Getting married in Egypt is an arduous process. Many negotiations are settled, and arrangements solidified to ensure the couple’s compatibility. Finally, it all culminates in a beautiful day that ends with a night waited for since the first accidental glimpse of an R-rated movie.
Still, marriages are just not working. They are getting increasingly fragile as young couples divorce, sometimes after only a few weeks.
The reasons for divorce are varied, ranging from issues associated with age, relationship experience, and knowledge of spouse.
Mai was married for just four months before deciding she needed a divorce. Such brief marriages are the substance of conversations accusing young generations of immaturity and a weak will.
The reason for the divorce was that Mai discovered that her husband was having sexual relationships with men.
In all fairness, she knew her husband was bisexual but was convinced that he would be faithful after marriage.
“I wanted to help and have a good life with him. He loved me so much.
After marriage, her spouse stopped working and stole her money.
Mai says she met many gay men who married oblivious wives just to have children. “One wife was religious and veiled and her husband died of AIDS.
Reham had a different sexual problem in her marriage – the absence of it. After three months of trying, they never consummated their marriage. She believes he had underlying psychological issues related to low confidence, and unusual relationships with his parents, who refused to let him seek psychiatric help.
While the above issues would seem peculiar, psychologist Fatma Wahba says they are actually very common. She believes the sexual relationship determines how a couple tackle all other issues.
What has changed in generations is the increasing contradiction between freedom and restrictions, independence and the constant reminder of sex’s immorality. Wahba says the contradiction causes a great number of women to unconsciously contract during sex out of guilt, making intercourse impossible or painful.
Wahba says that increasing access to sexually explicit material means that both men and women are getting more reliant on masturbation, eventually leading to dependence on it.
Another important factor these days, says Wahba, is women’s changing role in society.
She says that an older generation of mothers overcompensated for their own unequal opportunities by encouraging girls even more than boys toward education and success. “Girls go into the marriage now feeling they are better than the man, she says, “so she does not accept his authority, leading to great marital tension.
At the same time, while women are earning more money, they are generally saving it, as accorded in Islam, rather than contributing to household expenses. “She gets more money while he doesn’t have, making him feel weak, and her more powerful.
That is exactly what happened with Yosra, who says she “went crazy about work, successfully juggling three jobs while pursuing a Master’s. “I felt I could have everything.
While she moved ahead, her husband struggled at work. Now reconciling, Yosra’s ex admitted to her that he had been jealous and threatened by her success.
Underlying feelings of inadequacy manifested themselves in stricter restrictions, thereby labeling everything haram, or forbidden. The jealousy was exacerbated when her ex saw her with her pre-veil clothes and hair, and as they got increasingly intimate after signing the marriage contract.
Yosra says another factor was that her ex had had relationships with married, veiled, women, making him distrustful.
This time, Yosra is trying something different. “I make him feel he’s the decision-maker while he’s totally not.
Mounir’s financial discrepancies were voluntary but still ended up becoming the divisive issue. His goal, he says, as an “artistic, creative person, was not to pursue conventional success but to be true to his own values, which he says his wife had agreed to. Eventually though, peer and family pressures caused her to reject his lifestyle.
Ayman’s marital problems similarly erupted when upon a temporary move to the US, he could not find stable work, challenging his wife’s financial expectations and drawing her closer to her family.
The main problem then became disagreements over where to live, his ex wanting to live near family.
Conflicts with in-laws became an increasing source of friction for Ayman and many others interviewed. “Don’t depend on families not being involved, he says.
But are all these problems completely unpredictable before the final “I do s? Not exactly.
Reham did not know her ex well enough before marriage, she admits. After two failed engagements and at 32, she was looking for compatibility, not fireworks. Like many Egyptian girls, she was not allowed to be alone with her fiancé, which she thinks would have made a significant difference. Despite “hints, she says she rationalized.
“I know I was wrong. I thought the intimate relationship would change things.
“The little thing you see is always just the tip of the iceberg, she adds.
Ayman says because he’d had a long-distance relationship first, they “neglected problems to enjoy the brief time together.
Mounir knew his ex well – but he also ignored definite signs. “Because you care for the person you fool yourself.
Despite its increasing prevalence, divorcees are still approached with apprehension. What “baggage will be unfairly transferred over into the new relationship?
The divorcees I spoke with knew at least what they would be more careful about.
Reham says she will certainly have any potential mate undergo a thorough physical examination first.
Mai and Ayman are both very separately afraid of getting married again. “I am not ready for another relationship that may fail, said Ayman.
Noura says she is getting pickier and less emotional with every year, which she admits sometimes “stops relationships in their tracks.
“I still want to get married again. It is a good thing when it’s good but not when . it causes you stress instead of comfort. For me, I would rather remain single.
“I thought I could change a man who did not fit the criteria because I loved him or he loved me. Now I know that he either has what it takes or he doesn’t.