In the search to find a good partner, what happened to traditional values?

Parents have an important role to play in teaching their children the values they should seek in a husband or wife, writes Reema Marzouq Falah Al Ahbabi.

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Earlier this month this newspaper published an article about young Emirati men favouring attractive, working women when they searched for a bride. The story sparked plenty of debate, caused a few arguments and even led some people to question the validity of the study, which had been carried out by experts at Zayed University.

It was uncomfortable for some people to hear that physical attractiveness is the most important quality that men look for when choosing a wife. The study also found that these men value a woman’s earning power over more traditional virtues.

The study marked a change from a few years ago, when the most important qualities in a prospective bride were considered the strength of her character or her being from a good family.

It is true that we do not know the number of people who were surveyed, the demographics or the research methodology used in the study.

However, there is no denying that physical attractiveness has become a very important factor in society.

Dr Ellen Berscheid, a psychologist at the University of Minnesota, has been studying physical attractiveness for 15 years. She believes that looks are more important than ever. She says that physically attractive people receive preferential treatment in society, a fact that profoundly affects their lives, including who they make friends with and what career opportunities are open to them.

Most young unmarried Emirati men would admit that they would prefer a wife who works, although this could be explained in part by the rises in the cost of living in the UAE.

Young men now want assistance from their wives to fund the cost of the luxury homes, cars and holidays that they will purchase throughout their married lives. Even so, Emirati men today are still expected to pay for the major monthly expenses although they now prefer to receive at least some financial contribution from their wives.

When it comes down to it, men will choose their ideal partner based on what they think they want.

But it is surely the responsibility of parents to teach their children, from a very young age, how to value and measure other people.

People are not a commodity and attributing so much attention to a person’s physical appearance is not treating them fairly. Parents should encourage their children to choose friends based on how kind, diligent and well-behaved their classmates are.

Children should understand that they must choose to befriend those who make them feel valued and accepted. A young person who values good manners and good behaviour will know how to choose a good partner.

We should reward our daughters for being clever and well-behaved and not just for being pretty or wearing a cute dress.

Our children will value what we value. That little boy, with a developed and clear value system will grow into a man who values others in a more complex way than a mere skin deep appreciation of beauty.

Whether or not you agree with the findings of this study, the UAE is full of attractive, employed, single women. If you are a man looking to get married, or have a son, make sure you find a wife whose character stands taller than the heels she wears.

Reema Marzouq Falah Al Ahbabi is an Emirati homemaker and MBA graduate

On Twitter: @rm_ahbabi