The Italian Almanac


Italian News - November 13

Italy is experiencing an unprecedented rise in marriage break-ups, according to a new report, with interfering mothers-in-law bearing a high proportion of the blame. A new poll by research institute Eures reveals a divorce happens every four minutes in a country once regarded as a bastion of marriage.

In 2002, Italy recorded 50,828 divorces - a 45 per cent increase from 2000. Marrying too young, squabbling over money and meeting new partners are often cited for the rising divorce rate but three out of 10 marriages fail because of the unusually close attachment of Italian men to their mothers. Living in the same house or nearby, she puts strains on a couple's relationship by meddling in their affairs, finding fault with her daughter-in-law and treating her grown-up son as a child.

'In Italy there still exists a sort of mother love that is excessive,' said psychologist Dr Annamaria Cassanese, who says she sees many disillusioned daughters-in-law at her practice in Milan. 'It is a very Latin thing, deeply embedded in our social structure. For example, you will see mothers crying at the weddings of their sons, but they are not crying for joy, they are crying because they feel devastated. Their son has chosen another woman and it arouses very complex feelings, including jealousy.'

Cassanese points to two types of extreme Italian mother-in-law. One refuses to give in to ageing and sees her daughter-in-law as a rival, the other has dedicated her life to her family and expects payback for life.