Opinion The Marriage Issue

How relationships are changing in Kuwait

Why divorce rates are high and people are getting married later.

By Dana Al Rashid

Illustration by Dana Al Rashid.

Human relationships are going through a major transformation. In our fast paced world, relationships from the spectrum of friendship to romance, are becoming more transient and disposable. The illusion of choice makes us think that we’ll always find a better friend, or a more compatible lover. Thanks to social media, the grass is always greener on the other side. The abundance of choice –even if illusory– and constant distractions, give us far less time to self-reflect and be more appreciative of the relationships in our lives. Marriage and romantic relationships are particularly suffering due to this wave of hyperindividualism.

Now, before this article turns into a complete rant, let’s take a look at the numbers.

Internationally, marriage is on the decline. According to one study, there are fewer marriages and more divorces worldwide. The global divorce rate has increased by 251.8 per cent since 1960. This is applicable especially in first world countries, with Luxembourg as the country with the highest divorce rate of 87 per cent. The U.S has ranked 5th at 46 per cent, while the U.K came in 7th at 42 per cent.

“Both genders need to be held accountable for their actions and not treat people as disposable items.”

Of course, the Gulf Region is not exempt from these global trends, and  we have our own challenges and opportunities. In my country Kuwait, for example,  around 60 per cent of marriages ended in divorce according to a study by the Ministry of Justice of Kuwait in 2017.

In previous generations, people used to get married at much younger ages. I remember the time when relatives and friends would get married in their early to mid-twenties. Once, being single at 25 was considered alarming, but now, many people are staying single well into their mid-thirties.

“Some families also still show great inflexibility when it comes to marriage outside the tribe or from a different country.”

According to a 2016 survey for Kuwait’s Ministry of Justice, one the main of reasons that the age of marriage has significantly gone up is because people –both male and female– are increasingly choosing to continue their studies up to higher education. Plus, marriage expenses have drastically gone up, from the expected fancy wedding to the luxury household and daily expenses.

Some families also still show great inflexibility when it comes to marriage outside the tribe or from a different country. Many have strict criteria, but mental and emotional compatibility are generally not part of it.

Western media glamorizes singlehood and “dating culture”, with no depiction of life after 40. Given their influence, some Kuwaitis are imitating this lifestyle, not looking ahead and seeing the grave consequences that the West is already suffering from, such as aging alone with no form of support or emotional fulfilment.  

Despite all of these factors, women are still generally expected to have zero love experience, while men are allowed to experiment to their hearts’ content. The result? Women in their mid and late thirties who are denied basic human needs, and men who have little emotional maturity as they are granted their wishes with no consequences.

In addition, many  families postpone aspects in a girl’s life until she gets married. To travel and enjoy more freedom and independence, for instance, she needs to get married. Plus, the pressure on women to get married is generally greater, and comes sooner. Meanwhile, many boys are granted all of their freedoms as soon as they hit puberty, which may encourage a lot of reckless behavior.

“Women are still generally expected to have zero love experience, while men are allowed to experiment to their hearts’ content.”

In short, women here have all the reasons in the world to get married, while men have virtually none.

What is the solution to this dilemma?

First,  families should show more flexibility in the face of love, especially since love is becoming a rare and fragile thing. Expectations of a phenomenal wedding and a large mansion should be more realistic, knowing that happiness and authenticity can often be found in a more natural and humble life.

Both genders need to be held accountable for their actions and not treat people as disposable items. This can be achieved both socially and through media. We need to spread awareness about the benefits of commitment and strong relationships, representing more married couples and older people in our media. This way, people would understand that the “dating culture” is not sustainable in the long run, and that life is not “over” once you’re married.

“Families should show more flexibility in the face of love, especially since love is becoming a rare and fragile thing.”

So let us spread a culture of love together in which we can find solace and intimacy in this ever-changing world.

The views of the authors and writers who contribute to Sekka, and the views of the interviewees who are featured in Sekka, do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sekka, its parent company, its owners, employees and affiliates.

Dana Al Rashid is a Kuwaiti writer and artist. She has a weekly column in Al Jarida Newspaper, and she also writes and illustrates for several independent magazines.