Relationship status: Happy and pro-divorce

In a survey conducted by The Nerve, Filipinos weigh in on the legalization of divorce

Marj Casal

Published: 5:12 PM July 17, 2018

Updated: 2:27 PM July 19, 2018

MANILA, Philippines – Like many Filipinos nowadays, Edmond met his wife through an online dating site. They got into a relationship and moved in together not long after. Two years later they decided to tie the knot. Now, they have been married for five years. Edmond says that he’s happy in his current relationship. He is also pro-divorce.

“I am pro-divorce because I believe that couples should be given a second chance at life. I am saddened that some people, especially women, cannot get out of their abusive relationships because there is no divorce legislation,” said Edmond.

Edmond is one of the 42% of respondents who say they are pro-divorce in a survey conducted by The Nerve, a data insights company, last May.

He also belongs to the 91% of those who say they are pro-divorce and are also happy about their current relationship status.

According to Andrea Martinez, a professor of psychology at the University of the Philippines, Manila, this isn’t surprising.

“I suppose those who are happy in their current relationships are open to divorce primarily because they still maintain that sense of empowered decision, which in some cases are lost among those who are unhappy,” said Professor Martinez.

For them, the option to get a divorce gives people a glimmer of hope because it can solve serious marital problems and provide separated people a chance to find love again.

But it doesn’t necessarily mean that pro-divorce couples are considering getting divorced themselves.

In fact, 74% of the respondents haven’t even thought of it.

“Unhappiness or dissatisfaction in marriage is not a strong predictor of marital separation or divorce. In fact, overall marital satisfaction declines in the course of heterosexual marriage, especially for the wife,” said Dr. Ronald del Castillo, associate professor of clinical psychology and behavioral sciences at the University of the Philippines Manila. “If the link is direct, then marriages should be ending left and right.”

But they aren’t.

A total of 46% of the respondents admit that they stay married because they love their spouses, while 27%, who may or may not be still in love with their spouses, say they value the sanctity of marriage.

This just shows that though many Filipinos are open to a non-traditional concept like divorce, they are still influenced by the Philippines’ traditional culture that strongly values religion and family.

“This perhaps suggests that Filipinos are, for a lack of a better term, progressive or liberal in their thinking than the otherwise religious conservatism we tend to ascribe to our culture,” said Dr. del Castillo. “It is true that the majority of Filipinos identify as Roman Catholic. However, the results of your survey suggest that Filipinos have the wherewithal to be in favor of an issue that appear antithetical to their faith.”

And even if the number of marriages in the Philippines has decreased by 14.4 percent in the last 10 years, the respondents still believe that if two people are in love, we should hear wedding bells ringing.  

The polarizing opinions not just of the public but also of the lawmakers deciding on its legalization contribute to why, apart from the Vatican, we’re the only country in the world without divorce.

The House of Representatives, where it is backed by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, has already approved the bill on 3rd reading. However, it still has to go through the Senate led by Senate President Vicente Sotto III, who already said that the chances are "slim." He said they would rather push for the expansion of annulment. Sotto is also opposed to liberal policies such as the Reproductive Health Law.

But for Dr. del Castillo, divorce shouldn’t be looked at beyond what it is – a legal mechanism for couples.

“Divorce is a legal mechanism for ending marital relationships. That is it. It is not the ‘breakdown’ of families. It is not the ‘decline’ of morals. It is not the ‘end’ of religious faith. It is not the end of the world. It is this kind of all-or-nothing thinking that is problematic, not divorce itself.”

“It should be noted that divorce can have a positive impact on happiness. It is true that divorce can make you less happy but this is temporary,” added Dr. del Castillo. “This short-term unhappiness makes sense because, as in any loss or separation in our lives, this can be difficult and highly stressful. However, research shows that in the long term you become happier and overall psychologically healthier after the divorce. This is true for the separated couple as well as their children.”

And for those who are afraid that divorce might ruin relationships and families, Dr. del Castillo thinks otherwise.

“I suspect that for many Filipinos, especially empowered young women, ‘so you can have children and raise a family’ is not a sufficient reason to get married. If religious and political institutions are truly interested in maintaining their relevance in Filipino culture, they should make it more attractive to get married, not make it harder to get out of it.” –

Note about our surveys:

This survey was conducted by The Nerve, a data insights company, in partnership with Rappler. In our surveys, mathematically, we aim for at least a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error, representative of the population the survey can reach. Even then, there are limits to the veracity of the surveys we conduct and write stories about. These surveys are not incentivized and are given only to readers who visit the site when the survey is being served