Until death do us part

Ameera Fouad , Tuesday 30 Aug 2022

While divorce rates are still high in Egypt, many married couples are leading successful and happy lives.

Until death do us part
Until death do us part


“Do not enter a marriage as if it was an Instagram photo with a filter attached,” said Mohamed Hazem, co-founder of the company ElCoach Incorporation, sharing his experience of a successful marriage along with his beautiful wife Nada Qassem.

“If you or your partner are trying to filter yourself during your relationship, this will harm you in the long run. It will mean that what you expect is based on fantasy. But life is not about fantasies. You should be aware of the choices you have made, including responsibility and love,” the 33-year-old father added. 

Mohamed and Nada have been married for seven years. They met online in their early twenties through a magazine page on which they shared messages and their love of writing. This is where they found the spark that led to love and an understanding of each other. 

“Marriage can only be successful when one can have true and heart-felt conversations with each other. Partnership, friendship, and romance – these are the three components of a successful marriage,” said Qassem, a freelance translator and the mother of three-year-old Nadine. 

What she means by heart-felt conversations is what has to happen between couples concerning the life they want to live together. Do they want children? Are they eager to travel together? What are their individual boundaries? 

While many couples regard the first year of marriage as the most difficult, this young couple enjoyed their first year together because it gave them the chance to share an understanding of their visions, needs, and goals. 

“If there is two-way communication between the partners before and during the marriage, they will reach the necessary level of understanding,” she added. “Avoiding problems is possible when you try to avoid the mistakes other couples make. But each and every couple has its own way of marriage.”

For Hazem, marriage is like a plant, one that if it is not nourished will fade away and die. “Don’t take any relationship for granted. Our characters change over time, and this is also true in marriage. There are lots of ups and downs any married couple will experience, and all couples should know that with marriage comes responsibility, acceptance, and understanding of one another,” he said.  

There was a sharp increase in divorce rates in Egypt after 1996, continuing at least until 2017. According to the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS), the divorce rate stood at 1.2 per 1,000 marriages between 1996 and 1999, compared to a rate of 2.2 per 1,000 in 2015. Around 200,000 married couples get divorced every year, with research suggesting that of these 40 per cent end within the first five years.

However, most married couples try to avoid divorce, seeing the goal instead to be achieving a successful marriage and living an enjoyable life with their partners. 

Lamis Nayel, a marriage counsellor and PhD in psychology, said marriage could be understood as “two partners in one boat.” Neither can paddle separately, and both do better together. There must be an agreement to make the marriage work. 

Nayel said that the reasons for the high divorce rate in Egypt include the fact that some partners do not clearly understand what they want from their marriage. “Sometimes they may be trying to escape something else, such as parental control or a lack of money. But one should enter a marriage in a mentally and psychologically stable state and not be seeking anything from the partner.” 

One of the biggest mistakes Egyptian couples make is marrying without knowing one another well. “The engagement phase is not only about flowers, chocolates, and teddy bears. It is also on the road to marriage. It is a lifetime relationship, so the partners must understand each other’s needs, goals, and dreams.”  

As a marriage counsellor, Nayel said that she sees many couples with false expectations. “Sometimes couples expect things that they had never fully discussed, such as a husband who is expecting his wife to help him financially or a wife who is expecting her husband to share the housework with him,” she said.

Some divorces happen for the most frivolous problems that could have been easily avoided if they had been discussed, like what time the couple should go to bed, whether they want to read in bed, whether they like to go out or not, and so on, Nayel said. 

“Such small matters are not small at all in a marriage and can make all the difference,” she added. All married couples should make time for each other, setting aside at least three hours a week when they can enjoy themselves together doing activities they like away from life pressures. 

There are also many examples of successful marriages that the media never shows. They can be found in daily life, among family members, friends, neighbours, and from every kind of social background. We may often see married couples walking together, travelling together, working together, eating together, and holding hands together. 

For one 70-year-old doctor who has enjoyed his 40 years of marriage, success depends on choice of partner, responsibility, and tolerance.

“The choice of partner should be guided by religion and discipline,” he said. “The partners should not be driven by emotion, money, or appearances. Their choice should also not be determined by flaws that can’t be fixed. They should share the same intellectual interests. They should have the same character traits, or they should at least be able to reach a compromise if these lead to conflict. There must be the ambition to achieve and to build together. The choices of their two families are also important, since marriage is about families as well as about individuals.” 

“Responsibility is about choosing a partner. He or she must be accepted with all the positives and negatives. There must be a readiness from both to sacrifice and to make efforts to satisfy the other.” 

“Tolerance means that we all go through tough times. Sometimes we might become irrational or out of control, but the partner must be tolerant enough to accept these irrational moments, though they should be accompanied by an apology.”

Mohamed Hazem and Nada Qassem said that another important factor is that neither member of the couple should go to sleep if there is a misunderstanding. “Wake up every day as if it is a new and shining one,” they said.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 1 September, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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