First Comes Divorce, Then Comes Marriage - OZY | A Modern Media Company

First Comes Divorce, Then Comes Marriage

First Comes Divorce, Then Comes Marriage

By Leslie Nguyen-Okwu


Because divorce can be the ultimate aphrodisiac. 

By Leslie Nguyen-Okwu

Newlyweds stream out of churches in Chile, brimming with marital bliss and pisco sours. As any snazzy wedding ceremony that takes place in this festive country entails, the couples will boogie down with a traditional cueca dance at the after-party; soon after, the sprightly lovebirds will ride off on horseback into the Andean sunset. But what, pray tell, brought these starry-eyed couples together? The number of people getting hitched in this Latin American nation is on an upswing, according to Chile’s Civil Registry. And it’s all thanks to the holy institution of … divorce.

In 2013, 67,037 couples tied the knot, a new record since divorce was legalized in Chile. 

Chile was among the remaining three places in the world that banned divorce and the country’s religious head honchos lobbied hard when it was finally legalized at the turn of the 21st century. Before 2004, splitting from your boo meant pursuing an expensive, bureaucratic annulment under the pretext of a “procedural error” during the marriage ceremony. In fact, it was common for engaged couples to intentionally misspell their names or get married in a county other than the one in which they lived — kind of like a built-in “get out of jail” card, says Viviana Salinas, a sociologist at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.

Gone are the days of nuptial loopholes; today, the sudden torrent of couples seeking wedded bliss is a far cry from the expectations of the Roman Catholic Church, which bemoaned the destruction of family values and predicted long lines at the Family Court. Instead, Chileans are racing to the altar since “divorce is now an option,” says Salinas. According to Chile’s National Statistics Institute, 14 percent of men and 10 percent of women who married did so for the second time and many of those tying the knot again are 35 or older.

Dmitry Toda, for instance, would never have gotten married without a solid exit strategy — he doesn’t like “playing games I can’t quit,” as he puts it. Yet Toda, who took his vows last June in Santiago, isn’t sold on the institution of marriage either. It’s “obsolete,” he explains, and “having some piece of paper from the Chilean government doesn’t change anything.” After all, he’ll always love his blushing bride, in sickness and in health. And Catholicism upholds the holiness of marriage as a contract of eternal love.

But as Pablo Neruda, the country’s own romance aficionado, once scrawled in a love poem: “Love is so short, forgetting is so long.” Till divorce do us part, Chile.

Sign up for the weekly newsletter!

Related Stories