by Preet Mohan Singh Ahluwalia Since the last decade divorce is on the rise in what were considered cultures with traditional values. The institution of marriage is breaking down. How can it be recovered? How can relationships be strengthened? To answer these questions we must first understand why marriages break. Even though every marriage stands on its own foundation there are some factors that define human relationship. More importantly these are indicators of a potential problem. A culture, which emphasizes personal independence, that is a culture of Me, Myself and I, has far reaching consequences on human behavior. Higher expectations of self-fulfillment redefines our partnership, and in many cases, makes us intolerant of the unfulfilling spouse. With the availability of ‘other choices’ it is more convenient to break a marriage rather than painstakingly build one. Robert Anderson writes in, Solitaire and Double Solitaire: In every marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for divorce. The trick is to find, grounds for marriage. We are told that the most common reason for a broken marriage is incompatibility, a term that is at most ambiguous. Compatibility simply defined means harmony. It is also assumed that a man and a woman with the same set of likes and dislikes will, by default, be compatible. As a result looking for a marriage partner becomes a search for personal-likeness in the better half. Feminist movements continue to redefine the role of women. Historically major religions and many philosophers have conferred a lower status on them. As women get educated and financially independent, they are being asked to question and sometimes militantly discard the traditional family structure. No doubt it is a woman's right to be equal and anything less is unacceptable, but the militant opposition to traditional role-playing is not right. Sarah Scott a columnist for National Post quotes a marriage therapist who felt that the number one dispute in the first year of marriage is over household tasks. The job of washing the dishes could easily be perceived as who is in control. This wrong perception leads to fights and arguments and over time resulting in an unhappy or a broken marriage. There is more to building a home together than who cooks and does the laundry. The needs of a happy home also take into account other essentials. How are household chores distributed is best left for each family to decide on its own. "Money and power reshape our relationships without our knowing it," says the U.S. marriage therapist Betty Carter, author of the book Love Honor and Negotiate. While some people prefer separate accounts to manage their money others recommend just one. To them, “a marriage is based on trust and loyalty”, an undoubtedly strong argument to make. In view of the increase in broken marriages, contractractual agreements stipulating money-sharing arrangements are recommended in the event of a divorce. Let us get this straight. A prospective couple talks about sharing money in the event of a broken marriage that is yet to happen. Is this the foundation for two people to build a life together? We are being told it is. No man or woman is perfect and sooner or later our imperfections will show. People can reinforce their strengths and overcome their weaknesses and it might be the best way to a successful marriage. A weakness should not invite ridicule. Rather, help the other person get stronger for it will create a deeper level of understanding and commitment. According to Richard Needam, author of You and All The Rest: You don't marry one person; you marry three: the person you think they are, the person they are, and the person they are going to become as a result of being married to you. Another marital issue gaining recognition is domestic abuse. Though the reasons for it are varied, alcohol, job related stress and financial insecurity are key contributors. Whatever the reason, it affects a marriage and too often puts an end to it. Domestic abuse cannot be accepted for not only is it wrong, but more importantly, it causes physical harm. In the United States a woman is physically abused by her intimate partner every nine seconds, according to Charlotte Bunch, author of The intolerable status quo: Violence against women and girls, UNICEF. Interestingly there are women who justify domestic violence against their gender. In a survey conducted by the International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai (India) 56 percent women justified wife beating. Here is a breakdown of the statistics: 60% women felt that a wife deserves a beating if she is disrespectful or unfaithful while 25% justified it if she is unable to cook. The National Family Health Survey (1998-99) reveals that wife beating is less among Sikhs and Jains while 21% of Hindu, Muslim and Christian men are chronic wife beaters. The survey was conducted on 90,000 women in the age group 15-49 who were married or had been married. If you’re from the Indian sub-continent add dowry to the list of reasons for marital abuse. Fraudulent marriages are also in vogue. Strange as it might sound these marriages do happen. In many cases non-resident Indian men, some of whom are already married, return home for vacation and get married on the “insistence” of their parents, who are either unaware or knowingly consent to these matrimonial alliances to meet social expectations. An Indian magazine while reporting these marriages called the women victims, “Holiday Wives.” Satyajit Ray the famous Indian filmmaker said: It is the presence of the essential thing in a very small detail, which one must catch in order to expose larger things. In the case of marriage this “very small detail” is its essence. What is the essence of marriage? For Sikhs the answer is simple: They are not said to be husband and wife, who merely sit together. They alone are called husband and wife, who have one soul in two bodies (SGGS: p.788). Sikh marriage is called anand Karaj -- ceremony of bliss. It is a sacrament and not a social contract. The bride and the groom are to unite in marriage like the human soul seeks its union with the Divine. Four hymns (lavans) are read to solemnize the wedding. The first hymn emphasizes our duty to the family and the community. The second stage is the undying love for each other. This is followed by a detachment from material wants, and the final stage is a complete harmonious union that leads human love to attain divinity itself. A higher spiritual state is achieved, and indeed two souls are now one. When two souls become one, there is no duality between the way a husband and a wife think. Whatever they do, they do it together. A divorce, in such a case, is inconceivable.