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Untangling cultural concerns in divorce

Divorce can be seen by some as a societal taboo, and that is particularly true for the Vietnamese community. While marriage and family are not held to quite the same strict standards as they were previously, there are still expectations for couples to stay together.

In the past, it was not common for couples to divorce. If women were unhappy in their marriage, they were expected to stay for the sake of her children. Men took the lead in all family matters, regardless of their wives’ wishes. Many of those marriages were arranged by parents and extended family, with little consultation from the children.

Some of those expectations appear to be easing, however. Couples are meeting on their own without pre-arrangement from parents. While husbands still may take the lead in the family, more women have an equal say as their spouse in family matters. Women are becoming more independent and working outside of the home.

As those expectations are easing, so also are the taboos of divorce. More and more Vietnamese Americans are considering divorce as a viable option: The national average for U.S. divorces is 19 per 1,000 marriages, and for Vietnamese Americans it is 16. While it is lower than the national average, it is much closer than it used to be.

This shows an ideological shift among Vietnamese Americans and their families, especially considering that Vietnam continues to have one of the lowest divorce rates in the world. Divorce appears to be more accepted than it used to be, which gives couples the freedom to find a new marriage that better suits their needs and wishes.

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