How our culture sets us up for marital failure


By Kauthar Al Maskari

Marriage. A subject that lingers in our minds as we approach adulthood. Sometimes, as early as the age of 10, we paint what we deem the most important day of our life, our wedding day. Many of us dream of what our marital life would look like, referring to movies and novels. But then comes the age of maturity, when we begin to understand the world and the people around us—the age we realize that marital life is not like the movies. Many couples today do not last. Divorce rates are spiking globally, the GCC and wider Arab world included. All that brings us to an important question, “Why?” Of course, there are many reasons for this phenomenon. It’s a big cake, and so I give you a slice of my take. A crucial factor to what we see today is our Arab culture.

I am sure I am not the only one who hears about her cousin’s elegant, princess-like dress, or the only person who catches her relative’s gossip about last night’s wedding, the one that took place in the country’s biggest hall; how it looked magical, expensive. We hear more stories, and see more Instagram posts, about brides with weddings as extravagant as they come than brides with simple ones. In fact, even our wedding or event planners emphasize the luxurious and upscale edge their services provide, how the weddings they cover resemble royalty and class and very rarely do we see the same attention given to minimalistic weddings. But that’s not all, because we’d never miss the talk of the bride-to-be’s mahar, or dower; how her soon-to-be husband did not just give her thousands, but jewelry and gold worth hundreds more. Everyone is giving high mahar after all, right? And you did not think we wouldn’t check if the couple had a new house waiting for them? Otherwise, where would they live?

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Now let’s move to the bridal preparations: bridal make-up, bridal full-body pampering and bridal shopping, each costing double, sometimes triple, the standard price, despite the service not being much different from an average girl’s pampering services. But it’s all worth it, right? Or at least that was what I was told during my wedding preparations. After all is said and done, we finalize the wedding venue, décor, food and music, making sure that when the long-awaited night comes, the guests would be wowed, and the wedding would be the talk of the town. At last, the day comes to an end, the couples go for their honeymoon, come back, move into their new home and everything is perfect.

Right? Well, not really.

Do you recall the wedding planning? The expectations on the couple and their families, the high expenses and the unnecessary final touches? They have mounted up, becoming a burden. The couples returned to their homes with a huge debt in their pockets: mahar debt, wedding debt and possibly a house and car debt. This may not seem like a problem at the start, but as life goes on, the demands of the family increases while the household gets bigger. Soon, the debt becomes a massive weight on the couple’s shoulders, resulting in distress, both emotionally and mentally, which affects the marriage. All this gets worse when parents interfere in their relationship. In a tight-knit community like ours, parents often get too close to their children’s relationships, wanting to know their problems, secrets and personal lives. Of course, the intentions are good; all parents want is peace and serenity for their children, which they hope to contribute to by giving advice. But good intentions do not always translate to good outcomes. Years down the road, the interference, the financial burden and the stress can lead to fights, misunderstandings and eventually…divorce.

This is my slice of the cake. I see our marriage culture and norms to sometimes be toxic, wasteful, unrealistic and ultimately resulting in our failure. No, you do not need a lavish wedding, an expensive mahar, or a fully owned house (unless you want those). All you need is to be on the same page as your spouse and ask yourselves, can you afford what you are expected to do? Is one day worth years of debt? If our marital culture today is not your cup of tea, don’t participate in it. If you think parental boundaries are needed, and that’s against the norm, create your own norms. Because remember, our culture and norms are a social construct, we make them. It may be hard to choose a different path at the start, but it all pays off. If you start right, you have a better chance of ending right, just like a house that begins with solid bricks rather than weak ones. And as someone who got married this year, I realized that our wedding and marital culture was not for me. I took another route, one that fit my goals and needs. Yes, people made a big deal out of it, but what do you know? It’s paying off!

Kauthar Al Maskari, an intern at Sekka, is an Omani writer who studies Sociology at UBC Canada. She loves to spend her time reading and cooking. Her passion, which she hopes to translate into a career, is writing. Kauthar is also interested in martial arts and the curly hair lifestyle. She offers editorial services, has written a book and hopes to write more too.

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.