Marriage and Divorce Rates Rise in Sichuan Region After Quake

June 16, 2008 Updated: June 16, 2008

A month has passed since the earthquake in China's Sichuan province. While an obvious focus has been to physically re-build the effected areas, a recent survey shows a less tangible consequence to the quake area: a ripple effect of both marriage and divorce rates. The psychological fallout from the impact of the sudden disaster is an issue of continuing concern.

The Chengdu Daily reported that according to the five regional Marriage Registries from the disaster area, the number of marriage certificates has unexpectedly risen since the earthquake. For example, one district in Chongqing city issued 30 more licenses the second day after the quake comparing to daily average figure before the quake. However, divorces have also been on the rise. The wave of marriages and divorces after the earthquake seem to be an indication that the disaster has influenced and changed peoples' mentality and attitude toward life.

The Marathon Lovers' Marriage in a Flash

“The moment I received the marriage certificate, my heart was at ease. Ever since, I have been putting our marriage certificate under our pillow when we go to sleep…” The young man spoke with a contented tone.

Peng Zhou, 32 years old, spoke of marrying his girlfriend three days after the earthquake. The couple had been dating for eight years and three days. Before the quake, he could not make up his mind to get married.

The sudden occurance of the earthquake had completely changed his attitude. He said, “While the earthquake was happening, my girlfriend was on a business trip in Mianyang. After the earthquake, I simply could not get hold of her. The phone calls never went through. I became extremely worried. and it was then I realized how important she's been to me.”

His girlfriend returned back safely on May 13. He proposed to her right away. Three days later, they applied for a marriage license. As for their marriage in a flash, he said, “This disaster has taught me to cherish everyone and every relationship around me.”

The Divorce Tidal Wave: 'He ditched me!'

Similarly, divorces are also on the increase. Many couples believed that this disaster has served as a test to the relationship. Those who believed that their spouses have failed the test are seeking divorce.

Ms. Ma, 37 years old, has had a very good relationship with her husband. However, after the earthquake, she has been determined to divorce him. Her reason is that on the afternoon of May 12th, while both were at home in their 6th floor apartment, the husband yelled, “run” during the earthquake, and rushed out of the building.

Ms. Ma said, “He ran so fast that he completely abandoned me. Now as I think back, I felt as chilled as being showered by cold water. After so many days, I am still furious about it. This earthquake was a real test of the true loyalty in couples' relationships.”

The Disaster Highlights the True Value of Love

According to Psychologist Ting Chen, of Huaxi Hospital Mental Health Center at Sichuan University: “People feel the power of love during the process of recovering from the disaster. People assess the true value with a new recognition. Before the earthquake, love is only part of life; some might have valued materials and social status more than the relationship. However, due to the personal experience of witnessing the extinguishing of lives and material destruction during the earthquake, the worry over loved ones and the support from friends has become the mainframe of their psychological support. Subsequently, many people have changed their original opinions and attitude toward the value of life.

Ting Chen also expressed that the lack of a sense of responsibility during the earthquake has led to distrust between spouses, which is the main reason for the increase in divorces.

She said, “From the human perspective, escape is an instinctive and natural reaction. It seems too hasty to judge the worthiness of the marriage on the basis of just this one factor.”