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At the point of no return

Cross it and there's no going back. It's a deal breaker. So thread very carefully or the life that you've carefully made together is going to end up in divorce.

Faten*, a UAE national, divorced her husband when their children were still young. She and her husband did not agree on how to educate their children. She wanted them to be exposed to different cultures, different languages and foreign education. Her husband wanted them to study here and be close to the family. They couldn't resolve their difference so Faten filed for a divorce.

Faten admits that if she was a little bit more mature then, she would not have hastened pushing for a divorce just to get control of children's future. Layla*, a Jordanian, was pressured into a marriage to an older man by her family. After seven months, she wanted to get out of the marriage. They did not have anything in common and he came close to hitting her several times. There are many reasons why people file for divorce. But for a lot, they know their relationships are worth saving and would never cross that point of no return.

“In most cases, there is no one issue that precipitates divorce. It is a build-up of smaller issues over time,” says Dr. Ayesha Husaini, a Marriage Counsellor and Educational Psychologist at the Synergy Medical Centre Dubai. She finds that most of her clients are willing to work on their relationship to solve their issues. Most of them have been able to solve their problems and forge on with their married lives together. However, for some, they find that there are definite deal-breakers such as adultery, abuse and addiction.

For many people, especially young idealistic couples, adultery might seem like a deal breaker. But Dr. Husaini finds that couples who have this problem, provided that if it was only a one-night stand then they tend to stick together and work things out. “This is not to say that I condone adultery, but if the relationship is strong enough, it will shake a bit but it will not break down and they can still work it out,” Dr. Husaini shares.

However, she also says that in the Middle East there is a double-edge standard. If a woman commits the adultery, the marriage, more often than not breaks apart. If you've been through this but you think your marriage and family life is worth saving, you have to consciously put the pain behind and move forward is the advice of Dr. Phil McGraw in one of his sessions at ‘Oprah'. Otherwise, he says, “You are not running your own life. You're giving your power away to the people who hurt you.”

“Domestic violence is a pattern of controlling and aggressive behaviours from one adult, usually a man, towards another, usually a woman, within the context of an intimate relationship,” states in a section dedicated solely to spreading information on domestic violence and helping victims. Furthermore, they explain that it can take the form of physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, financial or social isolation. It can happen in any kind of relationship and though it happens mostly to women, men can also be victims. In 2001-2002, in England and Wales there were 635,000 cases of domestic violence and 81 percent of the victims were female.

Domestic abuse is also prevalent in the Middle East. For instance, in Northern Iraq, domestic abuse and honour killings – a traditional practice of killing wives or female relatives perceived to dishonour the family reputation – is one of the main problems that women face. But the responsibility is not limited to the safety of your own person but it also extends to the effect on your children.

“Abuse is one of the major causes of a woman wanting to divorce her husband,” Dr. Ayesha explains. “The problem with abuse is people go through it for a very long time that they don't know that they are being abused. When it's done to you everyday and your children sees it as part of their every day lives, you and your children come to think that it's normal. If it happens to you, you should do something about it. Remember, you are your children's role model, it's your responsibility to set the example.”

Abuse for many people is a deal breaker. Studies show that perpetrators of domestic violence seldom change. So consider that a warning – if your partner has been in an abusive relationship before, don't think that he would change for you. They seldom do. Also, watch out for very rigid ideas on the roles of men and women, erratic mood swings, extreme criticism of you and your friends and a very volatile temper.

Having substance abuse in the middle of your relationship is like putting a person you do not know in the driver's seat – your lives are in the hands of a stranger and you don't know what they are capable of doing because it's the substance talking and acting.

“A couple can work to repair their relationship even with substance abuse, say alcoholism or a drug problem,” shares Dr. Husaini, “but it will depend on the extent of addiction and how willing they are to change and work on the relationship.”

Other major problems that can plague relationships are money problems or excessive debts, incompatibility issues, gambling and mental illness. Some couples set up their absolute deal-breakers at the start of the relationship but this list is very subjective. For example, some people can forgive alcoholism or drug abuse but not adultery. Others can forgive adultery but not drug abuse. It can help if you set your boundaries early on.

If you're still in that phase where you're trying to patch things up, things can really look gloomy if your daily life is marked with arguments that escalate into World War III. Everybody's shouting and hurling insults and words like weapons of mass destruction. All the blood is going to your head; you're red with anger and can barely see past the hurt and indignation that he caused. It's going to be hard but you have to try and control, or as the case may be prevent, such a situation.

Step back and view the situation from afar – it is difficult but you need a time-out. Yes, just like the ‘time-out' you give your kids when they're being difficult. You need to distance yourself from the situation, like you're a spectator or an objective third party. If you can't do this then it might be time to seek professional help.

Deal with issues as they come – small things have a way of accumulating and growing into a bigger, uglier and more ferocious monster. So instead of letting it grow behind a closet full of hurts, deal with each issue as it comes. Do not keep silent while all these little evils creep away in the dark, growing in force as time passes. And when you deal with issues, deal only with the issue at hand; do not drag other issues into the conversation.

