Have you ever read or heard about the story of a cheating husband from the perspective of the “other woman”? Or have you heard about a suffering, emotionally-abused woman who is desperately seeking any last solution before she resorts to divorce? Or perhaps you have read or heard of a woman who confesses to cheating, asking if there could be a chance that her husband would forgive her?
These are some of the stories women anonymously share with others through a secret Facebook group called “Confessions of a Married Woman”.
For the past few weeks, any chat between Egyptian women would hardly miss mentioning the latest, most popular, girls-only Facebook group. “Confessions of a Married Woman” doesn’t only give women the space to freely share their relationship experiences free from judgement, but also reveals shocking truths about the concept of relationships and marriage in Egypt.
When Zeinab El-Ashry, 28, entered into married life she and her husband were faced with a number of problems that brought the onset of frustration during the first few months of their marriage. It was not until she talked with a group of friends that she discovered some of these problems are common between many young Egyptian couples. After a while, she decided to launch an online platform that would allow women to share these types of problems in order not to feel alone.
“In our society, discussing anything about marriage, and not just sex, is considered taboo,” is how Zeinab began her talk.
“When I first got married I felt lost,” Zeinab said. “Things were so stressful, and I kept wondering whether my decision to get married was wrong from the beginning. But, after a few talks with my friends, I discovered that this is quite normal among all married couples. However, they don’t speak about it out loud.”
Zeinab wanted to help other girls who are going through similar experiences—and may be questioning their marriages due to some issues—to find answers. The most common questions focus on how marriage is similar to or different from what they had heard before getting married themselves.
The Facebook group allows women to send their questions and confessions anonymously and receive answers and feedbacks from comments by other users.
However, soon after the group was launched, “Confessions of a Married Woman” turned into an influential page that revealed the often-not-discussed truth about marriage in Egypt and the misconceptions it carries.
“Most of the confessions we receive are about cheating husbands and sexual ignorance,” Al-Ashry stated. “But surprisingly, we also received a fair share of women who confessed to be cheaters as well.”
The topics posted on the group, which has almost 50,000 female members, are mainly about sex, physical abuse, and money.
“I believe Egyptian couples have been suffering from these problems for ages; however, they never spoke about it before so clearly. Sexual education has always been a problem in our society, but we have never before heard a woman loudly stating that she is not satisfied and she desires more. This platform is the only one to give women the space to share their secret thoughts with others,” according to Zeinab.
Other than sexual frustration, many women on the group wrote about financial problems. Women constantly ask whether they should be paying for all household expenses, and, if so, how much they should budget for this.
Our generation doesn’t know how to deal with spouses when it comes to money.
Now that many women work alongside their husbands, and sometimes even have a higher income than their husbands, the balance in paying for expenses in a marriage remains unclear when compared to tradition. Relationships have become more complicated for men who have been raised with the understanding that they should be the breadwinner, she added.
That most of the group’s confessors come from a very well-to-do social level may offer a frightening look into the state of modern marriages. Knowing that citizens who come from a low-income social class are more likely to suffer from extra financial burdens, a window into the the sufferings of the upper social class paints a bleak picture of what reality exists below.
“Most of the comments women receive regarding abusive husbands are supporting the confessor to leave him. But those who comment mainly rely on the idea that she can financially support herself, so she doesn’t need her husband,” Zeinab explained, adding that she fears for those who do not have access to Facebook to express their concerns and frustrations.
From the other side, Zeinab states that most of the men surrounding her express their abhorrence towards the group. “I have never met a guy who told me anything outside of the unbearable hatred he holds for the group. They are never convinced that it’s their treatment that drives women away. Instead, they believe that the group encourages women to rebel over their husbands,” she concluded.