DHAHRAN/RIYADH: Ahead of Valentine’s Day, Cupid’s bow and arrow struck several happy couples and built lives based on shared love, appreciation, and respect. But there’s more to it behind the scenes. Arab News asks couples what the secret to their happy unions is.
From the time of Plato and Aristotle onwards, philosophy has offered different theories of love, and long-term relationships can be wonderful — but require hard work. For many, it is the grand, extravagant gestures.
For others, it is the small ones that make a difference. To brave the question, “what makes love last?” Arab News asked married couples about what makes love last and their hearts dance.
For many, friendship and attention to detail count most, such as in the case of Muath Aziz, 31, and Luluwah Alghamdi, 28, who have been together since 2017.
“To me, friendship and kindness are a critical part of marriage,” Alghamdi said. “To be able to live with someone who you can laugh with and dance with and just be able to be yourself around him. No masks of any sort. Life has its ups and downs and having to go through it with your friend who’s reliable and supportive is priceless.”
As for Aziz, he believes that marriage is easy, simply a lifestyle change that requires adaption, investment, and kindness. Still, the most essential and crucial is finding a partner to have fun with.
“Instead of making breakfast for one, you make it for two. And instead of buying one bowl of ice cream, you buy two, paying attention to what flavors your partner favors. Yes you might have differences on what temperature the AC to be set at night, or where to store the tea and sugar, but that can always be resolved. That’s, of course, as long as the two are transparent and are listening to each other,” he told Arab News.
Sharing that same sentiment is Wedad Alahmed, who has been married for 33 years. She told Arab News that a good marriage requires that you look at it as a true friendship and partnership with communication as a critical component. “Understanding one’s partner’s thoughts, inspirations, and expectations is a must. A good marriage is about respect, honesty, and making a space for differences and a strong connection,” she said.
Ghassan Abduladhim and Shadi Albayat told Arab News that their successful marriage is mainly due to communication, and that being friends is always an added perk to the union.
“A marriage would be blissful and fulfilling if love and attraction mature through married life into a sort of friendship, where conditional tolerance and acceptance morph into empathic inclusiveness, reciprocally embracing and celebrating differences,” Abduladhim told Arab News. “Openness and all sort of communication skills are keys.”
Sharing her husband’s sentiments, the mother of four girls added that a happy marriage is a deep friendship “that is growing every single day. Trust and equality in your rights and responsibilities.”
For many couples, the anticipation and rush before their wedding day go by in a blur until the big day arrives, commencing the beginning of a new partnership. With a flurry of wedding guests zipping by, last-minute flower arrangements, makeup and hair, and so much more, photographers are the one constant that is available, watching every quiet and calm moment, capturing intimate connections and spontaneous moments of the day.
Tasneem Al-Sultan, a professional photographer in the Kingdom, has had a successful time being the preeminent local wedding photographer for over a decade in her Eastern Province hometown in Saudi Arabia. Word quickly spread around the block that her bridal shoots were creative and beautiful, as she filled the frame with elegant and fun moments that captured the essence of couples walking side-by-side into matrimony. Soon, her wedding photography repertoire expanded to include the rest of the Kingdom — and abroad.
In many ways, she became an active witness to each couple’s first walk into love.
“‘Saudi Tales of Love,’ which I retitled ‘And Then There Were Women,’ is about Saudi women’s intimate access and their stories about love of marriage, divorce. And I follow, as a wedding photographer that is divorced,” she told Arab News.
Al-Sultan enjoys being there to elevate the moment two people — with their families — vow to unite. She is also there to shed light on what many refer to as “the most important day of their lives.” As a wedding photographer, she is constantly surrounded by different versions of love.
According to AlSultan, the ‘perfect wedding’ might be a myth to strive to be on and encourages couples to look beyond that day and to truly dig into themselves to carve out the best version of love that makes sense to them. She stresses that the spotlight should be on building a healthy life together for the future and not obsess over how the cake looks or how the playlist flows on that one night.
“The wedding is just a big party to show how happy you are and to celebrate with everyone you know, but it is not about all the small details — the flowers and the colors, and the venue. We need to forget that this is all about the event and more about what this event means for the rest of your life,” added Al-Sultan.
After her experience documenting so many weddings, one thing is still clear: The lights in her eyes never dim when she talks about love.
She never lost faith in the process. And while her marriage did not last, she still strives to freeze the loving tenderness she has witnessed all along within her frames, whether between a romantic couple or a parent or friend. Each of her pictures speaks a thousand words and tells a million different strands of love story. Capturing that magical spark in a moment transcends time and space.
Does she still believe in love?
“Yes! Always,” she said with a laugh.