Challenges before tying the knot

Amira Elhamy , Tuesday 2 Feb 2021

What are some of the main challenges men and women face before getting married in Egypt, asks Amira Elhamy

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Are you having difficulties getting into a serious relationship? Have you tried several times but still wonder why it does not necessarily lead to the two of you tying the knot? You are not alone.

Getting into a serious relationship that leads to marriage is not an easy step, and it needs smart planning and clear communication on both sides. According to one insider, during the initial year of getting to know each other many Egyptian couples face challenges, with learning how to deal with them being the key.

Both man and woman will likely have to learn how to make time for each other, communicate clearly and be patient with one another. Financial stability and maturity are also issues that will need to be solved.

Ahmed Nabil, 40, and a Cairo resident, said that the criteria we set when choosing our life partner vary with age. “I would say that what I was looking for in a partner in my 20s was definitely different from what I am looking for in my 40s. We learn, we experience maturity and our needs differ with age. This is definitely an element that affects our choices, and I believe that in order to make the right choice, a woman should be at least 30 years old and a man should be over 35,” he said.

Compatibility and financial status are other critical elements. “It might be difficult to find a partner with whom there is a good level of compatibly. Conservative people in particular face this dilemma, as it might be harder for them to find a conservative partner nowadays,” Nabil added.

“Financial status is also one of the biggest challenges today. Buying an apartment or even renting is expensive, and then you have to add the daily expenses of supporting a household. If you plan to have kids, this is a whole different story as well. You need to plan each and every step before taking the decision to get married. It would be a plus if the woman is working as well, so she can help with the expenses.”

A 39-year-old woman living in Cairo, who preferred to be anonymous, said that in many cases the main focus of the marriage process, especially when parents interfere, is the financial part. “Both the man and the woman might get swayed by financial aspects rather than on really getting to know each other, which is much more important,” she said. “This could be why divorce rates are high because people don’t give themselves a fair chance to get to know each other before marriage.”

“Talking from a female perspective, there is another challenge that faces a woman. When she is smart, ambitious and career-oriented, her chances of finding an understanding and supportive partner are less. From personal experience, I can tell you that something like 70 per cent of the men I have met have not been interested in supporting me to get my doctorate,” she said.

“A third challenge, especially in arranged marriages, is that both the man and the woman might be too reserved at the beginning of the relationship as they are not at ease with each other. Women sometimes are reserved or shy, and this can also be an obstacle to clear communication,” she added. “Then there is parental interference, especially during the preparation phase. This is a critical stage, and if the parents don’t try hard to prevent the financial aspect from taking over, there is a risk that the marriage will never happen.”

Ahmed, 32, a Cairo resident, said that “I have never been into a relationship, simply because I believe that in order to be able to get married I need to be ready financially, emotionally and psychologically. It is such a responsibility that I need to be up to it. Each one of us has his or her own fears, but what I am sure of is that I will avoid getting into a relationship if I am not financially ready.”

He added that “I came to Cairo to find a financially rewarding job, and my parents still live in Alexandria. I have been supporting my parents financially, and this has not been an easy task. I am really cautious about getting involved in a relationship when I know that it is difficult to support two households.”

“When I am able to overcome the financial challenge, I will take the step. I hope I can find an understanding, smart, generous and confident partner,” he said.



EXPECTATIONS: Maha Ali, 39, said that expectations are the key – “high expectations in other words.”

 The woman is always excepting the man to support her in life, emotionally and financially. She wants to find a man she can lean on, Ali said. “However, when it comes to reality, we find that the man and his parents prefer the woman to be career-oriented. In other words, to be able to meet her personal expenses, as well as helping with the household expenses,” she added.

“Parental interference is a significant challenge, especially in Egypt and the Arab world. For instance, when the parents help the man financially to get an apartment, they put pressure on the woman and her parents to get the furniture and household necessities. And they sometimes refuse to sign an official document that will guarantee the woman’s rights in case of divorce. I believe this is not fair. Some parents can be rigid and inflexible, and in some cases the whole marriage can fail due to parental interference.”

Dina Al-Messiri, a Cairo life coach, explained that the financial aspect of any marriage needs to be carefully handled. If the parents can financially support their son or daughter, it is a plus, she said.

“As for men who want to be fully independent and sustain their marriage from A to Z, let me tell you that this is something that we must appreciate and respect. However, the man must pay attention and not let time fly. He might find himself too late if he is always preparing for the marriage and then finds it is too late to start a family.”

“Nowadays, the age range for marriage differs. The late 20s to mid-30s are usually a good age. However, I do not advise postponing marriage until the end of the 30s, as some women might face difficulties related to having children,” Al-Messiri said.

“For sure most women wish for a husband that can fully support them. However, nowadays, with the pressure that the financial aspect has, it is OK for the woman to invest more as well. It is a plus if she can work and help her husband. I encourage both the man and the woman to talk it over and decide how much each can help, but this process has to be fair to both the man and the woman,” she added.

“On parental interference, let me tell you that parents have much experience to share with their sons or daughters. Their long-term vision helps, and they are able to see different perspectives. Their opinion matters when it comes to choosing a partner.”

But if difficulties cannot be overcome, this shows the ethics and manners of the families concerned. “Financial matters usually say much about the personality and the priorities of each person. When parents put the material aspect first, this is not a good signal. And how the parents behave is an indicator of how their sons or daughters will behave in the future,” she said.

“This is why the advice I would give to any man or woman before getting married is to get to know the parents of the potential partner really well. My second piece of advice is to get to know the potential partner really well – and getting to know someone means seeing each other a lot and communicating face to face. Chatting or using social media is not sufficient, and it is actually a means of communications that can lack real communication, creating a lot of miscommunication and misunderstanding.”

“Any couple needs to put the effort in and fully interact because this definitely affects their marriage decision,” Al-Messiri said.

“Another tip is to express feelings properly. For instance, the potential partner needs to express what makes him or her happy and what bothers him or her. We understand ourselves more when we get to understand the person in front of us, so bear in mind that personal space and my time are a must in any relationship, even after marriage.”

As for the fears and doubts that someone might experience before getting married, Al-Messiri said that these are normal. “But fears and doubt pull a person back and prevent them from moving forward. ‘What if’ needs to be replaced with ‘let’s give it a try.’ If the fears and doubts take over, my advice is to talk with a specialist. We all need to work on ourselves on a regular basis and on personality traits that can hinder communication such as inflexibility or stubbornness.”

“My final tip is knowing that what you see before marriage in your partner is most probably what you will get after marriage. This is why you need to get to know the partner. You should not go into a relationship thinking that you will change the partner after marriage. We do change because we are human, but this is not because our partners want us to change – it is as simple as that.”

*A version of this article appears in print in the 4 February , 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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