With Hong Kong’s divorce rate nearly three times higher at the last census than in 1991, and the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper ranking the city as having the 12th highest divorce rate worldwide, it’s no wonder that Hong Kong’s reputation as a “graveyard for marriages” is so prevalent. Hong Kong’s expat population, in particular, seems extremely vulnerable to relationship breakdowns, with an individual’s change in circumstances often compounded by a sense of isolation when removed from their established support network.
Over the past two years, Central-based clinical psychologist Dr Quratulain Zaidi has seen a considerable increase in the number of expat clients coming to her MindnLife practice for counselling to help them through divorce. But, according to her, the decision to part ways doesn’t have to be an entirely negative experience. “Divorce can actually build your resilience,” she explains, continuing, “Although resilience is something we tend to focus on building in kids, this is an important trait that will help with the challenges of mid-life – including divorce.”
And for those of us who feel simply too long in the tooth to tackle major life upheavals, Dr Zaidi has this positive message, “Being older gives you a better ability to regulate your emotions. We gain perspective from our life experiences, and that actually gives us an advantage when it comes to building our resilience.”
Rediscovering Your Personal Identity
So, how can someone who has recently divorced begin to piece together their new life? Dr Zaidi suggests time and patience, “This process can be compared with the stages of a bereavement. It’s normal to experience sadness, pain, anger and guilt as you adjust. Some people may feel the need to “get even” or even humiliate their former spouse, which is never a good idea.” Part of the process of moving on involves building personal independence, which can involve untangling many years of dependency, particularly when a couple has children, or continue to be financially intertwined. “Dependency is healthy to a point, but can delay personal growth and makes it difficult to move on from the relationship,” explains Dr Zaidi, adding, “Rebuilding your own identity is important. Your relationship may have been a central part of your life, and it can be scary to let this go. It takes time to rebuild your individuality as a single person again.” The final piece of the puzzle is integration. “This is when people feel able to live day-to-day on their own, and move on with little-to-no resentment towards a former spouse. At this point, you may also allow yourself to enter a new relationship.”
Surrounding Yourself with Positive People
Of course, achieving this level of acceptance and contentment depends in no small part on your support network. “It’s very important to be surrounded by people who are positive, rather than negative as you reassess your situation. Look to those who fill you up, not drain you of your energy.” Dr Zaidi recommends searching outside of your day-to-day circle to help with this, “Stop ruminating, and allow yourself to be independent and move on. Face the unfamiliar and explore something new.” She continues, “Hong Kong can be a lonely city, so join new groups, find new hobbies and simply get out of your comfort zone!”
Growing New Social Networks
This advice certainly resonates with Jacqueline Chia and Carol DeCandido, co-founders of Mozaic, a brand new social network for Hong Kong’s over-40s. “We both felt there was a real lack of opportunities for the 40+ age group to meet new friends in Hong Kong,” they explain, continuing, “Talking to our mutual friends, we felt that as our children leave home, some people divorce, some are widowed, or people retire and leave the city; it seems to be harder for both men and women to meet new friends outside of work for socialisation. We too were experiencing this phenomenon, which lead us to develop our idea of a social club for Hong Kong residents over the age of 40.”
The club connects like-minded people, both online, through a members-only noticeboard and messaging service, as well as in person, through a series of curated social and travel events. Local meet-ups focus on the very best that Hong Kong has to offer, in a diverse range of categories that runs from wine tasting to cultural walks; canapés to kayaking. Further afield, Mozaic member trips include a Balinese health retreat, and a group tour of Xi’An’s Terracotta Warriors, with plenty more trips planned over the coming months.
Taking the First Step
But after a major life change, it can be daunting to strike out into a new group. So what of those people who may be curious about Mozaic, but who lack confidence, or feel self-conscious? Carol explains, “Our events are generally for small groups of between just eight and 12 people. We focus on the personal touch, engaging our members to interact with each other and fostering new friendships. So far, this seems to be a very positive experience for our members… and ourselves as well!” Jacqueline adds, “There is always a Mozaic representative at every one of our events to help make introductions and ensure members feel comfortable and welcomed.”
And although Mozaic is a social club, Carol and Jacqueline are mindful that some of their members may also be interested in longer-term partnerships, explaining, “We’ve just launched another branch of our business; a personalised, off-line match-making service for mature English-speaking Hong Kong residents, called meet.mozaic.”
With this in mind, it’s clear that, as one door closes, plenty more open, proving that there is most certainly life after divorce in Hong Kong.
Mozaic membership is $588 for 3 months, $988 for 6 months or $1,888 for a 1-year membership and includes access to their online social network and events program. Events are individually priced. Click here to find out more.
Mozaic also offer a discreet, personalised matchmaking service via meet.mozaic.