x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Why we shouldn't worry about what others think of us

Emirati observations on marriage and caring about what others think.

A few days ago, I was asked to shadow a photographer to learn night photography. That day, I started a late shift and arrived home around 8pm. My brother and father were sitting in the hall and both welcomed me upon my arrival.

I know my brother is not pleased with my job choice. He is not authoritative, but he fears that my coming home late from work might give people the idea that I am someone who has excess freedom and am not accountable for my actions. Although my family trusts me, they do not want anyone to think badly of me.

I do not blame my brother for that because the seed of saving face was planted in some of our hearts in childhood, which shows the importance of that concept among Arabs as well as other societies. But I fail to understand one thing about this concept: why do we pressure ourselves to please “others” when we are different individuals with different goals in life?

The majority of society was not present to celebrate my achievements, happiness and successes, so it is illogical to fear people who do not even know you. The “what people might think” phrase has slowed many of our achievements. Many families still use this as their life motto, particularly for their daughters. If trust is lost, nothing can replace it.

My mother always told me, while growing up: “As long as you’re not doing anything wrong and you have your family’s support and trust, there is nothing to fear about what people think and say.”

We fear people more than ourselves. I believe no matter how integral and sincere the path of life one tries to lead, someone will surely stand in the way and, unfortunately, it is how we think that holds us back.

I do not plan to sacrifice my success and happiness to please others because, as Steve Jobs said: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

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Recently, The National reported that in 2006 and 2007, 80 per cent of newlyweds had filed for divorce before completing their first anniversary. This is the most shocking news I have read since joining the newspaper.

In the modern world, when a man asks for a woman’s hand in marriage, it is like applying for a job. Previously, families would thoroughly vet the suitor, from his mannerism, religiosity, background, history and relationship with his parents in the same manner as checking references listed on a CV. Today, it seems priority is given to certain items on the CV and the rest is overlooked.

And too often, Emirati couples fantasise about their honeymoon, being with their Mr or Mrs Right for eternity, and they forget to plan ahead. Marriage is not a two to three-year bond, it is a long-lasting relationship.

As a Muslim nation, we are commanded by the Prophet to look for two traits in a spouse: religiosity and mannerism, because both go hand-in-hand. Other factors, such as education and profession, are secondary. When receiving a proposal, families should not be hasty in their response. Nor should they push their children to marry someone, because eventually it will be the couple’s future children who will bear the consequences, not them.

If we take the time to properly investigate the possible life partners for our children, it could go a long way in cutting down the divorce rate.

Asmaa Al Hameli and Ayesha Al Khoori co-write the My Year at the National blog, where these pieces were originally published

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