Saudi Arabia: The Brief Marriage…But at a Cost…

The traditional marriages in Saudi Arabia continued to be arranged.  The bride and groom likely have little contact with one another prior to the marriage – when from a traditional and conservative family.  The marriage may be the joining of first cousins, second cousins or from within the same tribe.

There’s a saying that you never truly know someone until you live with them and this is quite true.  In spite of Abdullah and I having a western style courtship where we did get to know one another prior to marriage, we still discovered lots more after we were married.  Thankfully though we knew each other well enough that we both could easily compromise on things we did not know of in advance.

However, one Saudi woman felt that her new husband had a difficult character, was not as committed to the Muslim faith as she wished and felt overall they just had too many differences.  As a result, she requested a divorce from her new husband after five days of marriage.  To help sweeten the pot and obtain his concurrence for the divorce, she and her family offered to give him SR 55,000  (US$ 14666.71) of the SR 70,000 (US$ 18666.72) dowry that the husband had offered in marriage.

Saudi Arabia has one of the highest divorce rates in the GCC region and there are reports that divorce statistics have reached 40 per cent.

Naturally many sheiks and other religious leaders are against divorce and believe that a couple needs more time to adapt to a new marriage.  I can see their point but on the other hand I think many individuals can instinctively know when marrying someone who is in essence a virtual stranger can determine relatively quickly whether or not they will be compatible.  What do you think?


22 Responses

  1. I think there are merits and problems with arranged marriages, and indeed with love matches in the Western world. How many people get divorced after marrying their childhood sweetheart in the US? Or how many love matches result in domestic violence in the UK? On the other hand, allowing your parents to decide for you who the best match would be for your future might not be such a bad thing – they know you inside out, know all your foibles and your quirks, and they know the level of religious commitment you may or may not have. Who better to see the reality of a future with someone who is matched to you than those very people who love you and know you inside out?

    Having said that, there may be other motives at play when it comes to arranged marriages – power, control, family harmony etc – but if you know that the arrangement is “for life” then there is an incentive in you investing in the marriage emotionally and who knows, love is born in more unusual circumstances so why not like this?

    As I said, there are pros and cons with both styles of marriage and a lot depends on the individuals concerned.

  2. It sounds like there is something more to this than the wife simply not liking her husband, particularly for everything to happen so fast.

    I think for most marriages, it doesn’t make a huge difference if they’re arranged or not. There are plenty of people who get married to someone who is good (but not necessarily great) for them that will meet their needs in a husband or wife whether it is a “love” marriage or an “arranged” marriage. However, I also believe that when people meet their soulmate (or whatever you prefer to call it), it’s a completely different experience. Not everyone will find a soulmate, but if you happen to be one of the ones that do, then it can be a very rewarding experience like it was for Carol and her Saudi.

    It only took me 3 days to know that my husband was good for me. It took about 2 weeks for me to admit to myself that I loved him very deeply- deeply enough to hold off on traveling around the world for him. Sometimes, I miss the idea I could be traveling to all sorts of interesting places right now, but I still believe I made the right decision. We are still learning new things about each other, but our first impressions of each other weren’t far off. So yes, I think it’s possible to know in a few days if it’ll work or not.

  3. I can’t imagine marrying a stranger.

  4. Divorce is indeed a very alarming social problem in saudi arabia which paving the way for more serious issues. In arrange marriage there is some sort of pressure from elders and the couple lived and its difficult for them to take this drastic step of separation. Saudi society need intensive marriage counselling for both gender and they should be allowed to interact with each other for better understanding.

  5. Divorce is a social problem. It is on increase because of too much freedom of speech ,character, religion culture, traditions, films, erotic language and many other social set ups.
    Secondly the greed is on increase. No respect for elders, no respect for families. Above all no patience.
    According to muslim faith courtship before marriage is not acceptable and it is haraam. Select the partner carefully with referencing.

  6. so let me see if i get this mr sami, Freedom of speech causes divorce? all i can do is “lol” at this so I hope you ar ejoking or being sarcastic…

  7. Divorce is ont he rise not because of any problem, but because people are figuring out it’s better to be happy than miserable an dunless a marriage makes both partners happy then it’s simp[ly not worth it.
    I think if women become more economic independant than those in miserable marriages don’t have to stay in them. I think this is very good for men and women. why on earth would a man want a women to stay with him miserable just because he puts food on a table.
    I’m not a proponent of dicorce but at the same time i”m for happiness.

