherapy sessions to make an informed decision, their relationships are less likely to be traumatic projects. Taboos around divorce kept many partners shackled to their abusive partners,” Dr Dhakne said. “Changing times have made it somewhat possible for few to escape those prisons. Let’s take this opportunity to talk openly about mental health and relationship issues instead of suffering in silence,” she further said.

Other health experts also shared similar views on the issue of divorces.

 Dr Tanvi Pednekar, Consultant Psychiatrist, North Goa District Hospital, quoting renowned psychiatrist Aaron Beck, said, “One of the most destructive beliefs for a relationship is ‘if we need to work on it, there’s something seriously wrong with our relationship’.”

“Having said all this, it’s not to say that the rising trends in divorce are not a reality, however when we apply a post-modernist stance to this, it becomes a natural cause of the changing times we live in and autonomy has to be given utmost value, when taking a decision on relationships,” she added.

“On a psychological front, the COVID-19 pandemic has put unprecedented stress on relationships, compelling couples to confront latent issues, which might have been overlooked otherwise. This new environment of constant proximity without the usual distractions may have magnified incompatibilities that were otherwise buried under the busyness of everyday life,” said Dr Akshada Amonkar, Consultant Psychiatrist, Panjim.

“It’s also important to note that social media and increased connectivity could be serving as a double-edged sword. While it enables wider social networks and a broader understanding of life possibilities, it can also lead to dissatisfaction and ‘comparison culture,’ making it easier to opt for dissolution of the marriage, if it doesn’t meet certain perceived standards,” added Dr Amonkar.

“As couples are not able to withstand the test of time in married life, there is an increase in divorce and annulment rate in Goa. This test of time includes challenges due to change in lifestyle, modernisation of society, increase use of smart phone, which act as the third wheel in relationship; trying to be financially independent, especially female partner putting multiple challenges for her at home and work place; increased interference by family members in couple’s matters...the list is endless,” said Dr Roshan Dattaram Kanekar, MD in Neuropsychiatry.

“But my best advice to couples will be, give your best in the worst time together to make the marriage a successful story. Try to initiate change in marriage, not by fighting the old, but by building new one,” Dr Kanekar added.

“Earlier, couples, mainly women, would put up with all types of harassment and adjust for the sake of family image, status, and children. In addition, women generally were totally financially dependent on their spouses and weren’t as educated as they would have liked to be,” the neuropsychiatrist added. 

“In today’s changing generation, women are highly qualified and fiercely financially independent. In fact, most women earn more than their partners and don’t see the need to put up with any kind of unacceptable spousal behaviour,” said psychologist and psychotherapist, Rochelle Pereira.

“Due to these factors, it results in a lot of ego clashes. ‘Why should I only apologise, he/she too should do so’ mindset further contributes to widening of the spousal gap, leading to divorce. In addition, rarely do we see both spouses ready to compromise, which is an essential ingredient for any long-lasting successful marriage,” Pereira said.

She also opined that in the earlier day, the joint family system and lesser cut-throat competition ensured quality family time, proper communication, but that now, most nuclear families have more gadgets than people in the house, fanning misunderstanding, arguments, strife and almost no healthy discussions.

“In the last years we have also seen a rise in the number of ‘silver divorces’ partners over the age of 60, married for 30 to 35 years, bidding adieu to each other. Although it was common in the west, this trend seems to be catching on in India and Goa as well,” she concluded.


Iddhar Udhar