Communicate and express your feelings – this is your best tool in dealing with small issues. If something upsets you or if you have a misunderstanding, talk it out. Tell him what you feel and do not accuse him. For example, if your husband is late for your meeting, don't say “Your late again, you're always late! Why can't you be on time for once?” Instead, tell him “I feel that you do not value my time when you are late.” Also, Dr. Husaini suggests, do not use the words like “Always” and “Never” because they are very hard to prove and are always used like weapons to be wielded in your favour.

Crossing the point
There are times when all you have to do is accept the fact that nothing else can be done to save your relationship. Dr. Ayesha also counsels couples who have passed that point of no return. “They have tried everything, from talking, trying new things, counselling but it's simply not working. They also come for help – mostly they need guidance on how to break the news to their kids, and how they can go through the process amicably and with dignity. Usually with these couples, you can really see that their marriage is not working anymore. They've given up. They've tried everything so the only thing to do is to accept that they are not meant to be together.”

How to recover after a divorce
According to there are eight common illusions that people have after divorce. No matter if the divorce surprised you or you saw it coming, you have to deal with these issues and allow yourself time to reflect and heal.

1. It's my fault – some people view divorce as their own personal failure, it's not. There's no need to be hard on yourself by saying that whatever happened is your fault because you chose wrong, you hastened with your decision or for whatever reason. Divorce happens to a lot of people.

2. Divorce is just a piece of paper – in summary it is but you have to prepare for the major changes that will happen in your life. It is a transition period that will affect your everyday life and even your financial status. You have to brace yourself for the pain and difficulties it will cause you. The sooner you deal with it, the quicker you will face the path to recovery.

3. My feelings are too extreme, I must be crazy – who wouldn't feel anger, hurt or even indignant when the marriage comes to an end? Accept these emotions they are part of the ride and do not put them into boxes labelled good or bad. However, do not hang on these feeling for too long either.

4. My divorce is going to be amicable – being cool and civilised during court proceedings might be the ‘acceptable' way but it is unrealistic to even think that you will not feel sadness, anger and other extreme emotions. Expect that these emotions might rear its head and you will be better able to cope with them.

5. No one will love me anymore – one divorce does not mean that you are cursed for life. It might even open up to a happier, more meaningful relationship because now you know what doesn't work.

6. Everything will be fine once I leave him and I go with my new boyfriend – just a reminder, relationships in the wings or even relationships on the rebound usually do not last. You have to look deep into your past relationship and see where and how it did not work to keep it from happening again.

7. I can't trust men anymore –you might feel this at first, but according to statistics, a lot of women marry again after divorce.

8. I cannot be alone, I need be with somebody to be happy – after divorce is the perfect time to get in touch with yourself, know what makes you happy and satisfied as an individual. You cannot rely on another person to meet your emotional needs or that might start a messy relationship.


Marriage and Divorce
✱ In the UAE, an essay on divorce illustrating cause and effect by the Abu Dhabi Men's College identifies three main reasons for divorce: the first being rapid change in society where families now mostly live apart. Children live away from their parents and women work outside the house. Second, many young couples rush into marriage because of the pressure from their families. Third, couples usually have unrealistic expectations of a married life. They do not consider the difficulties of sharing their lives together.

✱ In Egypt, a law has been passed that allows women to file for divorce easily. At first, authorities feared an avalanche of cases but after the first week, it was evident that not many women were willing to go through divorce. Regardless, this new law is a breakthrough in women's equality in the region. For the first time, Egyptian women can initiate divorce.

They have to forego the money they got at the time of the marriage, but they can initiate the proceedings and get it done faster than the previous system wherein they must prove that they were abused or that the fault lies with their husband, a process that could take years. During the early implementation of the law, about 1,300 women filed for divorce. Many of them could have filed for divorce under the previous regulations but because of the length of time it could take before they are granted their freedom, they did not. Aside from that, some women are still stopped by the social stigma attached to the label ‘divorced'.

✱ According to Amnesty International, in KSA, divorce is still a man's prerogative. Women, unlike men, must prove to an all-male judiciary that they were harmed by their husbands or that their husbands are at fault. They also risk losing custody of their children and just like in Egypt, there is still stigma attached to being a divorcee. A university study report also says that in the kingdom, one of the biggest causes of divorce is bigamy. Though accepted in Islam, women are not happy when the husband marries a second, third or fourth time around. Another common reason is family interference and abuse among family members.

✱ A UAE daily reported that the divorce rate there is 46 percent, the highest so far, compared to its neighbours, Qatar's with 28 percent, Kuwait's 35 percent and Bahrain's 34 percent.

✱ says that in Kuwait, “both Sunni and Shia law allows the husband to divorce his wife three times. The husband may take back his wife within 90 days of divorce, nullifying the divorce. If the wife disagrees to it, she has to go to court and receive a formal divorce. It is easier to get divorce, either initiated by husband or wife, under Sunni law compared to Shia law. A divorce initiated by the wife is final.

A Sunni woman can take many grounds for divorce, mental or physical impairment of the husband, abuse, lack of performance of marital obligations, non-payment of financial maintenance, desertion etc and although a Shia woman can raise the same grounds, the court procedures take longer time in order to promote the chances of non-dissolution of the marital relationship.”

Source: Arabian Woman
Posted: 26/06/2008

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