In August, a bizarre divorce case reported by Al Watan newspaper saw a Saudi man allegedly separate from his wife because she forgot to add a sheep’s head to a dish served to dinner guests. The woman, who spoke to the newspaper on condition of anonymity, said that her husband had been angry at the slip up as he believed serving a sheep’s head was a sign of generosity.
It is not the only eyebrow-raising reason given for a divorce. From a WhatsApp status that seemed to paint the husband in a bad light to a man whose wife supposedly ate her peas in a manner that irritated him, there have been some strange divorce cases across the Gulf region.
According to a July 2016 report by Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Statistics, divorce in the Kingdom happens at the rate of 127 cases per day, or about five cases every hour.
According to the report, more than 157,000 marriages were recorded in the courts between the summer of 2015-2016, while over 46,000 divorce cases were recorded during the same period.
The report stated, however, that the number of divorces recorded a decline from the year before, which saw more than 54,000 cases of divorce.
Arab News spoke to Dr. Nisreen Yacoub, associate professor at King Abdulaziz University and founder of the Dr. Nisreen office For Counselling and Psychotherapy, to learn more about practical tips married couples can follow to work through difficult situations.
It takes two to build a successful, happy marriage, she told Arab News, adding that young couples should not enter a marriage believing it will be free from stress, fights and other marital woes. There are key things to remember when it comes to marriage, Yacoub believes.
Getting into a marriage under false assumptions fosters high expectations. Living a meaningful life is the goal couples should strive toward, Yacoub believes. Any person who is ready to get into a marriage needs to understand that it is going to be tough and they should be prepared to dive in and work it out. There will be growing pains and tough times when you least expect it, but giving up is the last resort. Flaws should be accepted, idealism should be forgotten and acceptance is always the best way forward, but only if it is mutual.
Take other people’s opinions with a pinch of salt
Yacoub maintains that “outside influencers” are not the right people to turn to for advice. These may include friends and family and sidelining their opinions can be difficult for many due to how close-knit Middle Eastern societies typically are. Each person will base their opinion on their personal experiences, making for advice that may not be relatable to one’s own experience. Yacoub advises that it is not wrong to seek help, but it is best to reach out to a professional family counselor or therapist. These professionals will give their unbiased opinions and help to clear any misgivings in the marriage where possible.
“We can’t fix a society, we can only help the mindset of the individual. When he or she is willing to listen, that change happens. This happens when the individual comes to a realization that there is a problem that needs to be solved. Society plays a major role in all divorce cases and the change will happen gradually,” Yacoub said.
When you fight, fight fair
It is almost impossible for a couple not to fight, but when you do there are various tips you can use to ensure there is no lasting emotional damage and that the argument is resolved in a calm, kind manner.
The key to any disagreement is knowing when to make an exit, even if you have not resolved the issue. Taking a deep breath and leaving the room can go a long way in creating a foundation for resolution. It is also crucial to agree with your partner that neither of you should “win” or “lose” a fight. Both parties to the marriage should understand that the concept of winning and losing will build resentment and, ultimately, hurt the relationship. While negotiation and compromise are essential, it is also important to understand that the process cannot be rushed — sometimes you may need to cool off before you can handle the situation and that is perfectly fine. However, walking away from an argument should not be seen as a ticket to better times. Couples should pin down a time and place to ensure that the issue is discussed and resolved, seeking professional help if necessary.
Share quality time together
Every moment of disclosure — being real, fragile, kind and passionate — can further a couple’s understanding of each other and, therefore, help the marriage succeed. That is why spending time together is so important. Couples can get weighed down in the day-to-day hubbub of life, but setting aside time to spend with your partner alone, doing something you both enjoy, is important for a happy marriage. Sharing a hobby or volunteering together will go a long way in ensuring you remain friends as well as husband and wife or mother and father.