x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Young couples need more support

It takes more than a lavish wedding and good intentions to make marriage work – but too many young Emiratis are finding that out the hard way.

An extravagant wedding at a five-star hotel. A dream Dh20,000 wedding dress. Nine hundred guests enjoying a night to remember. Sadly for Salma, the 18-year-old Emirati bride, the fairy tale lasted just one month before trouble hit her marriage. Last year, at the age of 26 and after a two-year battle in the courts, she was granted a divorce.

Stories like Salma's are common amongst newly-married couples every where, but they are also increasingly common in the UAE. As The National reported yesterday, marriage court records show that 44 per cent of divorced couples nationwide separated within a year of marriage. The bulk of these are between 25 and 35 years old.

"Youth in the UAE need more explanation about the aims and responsibilities of marriage," said Dr Fakir al Gharaibeh, an assistant professor of sociology at Sharjah University, who is investigating this trend.

Dr al Gharaibeh's study remains a work in progress, and the full complement of his findings won't be available until September. But in a society as reliant on marriage to stabilise its population and protect its culture, divorce rates as high as these are a call for immediate action.

There are many pressures for young couples to navigate, though it seems reasonable to assume money sits near the top. Government leaders have long urged against pricey dowries and extravagant weddings, but societal pressures continue to leave young Emirati men with massive debts from the outset.

Another contributing factor is that women are increasingly well educated, a welcome trend that nonetheless brings with it expectations that may not be realised in wedlock.

In certain situations divorce may be justified. In the majority of cases, though, divorces should be seen as a last resort. One solution to encourage couples to work through their problems would be pre- and post-marriage counselling, services that are rare in the country at the moment.

More supportive family structures, encouraging young men and women to move at their own speed.

Most important, though, is recognition that as the UAE matures it is more vital than ever for families to remain intact.