Marital problems among Emiratis down to finances and social media, survey finds

A new government hotline seeks to understand the problems facing Emirati families as divorce rates rise in the UAE

Photo Taken In United Arab Emirates, Dubai

The majority of young Emirati couples experiencing marital problems argue mostly over financial issues and social media, according to a government survey seeking to tackle the country’s high divorce rates.

The survey revealed that marital problems among Emiratis are a major concern. It sought to better understand the issues facing such families so they may be offered tailored advice from counselling centres.

The survey was published on Sunday to coincide with the Ministry of Community Development's launch of a family conflict hotline after successfully completing a pilot phase.

The hotline is open to all Emiratis but 86 per cent of callers were women. And younger callers, aged between 20 and 30, made up 54 per cent.

Sixty-nine per cent of respondents said they were employed, while 29 per cent were housewives.

The biggest issue facing young couples, according to respondents, was financial problems. Many said they had disputes over the spending habits of their spouse or their lack of responsibility.

Other problems included spending too much time with friends, differences of opinion and polygamy.

Newly married couples said the two biggest issues were neglect and social media use, while one of the main problems facing parents and children was a lack of communication.

Officials statistics show that divorce among Emiratis is on the rise, with 1,922 in 2016 compared to 1,813 the previous year. One in three Abu Dhabi divorces were of marriages lasting less than 12 months.

In the decade to 2016, 27 per cent of marriages ended in divorce. The figure was about the same when it came to expatriates.


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“There are no conversations between family members,” said Waheeda Hassan, director of family development at the ministry. “Every member of the family is either on their phones, iPads or on social media. This is very often the root of the problems.

“The counselling service has been launched to support Emirati families. Instead of Emirati families resorting to the courts, our counsellors will help to resolve the dispute amicably.”

The survey said women struggled with “personal problems such as parental interference, the mother-in-law’s meddling, betrayals, financial problems, overspending, sharing a house with parents-in-law, abandonment or separation, and the husband’s previous divorce”.

The hotline is not only for married couples, Ms Hassan said. It also offers emotional support for the entire family, as well as couples who are unmarried, and guarantees confidentiality.

Emirati psychologist, Dr Naser Al Riyami, said the UAE’s high divorce rate was likely the result of rushed marriages among young people who feel pressured to tie the knot.

“Family counselling services are particularly important to help resolve problems before divorce happens. Often couples just need to be heard, to learn good communication skills and an impartial professional to guide them.”

Sana Suhail, undersecretary at the ministry, said the family hotline service aims to “help people achieve harmony in their individual and family lives, strengthen emotional bonds within the family, reduce the divorce rate in the country, prevent problems occurring in dysfunctional families, and address tension and alienation between spouses”.

This year it was announced that campaigns to promote marriage would be rolled out with the aim of building strong unions among Emiratis. More than 72 family centres are to be set up, including 27 social affairs offices, 10 federal centres for social development, 23 centres for social development, seven family consultation centres and five private family consultation centres.

Emiratis can access Taalouf through the ministry’s website or by calling their hotline on 800623, there are also service centres located across the Emirates.