    As for arranged marriage it does have it’s pros and cons and is mainly useful where in earlier times women didn’t go out and study or work therby putting themin limited contact with men who they could meet and pick. likewise the men too had limited oppurtunities to meet women.

    Nowadays in most places and even traditional countries women are out in droves in the workplace and studying and hence are quite capable of selecting their partners.
    if parents arrange the introduction then i see no harm as long the couple take the time to assess if they are compatible.

    I don’t think any parent completely knows what their child wants or their mind, yes overall general preferences they will, but i don’t think they are mind readers, or atleats i’m not, i don’t have the faintest clue what my son/ daughter want in a spouse, i know their likes and dislikes and needs and cares but that does not translate to what they want in a partner. sure i can pick some people with general tastes like them but that is all.

    I hope men and women meet and select after considerationa nd hopefully love plays a big part in it. i can’t imagine my marriage with out the love, care and passion in it.

  8. I think these arranged marriages are far worse that love marriages.
    Divorce has nothing to do with it. In Islam the man has the choice of procuring some fresh booty anyway. It’s far worse for the women. Maybe if women are allowed a few extra men, the divorce numbers will go down…

    What’s so bad about divorce anyway?
    Who says divorce is bad?
    I think divorce is good. I think it’s an intelligent and good thing for people to divorce when they cannot be happy together.

    The only thing which could be called ”bad” is when people are stupid, or careless before they get married. And an arranged marriage where the couple never had the chance to get along, do stuff together, and find out if they are compatible at all is the stupidest, worst way of getting married.

  9. Abdullah and Sami are already explaining it in their own comments: People who are forced together by an arranged marriage only stay together because they have no choice. The marriage is forced from before it even began. Once married the couple are forced to stay together, unhappy to the end, by force, pressure and oppression. Do you really think that is a good thing?
    How is this better than having a normal healthy courtship before marriage, and separating when it turns out you do not suit?
    How is eternal unhappiness, force and oppression better?
    Too weird!

    And, Sami And Abdullah, you’ve seen nothing yet, now Saudi women are starting to work and become more independent, they will not want to suffer and wilt away in a loveless unhappy marriage, more divorces will result.
    Your artificial culture’s problem is not ”divorce” but the lack of respect for individuals, lack of respect for women, for selfdetermination.

    And if Saudi women were ever get the right to keep their own children and get alimony from the husband I am sure very few of these arranged marriages would survive. Far, far fewer than the love marriages in other places on the planet.

    Maybe you should think this over a bit. You might come to the conclusion that your society is screwed, unhealthy, unnatural, artificial, and bad. You live in an artificially engineered society, your original Arabian culture is lost, but it would not help you either in a world which is changing. You need to change with it or go under.

  10. I have known many couples who were arranged and are very happy. However, I think their is a real “skill” in matchmaking. Nowadays men ask for “blond” wives. Well that isn’t really a foundational charactar trait. I think is often very easy to tell if something is really wrong at the beginning. However it may take longer to get to know someone and know if it is write.

    I also agree that divorce is not always bad. Because Saudi society has spoiled men- there is a higher than average level of abuse. So if women are able to get out-and not be trapped, this is a good thing. Divorce may be disliked but abuse is HARAM so divorce is the better choice.

    I also agree that PRE marriage counseling might be a very good idea- but not if it’s all about how the woman has to serve her husband.

    I totally disagree that in Islam it is haram to date. It is not allowed to be secluded with, or physical with a member of the opposite sex- but there is no reason there cannot be normal interaction and people learn how to get along with the other half of the human race and choose an appropriate spouse. This crazy, mediaval, tribal gender apartheid is a travesty. It is keeping the culture backward and it is giving Islam a bad name.

  11. I don’t get all the fuss about arranged marriage. Most parents want the best for their children and most arranged marriages I know aren’t the forced kind, but simply giving alternatives. And just because we live in a more open society doesn’t make arranged marriage unnecessary, maybe for some but not for all. My sister for example, is an independent career women working in a financial company, studied in Dublin, traveled more than I have but she is begging me to find her a suitor since she has no time to look for one herself. Plus, she says the good ones are all gone and only the the leftovers exist at her workplace and social group. Sometimes, arranged marriage is a big help and people around you might know you better than you know yourself. We need to stick our high nose down a bit and see that arranged marriage is just another alternative to dating. Actually, dating the western-style (I prefer another word than western since its not only in the west but I couldn’t find an alternative word) proves to bring much grief, waste of time, energy and money not to forget a huge emotional baggage and perhaps STDs..until you find the “right” one..then divorce!!!Divorce happens and could happen to anyone, whether love marriage, arranged marriage etc.

