It is never too late to end your strained relationship and begin a new life, as it became clear when a retired schoolteacher (80) and a former nurse (70) got divorced after 44 years of marriage.
The woman, whose son was settled abroad and whose unmarried daughter stayed with her in Sector 36 here, filed for divorce accusing her husband of "cruelty and torture" she could not bear. She pleaded with the court for divorce to save her from being killed.
She had carried the baggage of a long-dead relationship since 1971 for the sake of children and in the hope that things would improve. "He has been ill-treating me since the start. If he did not like the food, he'd throw the plate on the floor and hurl abuses at me. I tolerated it all these years but his affairs with young women was the breaking point."
The retired teacher told the court the reason why his wife wanted divorce was property dispute. He said his wife and children were forcing him to sell his share of ancestral home, and he wasn't allowed to enter the house that he had bought them. After the divorce, the woman counts on her daughter and son for emotional support, and on her pension for financial needs. She also gets rental income from the house the couple had purchased together.
Couples who could take it no more
A Panchkula resident was put up in an old-age home by his ill-treating wife. "I had paid for the house in which today I have no place, so why also keep the relation that asks for only money and property. I filed for divorce," he said. Left lonely, the retired government servant now tries to find solace in social service but is not willing to part with the house.
After enduring a torturous wife for 37 years, he called it quits at 75. "I put up in hell fearing social stigma. We were incompatible but I hoped things would improve. I thought of my family," said the Chandigarh man who had got married in 1977. The couple has a daughter, who is now married and visits her father once in a while.
At 75, a doctor divorced his physician wife (72) after all mediation failed. She walked out of him over his possessive nature, and moved in with her brother. The couple's two sons are settled abroad. More couples in the 70s and 80s are moving court for divorce.
Adjustment not the only issue
"Temperamental differences is the most cited reason for divorce but one can make out that property disputes is the root cause," said lawyer Savita Saxena of the Punjab and Haryana high court mediation centre, adding: "There are aged couples who want separation on grounds of extramarital affairs. The scope of reconciliation in these cases is low, since age makes people adamant."
"It's not every day that you get couples in the 80s getting divorced but over the years, there has been an increase. In a society where marriage is still more of a social union than individual choice, pressure is quick to build up but coming to the breaking point takes time. Once you are rid of your responsibilities, there is no reason for compromise," said lawyer Rajiv Duggal.
"Once the children are settled, the fear of social stigma also goes," said advocate Gagan Aggarwal.
A quarter of applicants over 60
There are nearly 1,000 divorce cases in the Chandigarh district courts, and an average of 75 are filed every month. Lawyers dealing with matrimonial disputes at the medication centre say 25% are filed by the couples over 60.