How Important Is It to Mandate Premarital Counseling, in the UAE?

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Many couples in the UAE do not get the chance to know their future spouse before marriage, and that has led to high divorce and dissatisfaction rates. Premarital Counseling is a great way to mend those issues and build happier lives.

Artwork by Nouf Bandar Elmoisheer (Instagram: @naufba)

“All families have their problems.” Everyone says that. But are we really doing anything to FIX things? If a couple can’t “co-exist” with one another, how will there be a solid foundation for a stable life? How will the views of their children turn out to be?

Not only does the mental and emotional well-being of couples get exhausted from conflict, but it sadly affects the wellbeing of future generations as well. That is one reason for the rise of awareness in psychology with more people talking about it and more students majoring in it. It became a need with all the sky-high levels of stress.

As a graduate of Psychology and Human Services, I believe the first important step to solve this is to implement Premarital Counseling in the UAE. Premarital counseling means counseling or consultation before marriage. According to Mayo Clinic (2014), “it is a type of therapy that helps couples prepare for marriage.” The purpose of those sessions is to enhance communication between couples, strengthen their bond and friendship, and to be able to understand each other’s needs and wants.

A huge benefit of therapy before marriage is that it teaches couples some conflict-resolution methods, which can then be applied throughout their lives in the rough times without feeling helpless (Kepler, 2015). The benefits do not stop here; couples also get the chance to plan their lives before any commitment; it’s a time that can be used to figure out whether they want to proceed to the next level or not get married in the first place. Actually, studies show an increase in marital satisfaction by 30% for couples who undergo premarital counseling (DeAngelis, 2017).

In the UAE culture, arranged marriages make up the highest percentages of couples, but that is not the problem. Studies have shown there is no significant difference in levels of happiness between arranged and love marriages (Buch, 2015). Hence, the problem lies in the communication before and throughout marriages that are not successful. This leads me to say that premarital counseling gives Emirati couples the chance to get to know each other better before making a lifelong commitment.

I have surveyed for my senior project (in university) tackling this issue; 296 people participated in the survey where the majority were female and about 19% were male. Most participants were single from the age of 17 – 22, the others were married, and the fewer participants were divorced or engaged. Moreover, the majority of participants were UAE nationals, and the rest were from 31 different countries. The purpose of the survey was to measure the rates of acceptance and demand on implementing premarital counseling in the UAE. Some of my questions included looking at definitions of “Happiness” in marriage, problems that cause dissatisfaction/divorce between married couples, and their opinions on the importance of implementing compulsory premarital counseling in our region.

From the results I got, I think we are in desperate need to implement premarital counseling. Figure 1.1 shows the participants opinions in percentages.

Moreover, it is important to mention that demands in the 21st century have changed from the past. Living in the 21st century is nothing like the 20th. The demand list of qualities that people are looking for in lifelong partners is growing by the day, and results from the survey mentioned above show that. Many women no longer look for a man who lives to work and provide only. Most look for companionship and friendship. They also look for adventure, fun, and humor. The same applies to men; they want someone to share their lives with and not only provide for. It all makes sense, leaving all research aside, our human nature calls for unity and togetherness. We all need healthy relationships at some point in life because that’s how we are built.

“How can a man and a woman interact before marriage?!” some people say, “That is inappropriate.” Culture plays a huge part in our society, and the idea might not be accepted by a big portion of the community at first. But truly, counseling is a professional field, and the couples will be assisted by an expert. So if we really want the best for our children in their lives, I don’t think we’ll use culture as a barrier to prevent couples from their rights of getting to know one another. Marriage is not a matter of luck, and it’s not a game either. But if we choose to see it that way, we better play it right.

In my opinion, premarital counseling has to be implemented in the UAE and more awareness should be raised in the community. We need to shrink the communication gap between men and women and focus on raising awareness to everyone. In the end, successful marriages are never one-sided, and neither are the problems. If we aim to be one of the happiest nations in the world, we must start from the heart that gives it, and that heart is in our homes.


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