Too many hurdles

Did anyone tell gold medallist Liu that marriage is a marathon not a sprint

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Till dawn do us part

Kim Kardashian’s marriage to basketball player Kris Humphries only lasted 72 days. To help gauge that time horizon, the Wall Street Journal commeted that’s even shorter than the lifespan of horseflies, which last about a year.

Fewer and fewer marriage these days actually do last forever. Even surviving past the first year is also not as easy as it seems. Last week Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang and actress Ge Tian announced that they are to divorce – and do so before reaching their first wedding anniversary. “Ge Tian and I fell in love in May 2014 and got married in September the same year. We ended this marriage today because of our incompatible personalities. We each hope the other has a better life in the future and give best wishes to each other,” Liu wrote on his weibo.

Liu won a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics (for the 110m hurdles). The feat means he is a far bigger celebrity in China than his wife. There were signs that their short-lived marriage faced trouble. Back in May Liu held a retirement ceremony in a Shanghai stadium to commemorate the end of his professional athletic career, but his wife was not present at the event. Nor did Liu mention her in his speech. This gave rise to rumours that their relationship had turned sour. And even more tellingly, the couple didn’t follow each other on Sina Weibo (the surest sign that something is wrong in a modern-day Chinese relationship).

Still, news about the divorce quickly generated a plethora of speculation online as to what had really transpired. One of the most popular theories – allegedly made by Liu’s former coach Fang Shuiquan – was that Ge had faked a pregnancy to trick the hurdler into marrying her (Fang has since denied making this accusation).

Among the weirder theories doing the rounds: Ge offended her mother-in-law when she helped herself to a second serving of braised pork ribs (made by Liu’s long-time nanny) when there was only one piece per person, says Tencent Sports, a portal.

Ge, meanwhile, denied that she had faked a pregnancy but did little to elaborate on the real reason behind the divorce. Nevertheless, she managed to add fuel to the fire by implying that Liu is not only heartless but the hurdler may have even cheated on her. “I haven’t even left the building [where they filed the divorce] before the weibo message [that the marriage is over] was sent out. I don’t even know what to say anymore. The only thing I can say is, a lover that can be stolen is not a lover,” she wrote on her personal weibo.

Most netizens, however, are largely stunned by how short the marriage was: “It feels like it was only yesterday when they got married,” one netizen wrote. “These days divorces have become as easy and common as shopping,” another laments.

“Marriage is supposed to last a lifetime. Once you have made the decision to get married, you shouldn’t give up so easily,” another comments.

Indeed, those in the post-80s generation – Liu was born in 1983 – now make up the biggest population of divorcees in China. One reason, says Modern Life Daily, is that those who have married early have now hit the seven-year itch. The newspaper also reckons that many couples in this generation have a tendency to get married in haste without thinking about the consequence (case in point: Liu and his ex-wife dated for only five months before getting married). They also give up more easily when the relationship hits a rough patch, Modern Life Daily suggests, instead of trying to fix it.

Divorce rates in the country have climbed for the 12th consecutive year. The Ministry of Civil Affairs said this week a whopping 3.6 million couples parted ways in 2014, 3.9% more than 2013. That’s more than the total number of marriages in the US last year (estimated at around 2.1 million).

The Chinese divorce rate now stands at 2.7 per thousand, compared with 2.6 per thousand in 2013.

One reason for the rising divorce rate could be that more couples have been faking their marriages – or divorces – in the first place.

It is fairly common for Chinese to enter into “sham marriages” in order to fraudulently obtain a city hukou (household registration) and then file for divorce.

In the past couple of years, the country has also been seeing a rush of divorces to evade homeownership curbs, as couples sought to defy regulations on buying a second flat.

Perhaps it is also the reason why Chinese President Xi Jinping last year found it necessary to issue a new directive. This stated that all officials who had entered into divorce proceedings also had to file a detail report to the Party explaining why…

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