x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Root causes of divorce lie in poor communication, survey finds

Misunderstandings between husbands and wives are the most common problem.

DUBAI // Poor communication between husbands and wives is the most common cause of divorce among Emiratis, according a new survey commissioned by the UAE Marriage Fund. The survey of 1,335 divorced Emirati men and women, carried out by a team of experts from UAE University, found that misunderstandings between spouses was most often cited as the cause of divorce, followed by interference in the relationship by family members. The Ministry of Social Affairs is conducting a nationwide survey to determine the overall divorce rate in the Emirates. Most of the women surveyed by the Marriage Fund cited a convergence of problems that led to the breakdown in their marriages. Half said mistreatment contributed to their divorce, while 82 per cent blamed moral issues on the part of their partner. Nearly four in five blamed drug or alcohol abuse, while more than four in 10 women linked their divorce to not having had children.

The financial burdens placed on young couples can also lead to early divorce. Thirty per cent of the men surveyed identified their wives' monetary demands as the main or a major factor in the demise of the relationship. The Marriage Fund's report also found an "important correlation" between education and divorce, with 70 per cent of female respondents not having finished secondary school. A divorced man, Mohammed, was just 19 years old when he met the woman he was convinced he would spend the rest of his life with. Despite his parents' concerns and reservations that he was too young, they were soon married and had two children. "But after some time, I realised it wasn't right, she wasn't the one I needed," said Mohammed, now 30, who gave only his first name. "We got divorced because we were having too many fights." He married again at the age of 23 and had two more children before deciding again to end the relationship after only three years. He now believes families should play a more active role in discouraging young people from rushing into marriage. "I would advise young people not to make quick decisions and to think through what you are doing and not to get married too quickly," said Mohammed, who was recently married for the third time. "Inshallah, this will be my last marriage." The Marriage Fund hopes to use the survey results as the basis for future programmes to help couple. A series of recommendations were issued along with the study, including the need for precise divorce statistics. The report also recommended that young people take part in workshops focusing on the reality of married life and what they should expect from their spouses. It recommended families give young people the freedom to choose their partners, while still providing guidance and advice on how to select a spouse. Longer-term support, such as crisis counselling, was also proposed. Widad Samawi, a social worker based in Abu Dhabi who has counselled many women considering divorce, said one of the main problems facing young couples is a lack of understanding about what marriage actually entails. "Mostly, it is a lack of awareness of the responsibilities and rights of each party, both the wife and the husband," she said. Many young couples focus on the organisation and trappings associated with their weddings, while neglecting the thought of what would happen when they settled into married life. "They don't go deeper and think, 'Am I qualified for this life?'," Mrs Samawi said. "Then, after marriage, they discover an incompatibility and sometimes feel like they don't know one another." Dr Mohammed al Mutawa, a sociologist and board member of the Sociological Association, agreed that mistreatment is among the factors that has lead to the breakdown of some marriages. "Some young men don't know what their role should be in the family," he said. "You'll find some young people asking why they got married in the first place." zconstantine@thenational.ae