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Divorces in Russia: what are the reasons?

Top question -  December 2001

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Q: I have been searching a lot of agencies for women from Russia or Ukraine. And its seems to me that there are just as many or more
divorced women than never been married. Is the divorce rate as bad there
as it is in the USA? And what is the reasoning?

The divorce rate in Russia is not as high as in USA but for a divorced woman (and for any woman over 25) it is very difficult to find a new partner, especially if she has children; that's why there are so many divorced women looking for partners abroad.

Also many women who had terrifying experience in their marriages are afraid to have a new marriage with a Russian man. Of course not all Russian men are bad, I personally know some very good men (they have all been happily married since their early 20's). But being an unfaithful abusive husband who does not do any housekeeping work and still leaves the role of breadwinner to his wife is a usual thing in Russia. Women hope foreign men are different.

I believe the main reason of divorces in Russia is the fact that people marry too early. At the age of 22 most people are already married! So people marry while they are still in the rapid developmental stage, and may grow apart with years. One of the partners may strive for personal education while the other is not interested in (or unable to pursue) self-growth, their systems of values grow different, etc. Most Russian marriages are marriages between two people that have yet reached their true potential - and probably never will, because they immediately start family which takes all their time.

Alcohol, physical abuse and unfaithfulness are named among the most common reasons for divorce - but in my opinion they are the consequences of early marriages when existential frustration finds its exit in asocial behavior.

At the same time, very often a woman stays in an abusive relationship because she fears to stay alone for life (as I said, it is very difficult for a divorced woman to find a husband) and also she cannot support children on her own. Many ex-husbands in Russia don't pay maintenance and never want to see their children. As the Russian saying goes, "Yes, I know my husband is bad but at least I know how bad he is; the other one can happen to be worse." So a woman will usually stay in relationship as long as she can bear it. Divorce is truly the last means.

Probably in bigger cities like Moscow or St. Petersburg divorce culture becomes more westernized but in province women prefer to stay married as long as they can.

Being divorced is not a shame in Russia but traditional man's and woman's roles in marriage still persist, therefore for a woman it is easier to be married because she struggles when on her own. For example, there are no services that will repair a chair or hammer a nail in a wall: she has to ask one of her male friends/relatives, or do it herself. Other services that are available (such as tiling or painting) she most often cannot afford, and again has to do it herself, or ask some man for a help. It does not seem to be a huge problem but if you cannot afford to buy a new thing when the old one is broken (and as you know earlier or later things break), it becomes tiresome. The same is applicable to men: lack of kitchen utilities (they are not affordable for an average man) makes housekeeping a daunting task, and it's easier when there is a woman to take care of it. I believe there are some marriages in Russia that have grown into "marriages of convenience" of this type. In a situation like this a western couple would probably divorce while Russian couple stays married.

So all stories about "traditional family values" of Russians are true: they still follow (actually, forced to follow) the traditional family model. Western people prefer to be independent; Russian people prefer and feel more comfortable/secure being dependent. Therefore divorce culture in Russia is different from the west.

We also asked our female clients their opinion on the subject of divorces. This is their answers:

It is true that there are many divorced women in Russia. Unhappy families all have their own reasons to be unhappy, while happy families are similarly happy... I will tell you why my marriage fell apart. One of the main reasons why I divorced my husband was his egoism and irresponsibility. It is very difficult to live with a person that you cannot rely on, who is guided by his "this minute" wishes forgetting about responsibility towards his family. Many families in Russia had fell apart during the difficult years of economical cataclysms. My family was not an exception. Usually in difficult times families get closer and overcome the difficulties together. My ex-husband decided to don't bother about caring of his children and family. And simply put all problems on my shoulders, selecting "everyday holiday" for himself: entertainment, cheerful companies and alcohol. This never ending drinking lead to degradation of his personality. Our marriage lasted 11 years, and the last 1.5 years were a nightmare. (Irina, mother of 3, Moscow)

I think that one of the main reason for divorces in Russia is the following: men think that their main responsibility is reproduction, and the other questions of creation and maintaining family life has nothing to do with them. (Marina)

I think the main reasons for divorces are:

  • Sexual passions leading to unfaithfulness;
  • Differences in personal growth of spouses that lead to the situation when the other one become boring;
  • The spouses don't know or don't fulfill their obligations towards each other. (Anonymous)

Our Russian women are too patient and ready to bear anything: unfaithfulness, mental and physical abuse, negligence... Only the ones who have at least a drop of pride and self respect are able to decide to divorce. (Tatiana)

In my opinion the reasons are: lack of attention to the "weak gender"; neglect to the spiritual and personal world of his wife; alcohol abuse; irresponsibility. (Irina)

In my opinion, the percentage of divorces is so high due to the fact that Russian women got an opportunity to travel abroad. Why? Before that, they thought drunk, rude and lazy men to be an accepted norm, spread all over the world. Now they've just got a chance to see that this kind of male creatures was a product of a Soviet upbringing mostly :)) (Irene)

I think there are many reasons: lack of appreciation; mental degradation, and bad genetics by male's line. Lack of desire and skills to overcome temporary difficulties in relationship in family. Overestimation of his person. Doing low or mean deals and easily step over the offended, going forward without a glance back, without thinking of the future. And of course political and economical instability and and disrespect to the rules. (Natalia)

I am sorry if Russian women seem to be too bitter about Russian men and; of course it is only the personal experiences of the authors.

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