x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

the women’s majlis It comes down to matter of choice

How are Emirati women’s attitudes changing towards marriage in today’s UAE?

Each month, Weekend will pose a different question to be discussed by a series of female Emirati columnists. This week, we ask Dhabya Al Mehairi:

How are Emirati women’s attitudes changing towards marriage in today’s UAE?

A year ago, I sat down with my family and was interviewed about the dying trend of getting married at a young age. I was 21, and I vividly remember stating how I think that women should graduate and earn a university degree first and then get married. Not to mention the fact that I wanted to “live my life” before tying the knot.

But who knows where life will take you; soon after that talk, I met an exceptional man and, today, I proudly scroll down to “married” on websites to describe my status.

I was lucky to have a liberal father, who took the time to sit down and get to know the man that I wanted to marry. He then allowed me to make my own decision, something that was almost unheard of in my mother’s generation.

Even today, some women meet their husband for the first time on their wedding night and are then expected to spend the night – and a life – with a complete stranger. It’s a concept that I had no interest in following.

However, during the time of my engagement, I could not help but compare my life as a single woman with that of my married sisters. I was thinking of my career: will he allow me to have one? I was also curious to know about him: what kind of education did he pursue? I wanted to know his thoughts and beliefs but, most importantly, if he was independent as a person.

As a fresh graduate, with dreams of becoming a reporter, a teacher and a world traveller, I wasn’t sure that I was ready for someone to come and take all that away. I wanted a supportive husband, a best friend; someone intellectual and educated. Not only that, but a person who has a lifestyle similar to mine, who shares my beliefs; someone that I would “live my life” with, rather than surrender my life to. I wanted to know that the man I’ll be sharing my life with is financially capable of taking care of me rather than depending on his parents to do that for him. I also wanted a father and a husband for my children, rather than a man that would be a guest figure in his own home.

And all of these criteria could not have been assured without me getting to know him first, before I got married. It’s a luxury that many women before me did not have. It might have worked generations ago to commit blindly, but I didn’t want to be added to the list of 3,147 divorced women in Abu Dhabi that are being taken care of by the Ministry of Social Affairs.

I’m not the only one with such expectations; my friends feel the same way. Quite often, they tell me that they want more than an arranged marriage, preferring instead one that comes with mutual agreement.

As women in our society become more independent, the need to be married for the sake of marriage is becoming less important and being replaced with something far more meaningful: love and respect.

Dhabya Al Mehairi is an intern at The National

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