The Rising Rate Of Divorce In Ghana: Is The Lack Of Sex In Marriages To Blame?


The rise in the rate of divorce in Ghana is becoming a source of headache for many, as marriages contracted a blink ago suddenly get hit by a demand for divorce over only God know what. This comes against the backdrop of the common notion that Ghana is a religious, conservative and anti- divorce society. So what could be causing the rising rate in divorce? 

In September 2014, there was a discussion on this issue on Joy Fm, and the springboard was a sermon that had been preached earlier by a well known Bishop in one of the large Charismatic churches in Ghana. In that sermon, he mentioned a lot of indicators that seemed to be causing this high rate of Divorce in Ghana. Bedroom issues were singled out as being key to this, and the onus was placed on women to up their game to stop this trend.  

The Joy Fm discussions, unfortunately, centered narrowly on sex, and the lack thereof, as a major cause of divorce. This got me thinking, because, much as the absence of sex can lead to divorce, it is not the leading cause of divorce in Ghana. The lack of sex is the manifestation of other problems in the marriage. Couples are not having sex because of the presence of other problems in their marriages, and it is these problems that drive them to divorce; of course aggravated by the fact that sex is also gone. 

Before I touch on some of these problems, let me get something out of the way.  The lack of sex USUALLY does not lead to divorce; it leads to infidelity.  Infidelity, until discovered, USUALLY doesn't lead to divorce. Unless the cheating partner finds something else in the person they are cheating with; something which on a balancing scale is of so much value it would be worth ending their marriage for, they normally come back home after attending to their side business. 

So if an unfaithful partner can back their infidelity with a bold step to demand a divorce, then it is not just sex they are getting outside (or the lack of it they are facing at home), it is more than sex. Which brings me to the point that lack of sex is not the PREDOMINANT course of divorce,  it is rather the manifestation of other things missing (or present) in the home which can invariably lead to an emotional disconnection, dried out sexual attraction and finally divorce. So lack of sex is a symptom of other prevailing problems. 

We live in a society where men who get it to the brim at home, still go out to dabble in girlfriendism. These man are not out there because they are starving at home; it is because other intrinsic or extrinsic factors make them do it.  In situations where there is a libido disconnection between the couples, or work and lifestyle demands mean that sex is not a constant item on the menu, the party who feels 'starved' even when it is for a month, may go out to get it elsewhere if they do not subscribe to any moral code, and still come back home and enjoy their marriage. 

Hardly do you hear a man or woman citing the lack of sex as the KEY reason for wanting a divorce. Sex may be in there, but it is always an addendum to another problem. These problems, whatever they may be, may lead to a withering of sexual desire for one's partner. Where there is no desire for someone sexually, how do you have sex with them?

It is rather easier for a woman to seek divorce if it is a problem of lack of quality sex - in this case, we are looking at medical or psychological factors that may affect a man’s ability to crank the engine and ride all the way to Colorado and hand the keys to the inn keeper with pride. But even that, a 'smart woman' will know how to play her cards rather than seeking an outright divorce.

In my experience, when someone cites the lack of sex as the key reason for wanting a divorce, then this string of events may be present: Terrible Sexual experiences/Preferences with/of the partner (psychological, physiological or physical), a prolonged period of endurance and exhaustion of possible avenues for solution (or an unwillingness on the part of the one with / causing the problem to seek help or change their mind), an unmet strong sexual appetite, which means that infidelity is a matter of time, yet the one suffering does not want to cheat. 

If we limit the argument to just sex, we can never contain the problem of the surge in divorce in Ghana. We may also put undue pressure on women to satisfy their husbands in ways that are degrading (in the case of a chronic unfaithful husband), draining (for a woman who has a super hectic schedule and sometimes is genuinely tired to participate in the act), humiliating( in cases where men use sex as a tool to control and punish) manipulating (in cases where a woman has to give in or the man will withhold something from her)

So what are some of the things that may lead to divorce - things that, just before the divorce, may most likely lead to lack of sex? I touch on just five, but there are many more.

1. Changing Perspective And Reality Surrounding The Institution Of Marriage. There was a time divorced was not contemplated as an escape route for any marital problem. Marriage was an end in itself for any man or woman who crossed that line of the marital ceremony - till death do us part. Those who dared to break free were the aberrants of society. The church, the family and even the law placed considerable impediments in the way to make that choice a very unpleasant one. The usual window of hope was mostly left to men....and some men took it. Others would rather marry another woman in addition to their wife.

Now it is not so. Society's evolution has changed the perception of the marriage institution, making it easier to go in and come out as one pleases. Again, because women are now empowered socio-economically and politically (which is evidence of a general naissance of social empowerment) it is easy to initiate divorce from their side. In my few years of being a small town counsellor, I have heard more women throw that word around than men; and they are all empowered women. An actualized man in this part of the world, may find other ways of dealing with a suffering marriage; divorce is normally a peripheral option. An actualized woman contemplate divorce as one of the prime options. 

