From ‘Rise in couples who split within five years’, 16 Feb 2014, article by Janice Tai, Sunday Times
The first five years of marriage are proving a challenge for more Singapore couples – that is when partners stray, and a rising number of marriages break down. A study on straying couples by Touch Family Services found that slightly more than half the 164 respondents polled had affairs within five years of marriage. For one in three, the affairs happened in the first two years of married life.
…The Touch study, done over the past two years, invited individuals who had unfaithful spouses to complete questionnaires online. Close to 1,000 people responded, but only 164 met the criteria of having been married and of having an unfaithful spouse. The researchers found that nine in 10 of the troubled marriages involved dual-income couples and one in three cheating spouses earned more than $5,000 a month.
…Counsellors point to several reasons the crisis point of the modern marriage seemed to be arriving sooner, and especially among better-off working professionals. They say there is a diminishing social stigma attached to divorce and some couples are more willing to give up on a marriage in trouble.
…As to why adultery seems more prevalent among better-off couples, he (Dr Terence Yow, Reach Family Service director) said overseas studies have also established that people with a higher socio-economic status have a higher risk or propensity for infidelity. They tend to be more stressed, have the means to maintain an extramarital affair, have a bigger social network and are more attractive to others.
In a separate CNA report of the same study, 6 out of 10 people surveyed would remain married despite having a spouse cheat on them. CNA also revealed that Touch Family Services is an affiliate of Touch Community Services, whose chairman is renown as a staunch opponent of the ‘looming threat’ to family that is homosexuality. His name? Lawrence Khong.
Knowing who’s in charge behind Touch, it’s only natural to scrutinise this study for selection bias. A surprisingly high number of those 164 polled were spouses who were earning good money, a finding milked by the investigators to suggest that the higher your income, the more likely you’d stray. This simplistic assumption correlates status with sex but ignores other factors that contribute to infidelity. No details were given on how the researchers defined ‘unfaithful’ and how the subjects and investigators verified that cheating was even real, or whether they were delusional. Did the spouse go out on a ‘date’ alone? Did the subject stumble upon a naughty Whatsapp message? Did the spouse surf porn behind her back? Were ‘in-depth’ interviews conducted such as those in a 2012 study which concluded that half of about 500 married couples ‘considered’ divorce?
I’d be interested in the demographics of those polled, namely their race and religious inclination and whether it was representative of the general population. Are people who respond to Touch initiatives more likely to be Christian than Muslims, Buddhists or Hindus? Or the fact that they were looking for resources or help from the Touch website before even participating in the poll suggests that they’re already motivated to salvage the marriage (hence the 6/10 who want to remain married). Given the complexity and diversity in attitudes towards marriage across cultures and social class, the Touch results appear skewed towards those ‘well-off’ and puts high income earners under an unnecessary spotlight. As for keeping marriage alive, whatever motivations you have in saving it may also depend on what your religion says about it, rich or poor.
The jury is still out on what causes spikes in early cheating and ultimately divorces given recent mixed results and anecdotes from elsewhere. One report last year cited wedding expenses as a reason for Muslim couples splitting. Another concluded that OLDER couples above 45 are breaking up because parents ‘don’t know what to do with each other’ once the children move out. In 2011, the top factors were ‘unreasonable behaviour’, ‘infidelity’ or ‘domestic violence’ depending on whether it’s a civil or Muslim marriage. There’s also the issue of parenting troubles, dealing with crazy in-laws and in some cases, taking offence toward one’s cooking. Other counsellors have encountered relationships strained over simple household chores. Why not blame the rise of social media, online dating/chat apps, and sexting too?.
In short, a broken marriage can’t be explained by income alone without adjusting for all the little petty things unique to each couple that pave the way to destruction. Experts also talk of this ‘diminishing social stigma’ but don’t have any data to back up what appears to be a ‘still-hot divorcee’ theory. Even if the stigma is diminished, it doesn’t mean more people are taking divorce lightly. Divorce is emotionally and financially taxing, and the possibility of being back ‘on the market’ instead of branded as ‘used goods’ may not be worth the cost, time and effort of killing a marriage especially one with children involved. Unless you’re ‘born again single’ Allan Wu, of course.