False expectations make Emirati marriages fail, experts say

Emirati couples should discuss their expectations and outlooks before tying the knot, experts say

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DUBAI // Many young Emiratis do not understand the concept of marriage, according to a group of social services employees and psychology experts.
Afra Al Basti, Director General of the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children, told an audience of married Emirati men and women at a forum on healthy marriage that the main reason for divorce was immaturity.
In 2011, 1,117 marriage contracts were issued to Emirati couples in Dubai; 377 divorce certificates were issued the following year.
Mrs Al Basti said: "In 2006 and 2007 [in my office] we saw that 80 per cent of newlyweds had filed for divorce before completing a year.
"Immaturity is the biggest reason for this, not just the immaturity of the couple but also the one who arrange the marriage. Age is not a sign of maturity."
Mrs Ahmad said planning ahead was the key to a healthy married life. "Have an idea of what you want in 20 years time," she said. "It doesn't have to be set in stone, it can be flexible, but there needs to be a destination."
Annas Bukhash, an Emirati father of one, said: "In the old days people had no expectations, so they were happy with what they got. These days couples are dreaming of Hollywood and Bollywood fantasies. When they get a taste of real life they're disappointed."
The group also spoke about damage being done by hypocrisies within the social system.
"Not too long ago it was acceptable for men to cheat, it wasn't seen as the end of the world," said Dr Suad Al Marzooqi, psychologist and assistant dean at UAE University. "But for a woman to cheat is grounds for divorce and being shunned in the community. Now we have a higher rate of women cheating and their husbands chasing after them trying to reconcile."
She added: "Back in the day there was no segregation of men and women like we have today, this is a new social development in our society. Women were an integral part of the community, they would work hard and earn a living, some would have stalls in the markets. There was normal interaction between men and women in the community. Now you have men who don't know how to even speak to woman. How are they supposed to interact with a wife?"
Mrs Ahmad said divorce should not be feared. "Divorce is normal. If you have rates of marriage, you will also have rates of divorce. Sometimes divorce can be a cure, but the diagnosis must be correct. There should be a good reason for divorce."
All agreed communication was the key. "I think if there was open communication in the family, much of these problems would be solved," said Mrs Marzooqi. "Learn to be responsible and realise that this person has a mind, too. There must be communication between spouses, and communication between parent and child."
*This article has been updated to clarify a quote attributed to Afra Al Basti, Director General of the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children. The figure concerning 80 per cent of all marriages in 2006/7 that ended in divorce did not apply to all marriages in the country, but rather all marriages referred to her office for counselling.