Again, a woman, is likely to use sex deprivation as a tool for punishing her husband for an offense, informing him of a wrong done her, making a statement, or making a decision she wants the man to come to terms with. So, before sex takes a back seat, there is an underlying issue that is in the front seat. So even if, because of the counsel of a pastor or family members, the woman opens up, the underlying problem that influenced her earlier action may still possibly be lingering. 

Let me say that previously, one of the motives for marrying, for a woman, was social acceptance,  economic upgrade and opportunities and sustenance. Now let us look around us; how many women in Urban Ghana need a man in order to attain these? So the question is simple, 'Which woman has time for a cheating,  self conceited,  controlling, on-the-same-financial-level, abusive and 'unsupportive' man? Few empowered Ghanaian woman! And which of these women after all these drama would want that man to come on top of her in a cheap meaningless sexual bout? Even a smaller number! 

Again, when a society is empowered by education and free thinking,  religion and culture are relegated, to a good extent, to the background.  There will be evidence of religion,  but it lacks its spiritual spine. This means that instead of a struggling wife praying and saying God will do it, she looks at her situation carefully and makes a logical, rather than, an emotional, cultural or religious decision! 

2. Individual Perception And Commitment.  How we perceive a relationship - and in this case marriage - influences our approach to the responsibilities that attaches to it.  If we see it as a daunting task and every duty is perceived as a wearying one, then even the slightest act of sacrifice becomes back breaking. But if you see it as a must keep and this-is-my-life-my-all-forever-and-ever, then you get into a Bruno Mars state where you start catching bullets for your spouse and the marriage.

I use the simple analogy of a 50 kg bag of rice and how heavy it feels when we are called to lift it up, but we do not find it as heavy when we have to lift up a loved one of same weight in moments of joy. Aside the explanation physics can give to this, the reality is that one is seen as a burden, while the other is seen as an act of pleasure. You lift a child up in excitement, you lift a woman up in excitement. But I don't see how lifting that bag of rice all over the place gives anyone excitement; unless that is part of a body building regime, or your life and sustenance depends on it.  

In the same way, if you are excited about your marriage, you do all it takes to make it work without seeing it as a back breaking task. You want to talk to your partner every chance you get,  share your day with them, bounce your ideas off them, find out what is eating them up, and notice the changes that are constantly taking place in them. From the minutest changes in their hair color, or cut to the dress they wear, to the more subtle aspect of the emptiness in their eyes, you see it all. You think about them and telepathically they think about you and call, you end each other's statements. Exciting. However, if you are not excited about your partner or your marriage, even the sight of them, puts you off let alone wanting to hear their voice or opinion.

How you perceive your partner, influences your emotional and sexual attraction towards them. It influences your sexual responsiveness when they make advances towards you. Every sexual engagement is seen through the eyes of your emotions no matter how ordinary or wow it is. Your commitment will also influence the extent you are willing to go to make them happy in bed. Where the perception is an unhealthy one, and commitment is all time low, sex will suffer. It is the unhealthy perception and lack of commitment that will lead to a divorce, not the suffering sex. 

3. Distraction.  We are distracted! Now, more than any time in our history as a people, there are many things begging for our attention; so many things available to compare our marriages to. There are so many ideas we pick online and on TV;  realistic and unrealistic ones.  We introduce into our marriages many unexamined impressions which in the end kill the spirit of the marriage.

Experiential and veritable knowledge have lost their value. Everyone with a platform can afford to share 'knowledge' lately. And the louder your voice, the more people are drawn to you. So with fanfare and attractive packaging, may people get attracted, and are distracted from their path. Everyone is sharing an opinion, everyone is now a marriage expert, everyone is a life coach. With beautiful graphics, big words and big ideas, many people are distracted from a marriage that would have worked if they were not listening to too many people. 

We are so distracted by the fake things; distracted by the lies we read and see online that we do not make time to study our partners to know and appreciate their uniqueness, and more importantly embrace these uniqueness, and adjust or find well negotiated ways of managing them. We have become fixated with what WE THINK and WHAT WE HEARD and WHAT WE READ that we do not make time to build our marriages in a personal experiential way, having just a guide or two to help us navigate the difficult terrains.  How about a simple HOW DO YOU WANT ME TO TREAT YOU? Spell it out and let's get on with it! 

We are distracted by flashy and beguiling things; social media and the lying monsters that lurk behind the crisp super Amoled screens that illuminate our faces everyday. Chats, nudes, sexting, flirting and the sweetest icing to go with it- A vault to conceal it all until it blows up in our faces - Passwords! Isn't ironical that in this era where knowledge abounds, marriages are suffering the most? Check the knowledge again. 