  12. Another thing, divorce should be the laaaast resort after EVERY measure has been done. Marriage is not only love and happiness but it requires work, real work on both sides. It requires loyalty and forgiveness and to overlook the small flaws and focus on the bigger picture-a family! My husband put up a lot with my flaws as I do with him. If we were selfish, we would have divorced already but to be able to remember that our marriage needs our sincere efforts to build and soar together, that is the real deal! Marriage, for us, is not only love and passion but also selflessness, learning, understanding and forgiving. We are neither superman or superwoman but when we work together, we are strong!

  13. Well said, Sandy!

  14. Quote from Katherine Hepburn:

    Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other. Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then.

    There are many ways to live your life, and I don’t think any one way will suit all.

  15. Arranged marriages should be used as an introduction tool, meeting place, where pre requisites are weeded out . Atleast this is my opinion.
    The minute one blindly gets into the arranged marriage then it’s a 50-50 hit or miss thng and i wouldn’t want my children – especially my kids to risk their future happiness on something i think is best or a 50-50 lottery.

    My cousin sis is in an arranged marriage. we are very close and she let her parents pick, focourse she saw him for an hr or so and said YES, so yes ultimately it was not forced on her or him and 2 more mismatched people i have never seen. yes she is still inthe marriage after 15 yrs, yes they are a strong team but there is absolutely no love, no passion no unfettered joy intheir lives, they are used to each other and society dictates – atleast for her that it is her duty to sacrifice for her kids to have a stable family. her happiness is the last thing on everyone’s mind.
    no he’s not abusive, he’s very nice, kind and even picks up some house work – rare for a indian male from a patriarchial family, tries to adjust to her but all this she could have got in a roommate.
    society, parents everyone consider them happily married — i see the sadness in both their faces, the thirst for more and the knowledge that they can be nothing more than v good friends and it breaks my heart.

    no i don’t blame arranged marriage but i do blame them both for not taking the time to talk more, to go out more to listen to each other more before deciding on marriage. they didn’t need to live together or sleep together to realise this is was a bad idea…

  16. @radha,
    I understand your point and agree. I’ve seen the same type of marriage even in relationships where the couple dated first.

    I think one of the key components to a successful relationship is that both people not only love each other but are also able to be themselves and seek their own happiness as an individual.The media portrays this image of sacrificing everything for love and that’s not the way love works.

    Love starts with accepting and loving yourself and who you are, then finding someone who loves all the things that make you unique. A lot of people don’t know who they are, so how can they know who will love them as they are? My advice in this is don’t ever compromise who you are for anyone else and find out who you are and what you want (or at least have a general idea) before making a life-long commitment.

    When I was younger, I used to think 25 was an “old” age to be married. Now, I think of 25 as being an age where people are just getting a grasp on who they are and what they want.

  17. And when you are 35 you will look back and realize how little you knew at 25….

  18. And when you are 45 looking back….. not that I’d know anything about that…ahem….

  19. @ Aafke & Sandy,
    I can agree with that! 🙂

  20. Didn’t know the divorce rate in SA was that high at this time. There is a huge difference between ask friends to provide leads to unmarried men/women vs. parents choosing a partner and striking the marriage if neither bride nor groom have even spent any time together ..for a few years. A few years without chaperones nor interference from anyone. Anyone.

  21. Theoretically it is possible that a very insightful person with great knowledge of humanity can put a couple together who will be very well matched in many aspects of life, but one aspect nobody can know, personal attraction, or ”chemistry” or whatever you call it. Many people have had internet relationships and consider themselves in love and when they get to meet for real it flies away in a puff because somehow the chemistry isn’t working.

    And are all parents super insightful psychologists with knowledge of humanity? Not what I have seen of it. On the contrary, I have seen parents choosing a mate for their offspring for even more flippant reasons as silly youngsters who make a bad choice.

    If you are looking for a mate you should be in love and keep your brain involved. Or, as an 18th century Novel stated it: ”when my mind approved on the choice of my heart I decided to go for it” (translated into modern English)

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