In many cases factors that cause couples to go their separate ways are common, like financial dishonesty and infidelity. But one of the factors that is overlooked by private sector employers, government and even couples themselves is the issue of married couples living apart.
Research shows that NGOS, social scientists and church ministers are against the idea of married couples living apart because it has disastrous consequences. Pastor Malejane John Ramotshabi, who marries couples at the Francistown district office and is a marriage counsellor, says that married couples should live together because if they do not then communication that is the core of any marriage will eventually fall apart. Ramotshabi further said that a couple living apart would fail to plan together.
"Planning together as a married couple is the foundation to a good marriage," he said. He said that when two people who are married do not talk on a regular basis they lose that vital connection.
When married people do not stay together they stop talking to each other because they do not see each other regularly and conflict creeps in because when the partners are away from each other eventually one of them will develop a certain way of thinking," said Ramotshabi. He said that when couples stay apart sometimes it is not possible to see each other for a long time because of money, transport, and other commitments. He said that when people are apart there are two households to maintain and couples could become stretched economically, leading to other problems.
"They now plan on the phone and it is not that effective and soon the problem of rent and money for settling other bills becomes a big issue," he said. Ramotshabi says that basically married couples who stay apart experience problems more than those who stay together and they are easily tempted to be unfaithful to each other. He said that it could also affect the children because if children are staying with one parent they will begin to find the other parent insignificant in their lives. "Children grow up better if they are raised and moulded by two parents," he said.
Ramotshabi says that though there is no law that can help married couples live together staying apart is definitely a recipe for disaster. Evangelist Lebaleba Gaolefufa, who is also a marriage counsellor, says that married couples need to be together but if they cannot because of work or any other commitment, they need to live in the fear of God.
"When a married couple stays apart it is the greatest test of faith," he said. He added that though the law does not know about God, God knows about the law.
Gaolefufa said that it is not right for married couples to be staying apart but if it so happens then they need to fear God because if they do not then all the unwanted things will find a way into the marriage.
"People need to understand that getting married is entering into a sacred bond that includes God so no one can afford to do as they wish, thinking no one can see them," he added. He said that if married people were forced to stay apart because of work commitments then they should make an effort to see each other as often as possible, still plan their future together and make compromises where necerssary. Senior Assistant District Officer in Francistown, Gotewang Senwedi argued that couples working away from their spouses cannot be a factor for divorce, as it depends on an individual's personality and how one deals with various situations.
He further clarifies that since there is no law in Botswana that provides for marriage couples to stay together, couples should learn to come to terms with the state of affairs. He said implementation of such law (if it existed) could help save marriages from falling apart as well reduce the spread of HIV and AIDS.
"Some cases pertaining to marriage couples who stay apart have been brought to our attention but as there is no law that covers them it becomes difficult to resolve them and only a boss who decides to use his/her discretion can help by granting the couple what they wish for."
Senwedi said that in most cases distance is used as a shield against infidelity.