Instead of fixing our collapsing homes due to its lack of communication and support, we would rather spend time chatting with people who have no take in our marriage. You only get to know what is going on in the life of your partner and in your marriage when you make time for them. Like a doctor, you only get to know what someone is going through when you observe and probe so you can attempt a diagnosis.  But if you don't have time, because many people are begging for a shard of that precious twinkling little minutes, how would you even notice there is something wrong with your partner and your marriage? 

 We look at our partners and diagnose them without even consulting them to find out what exactly is their general state of being. We get distracted by the mundane; the 80% of our lives that return just 20% of our needs and want.

We take pleasure running our beautifully manicured fingers across the Gorilla glass screens of our smartphones chatting, calling and stepping out to chill and to blow off steam. We watch communication die a gruesome death and get into a blame game at their solemn funeral. Distraction is killing marriages, and when people feel their spouses are distracted and do not have them at heart, sex between them suffers. End result? Possible divorce, so they can each find people who put premium on them, their lives and the children. 

4. Faulty Premises For Marrying. There are a lot of these premises, but the only one I will touch on is the notion of 'no one is perfect.' I get that a lot from young people lately, and it saddens me. The general impression is 'no one is perfect so do not look for a perfect person, but look for how you can live with their imperfections.'  So why do they divorce their imperfect partners and cite their imperfections as the reason for the divorce? Am I the only person baffled by this contradiction? You cited their imperfection to be normal as humans, so why are you citing it as a basis for divorce? 

You knew he was lazy and opportunistic; you knew she was unstable and insecure. You knew all that and went ahead to marry them, telling all of us to go romance Satan if it gives us comfort, because no one is perfect. You told us we all have our imperfections so we should not judge. So why do you want a divorce now? How have they changed? All these things you are telling us now....did you not know them? Did you not see them years before you saw the altar or the marriage bureau?  So why are you playing the victim here?

We sing that song and refuse to demand for better standards while dating. We take the same trash down the aisle and come crying 18 months down the road! If no one is perfect, why don't you keep quiet and suffer in the imperfection? Faulty premises for marriage. What do you even mean by no one is perfect? Do you understand the door you open by walking around with that statement? 

Oh when we get to the bridge we will cross it! You literally walk for 15 km to the bridge and you realise you will need ropes to help you cross it,  and as it stands you don't have any. How about asking, even before the journey starts, how this bridge would be crossed? How about finding out how you will deal with eventualities when you get there and it is not a smooth crossover. We shelf the most important things of the relationship and hope when we marry they would die out.

We marry not knowing jack about their financial standing, his or her health status, or anything that is key to the marriage like dreams, ambitions and career aspirations. We get in, and as life unfolds, we start having problems when who they are and where they are going do not find a point of equilibrium with our own set of expectations. How about finding out before the Altar, because I would prefer a broken relationship than a broken marriage. It is a fact that over 70% of all divorces happen between couples who knew they may most likely not survive marriage even before they married.

Oh we did not want to rock the boat! Well, rock it so you can test the integrity of the boat before you take it to the high seas of marriage! Trust me, some imperfections can be so repulsive that you wouldn't want your partner to touch you. Marry for the right reason; when you see anything you do not want to live with for the rest of your life, do not sweep it under the carpet, call it out, discuss it, set time lines for their improvement. If you think you cannot live with it for the rest of your life, choose the easier route; break up. If you need help with this, click here and a counselor will help you make that decision.

5. Unsupportive Spouses. On this one, I'll touch on men. Clearly, if you want a less stressed-out woman, always with her groove on and darkness- piercing spark ready to rock your world in a porn-fashioned sex, then you need to help her with her load. She works, like you. She goes through everything you go through in the day. So at home you help her, otherwise, that is an unfair balance right there. How on earth do you intend for her to be all kinky when after the day's stress she has to handle the home stress all alone? And how do you manage her complaints and needs?  You resist them. That is a recipe for trouble. Another guy will just creep in with the same things you are not doing. 

Sometimes, the woman is not asking for much beyond these; attention, interest, support - be it emotional or psychological.  She needs a listening ear. She just wants you to stand by the kitchen door and chat her up while she fixes dinner even if you won't lift a finger. She needs a man who has time for her,not one who places his boys above her. Too much to ask?

These and the many more common reasons we all know are wrecking homes. Lack of sex will always manifest where most of these indicators are available. I intentionally did not pick on the usual subject of abuse, respect, and the rest because those are subjects effectively tackled by many writers and counselors. 

Are you at a place where you fear your marriage will end in divorce? Click here and schedule a session with us.

Leaving On A Jet Plane - Chantel Kreviazuk
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PG Sebastian 
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