Emirati women who marry much older men are far more likely to end up divorced, a study has found.
Of 1,742 divorced Emirati women surveyed by researchers from the University of Sharjah, 36 per cent were divorced under the age of 30. The figure for men was lower, at 28 per cent.
Dr Fakir Al Gharaibeh, a professor of social work and social policy who led the study, said a gap of up to 15 years was typical for divorced couples.
But that gap was not widely acknowledged by divorcees as the main reason for the failure of their marriage, with only two in five citing it as a primary cause.
Two in three said the main reason for their divorce was a lack of mutual understanding.
Sixty-nine per cent said they had fallen out of love and failed to communicate properly. And 67 per cent blamed one of the spouse's short temper.
Nearly as many (61 per cent) blamed the cultural bar on partners getting to know each other before marriage, leading to unpleasant surprises.
Dr Maitha Al Shamsi, the Minister of State and chairwoman of the Marriage Fund, which funded the study, said young people should be more careful in their choice of spouse and go into marriage with realistic expectations.
"Each person draws a picture of the person they want to marry," Dr Al Shamsi said. "Men need to be realistic. No one is complete except God. They need to accept there are flaws."
Ibrahim Obaid, the under secretary of the Emirates Sociological Association, said people thinking about marriage should pay more heed to the pitfalls of an age gap.
"They need to consider if they can live with it," Mr Obaid said. "This is for life, not a day or two."
He said while there was no "right" age gap, it helped if couples were of a similar age.
Other reasons cited by divorcees were family interference (60 per cent), domestic violence (59 per cent), men failing to take responsibility for their children (59 per cent), and men relying too heavily on their wives (57 per cent).
More than half of the divorcees blamed silence between them and their ex-husbands. And nearly as many said their husbands' other wives had got in the way.
Asked about secondary factors in their divorce, 48 per cent said jealousy had been a problem, as had a lack of intimacy (46 per cent) and alcohol and drug use, also 46 per cent.
Two in five said the couples had blamed each other for their children's problems, while more than a third of marriages had ended after the women had failed to conceive.
"The main reason for divorce in other societies is secondary to us," Dr Al Shamsi said. "We are happy that the problems they face here are simple. Our main problems can be resolved."