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IT and Divorce: Looking Past the Link

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IT and DivorceThe figures are beginning to tell the tale. 40% of the divorce cases filed last year in Chennai featured couples from the IT and ITES industries. The figures for Bangalore are also catching up. Both these cities, with a high density of IT offices, are showing a trend that many have suspected for a while – that the rise of India’s stock in the ‘knowledge economy’ era is not without its hidden costs, particularly in the area of family and personal life.

There are many reasons given for this rash of divorces among young couples, with less than a decade of marriage between them. Burn-out, job-related stress affecting sexual relations, little time being spent together and the fluid living arrangements of people on the move are touted as some of the factors. Some claim that the divorce rate among BPO couples is high because they have chosen to get married rather than live together for a few years. “Some of these couples have got married without informing their family members in distant corners of the country,” says Neha. “They live together for a year or two, then prefer to return to the family fold, and have their parents find a partner for them.” If this is indeed a trend, then it makes it similar to the visa-marriages and divorces that couples resort to in Western countries, in order to circumvent immigration laws.

But the divorces that land up in the family courts where the couple is in their early thirties are likely to be quite different from this type of quick marriage and divorce. In such cases, both parties have struggled to keep their marriage going for at least a few years, and approached the court when it seemed impossible to go on.

The truth is – every marriage comes with its share of hard work and effort inbuilt into the picture. All of us have to work to keep loving our partners, keep cheerful in the midst of depressing conditions, keep our sanity and optimism intact even when we have spent years with someone who seems determined to oppose everything we stand for. When we put in these efforts – the rewards are sweet indeed. Children who grow up with a real sense of ‘home’, partners who are steadfast and loyal, even though they may not see eye to eye with us on many issues. The safety and security of family life cannot be denied. But this comes through serious effort.

By the same yardstick, it does not mean that non-IT couples will be happier even without the effort, or that IT couples are bound to fail even if they put in a lot of effort. In fact, this is what we need to consider in the first place: if the odds seem stacked so heavily against marriages in the IT sector, then what can be done to stop them from falling apart?

  • Yes, the hours in the IT industry are often unrealistic. Marriage and family can seem particularly difficult if we try to practise bonding with our loved ones in the off-hours – those hours when the rest of the world seems to be asleep. At least part of the active hours in a day should be spent in some companionable activity, when both partners can be in the swim of ordinary life, without feeling the need to formally relate to each other. Shopping together for the home, going to a place of worship, visiting family or friends – the more ‘normal’ things a couple does together, the less isolated each individual feels. If both partners are working in demanding jobs, they need to make a pact to shut down their respective computers at a certain time and ‘make time’ even when there doesn’t seem to be any.
  • Yes, the increased financial security through IT jobs makes divorce easier than staying together for financial reasons. OK, so your great jobs mean that you have bought your LCD TV, new sedan, and posh flat all in the same half of the year. But does the ability to repay one’s EMIs with stunning regularity mean that we can say good bye to human company? How much can material goods really replace the rock solid security of having someone loyal and affectionate to care for you in sickness and in health? And if you are not caring this way for each other, perhaps its time to take a long holiday together rather than buy any more stuff.
  • Yes, the Ctrl+Alt+Del mentality that IT produces often makes people give up on relationships that could survive if given a chance. Formatting a hard disk may make perfect sense to remove troublesome viruses, but human relationships need to be handled very differently. Unfortunately, a lot of the young people who graduate from technical courses have not been given a chance to develop relationship skills. In an earlier period, some exposure to literature and the softer ‘Humanities’ subjects made people debate the value of relationships and preserving them. For young people today, finding good listeners for their problems, and wise references in books, films and other popular material is much more difficult. The restraints such a conditioning imposes on marriage and family can be much more severe than we realize.
  • Yes, living in a world of virtual communication, couples forget more simple and vital communication between themselves. Chat and SMS, e mail and Skype, may ultimately be a lot of hype that is preventing us from reaching out to those who are our nearest and dearest. If we are to survive the effects of the IT revolution on our own personal relationships, we will have to remember this and strive harder to keep channels of real communication open between ourselves. Good communication is the life-blood of relationships.

It seems obvious that even with the limitations imposed by the demanding environs of IT, couples today can do a lot to improve matters between themselves, provided they stay aware of potential trouble areas, and act early to tackle them.

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