CAMPUS MAGAZINE: Until Death do us Part
Date posted: March 1, 2007
PUBLISHED IN CAMPUS MAGAZINE IN MARCH 2007 – MY FIRST ARTICLE FOR CAMPUS MAGAZINE!
LISTEN TO THE AUDIO VERSION HERE: TRACK 31
"I love you; I know how to make you happy; I am so strong; I will make you faint on our wedding night!"
He said with pride to his future bride – yours truly – 12 years ago. I cannot deny that there are times when I wonder how my life would have differed had I not called off my wedding. If I woke up on the right side of the bed, my thoughts took me to a cozy house with a loving husband and lovely kids; but if it was one of my countless bad hair days, I envisioned a miserable wife in a boring marriage with teary-eyed kids, and suffering sleepless nights contemplating a flawless murder. I am certain that had I married the guy who used to exercise his "stick", or the guy who wanted to deliver his own babies, or the alcoholic, or the neurotic, or the psychotic, or the caveman, or any other guy, I would have been divorced. I do not think I would have made it past the first month, let alone the first year. I was miraculously saved but not everyone was as lucky; some were even as unlucky as ending their marriage months after it started.
What fed their dreams to the shredder? What turned their vows into curses? To love but not to hold? For the better but not for the worst? For the richer because no one wants the poorer? In health but never in sickness? What would make a young bride runaway from the love nest? What would make prince charming flee on his not-so-white horse? Was it a bad choice? Was it that marriage put an end to the dating farce? Is it the lies? Is it the false pretences? Could it be expectations? Could their premature divorce be the only natural outcome of the marriage of a couple who were incubated in a schizophrenic society? Am I being too pessimistic? Am I being too realistic?
To get my answers I had to ask the men and women in question. I wanted neither the staged sugar-coated replies nor the decent socially smart conclusions; I wanted the ugly shocking truth – the kind of truth that neither feared exposure nor knew any inhibitions. I created a male account on an adult site to lure the girls and a female account to entrap the guys. I searched for divorced men and women between the age of 21 and 30. I got my answers … and more.
Sara is 25, she got married when she was 21 to the man she loved since she was 16. She cannot take off her veil because of her family; she cannot get a divorce because she does not want to move in again with her parents. But deep down, she feels divorced and acts accordingly.
Mohamed (28), her husband, is addicted to adult dating sites, and he is on that same site chasing women and doting on them, while she is withering at home alone – or in the arms of someone else. She has been demoted from wife to roommate, and she wants to have kids. Mohamed's pictures with his "girlfriends", his chats, and his mementos are right under her nose – he does not care enough to wipe his traces. "Sara owes me", he revealed to my male alias; he married her knowing that she was not a virgin. He believes that his actions are righteous and justified, and that she should be grateful that he saved her, and her family, from shame. "I will get a divorce eventually … I am so unhappy" said Sara and Mohamed not knowing that I was talking to both of them.
Dr. Yasser El Manawy, life coach, sees that this is an example of a typical Egyptian couple who got married for the wrong reasons. Having kids is the classic mistake – Kids will only make it a double-trouble. Sara wanted to get out of a family situation when she got married and she is staying in the marriage – again – as an escape from the same family situation. Her husband, on the other hand has an intimacy problem this is why he opts for multiple partners.
Mostafa (29) is another story; he fell in love with Menna (24) and they got married after a dating period of one year. The marriage lasted for one problem-filled year, and finally they got a divorce. Mostafa wants to prove that the divorce was not his fault; he wrote countless lines describing how passionate he is and how he knows and understands exactly what women need. Mostafa has watched plenty of xx rated movies and he wanted to re-enact each and every scene with his wife only to be faced with her shocked eyes and expressionless face."
Karim (23) is living in a dreamy bubble of his own. He got married right after he graduated to his college sweetheart. He loved her hair, her sweet voice, her shy gaze, and how she understood him well. After their marriage one shock followed the other; her body hair, her morning breath, her horrible cooking, her hair in the bathtub, her monthly pads in the waste bin, her watching TV all night, and many other little things that he never imagined in his sugar babe. Karim used to believe in love, now he believes in co-habilitation before marriage – even if it was just short trips. Dr. Manawy finds Mostafa and Karim to be sides the same delusional Egyptian coin "They are trapped in the delusions of cloud nine, physical or emotional, and when they got hit by reality they realized how different it was and then they could not cope."
Khaled (30) and Mona (25) had an arranged marriage. Khaled had drinking problems and a very unstable career. He had tantrums and Magda's face and body paid for his insecurity. He used to cry and she used to forgive him. The frequency of the frenzies increased and she could not take it anymore; hence, the divorce.
Mira (25) has a two-year old girl from a horrible marriage. He was 20 years older and was extremely jealous; his fits erupted whenever he caught a man looking at her. Mira told me that she had to quit work. She avoided unmarried female friends and all male friends. She was afraid to greet a relative she ran into in the street and, by time, everyone avoided her too. On the other hand, Salem had plenty of affairs and he used to brag about them all the time and Mira had to either pretend that she was deaf or that she knew he was joking. "My daughter is a blessing but Salem threatened to take her if I got married … I need a man and if I cannot get a husband then so be it."
Jina (26) got divorced two years after her marriage because of her mother in law; "the woman had no clue what privacy meant. She had a key to our house and used it at anytime. She asked about what we ate, where we went, and how many times we did it. My ex was not man enough to protect our marriage from such an invasion. I have no regrets other than marrying him in the first place."
To avoid the mistakes of the couples above, Dr. Manawy encourages youth to have their ducks in order; "before thinking of marriage, you have to have your values and priorities straightened. Focus is the keyword, but unfortunately this is something that our typical upbringing does not secure. The other issue falls in Johari's Window's blind zone; people do not know themselves. How can anyone choose a partner if they are so disconnected from their true feelings and emotions? How can you expect someone to satisfy your needs and wants when you do not know what they are? In Egypt, we are brought up to conceal our emotions, yet act emotional. People need to be more specific about what they want, their expectations need to be more defined, and they have to be fully aware of their goals. Marriage decisions are not taken solely from the heart or the mind."
On asking our life coach about a quick recipe for aligning the mind and the heart, Dr. Manawy said "choosing a partner is very similar to making a business decision, only that the consequences are graver. First, brainstorm the options with trustworthy family members and friends. Second, have an analytical discussion where you write down the pros and cons, and the best case and worst case scenario. Third, think of the consequences of voting for or voting against each option. Finally, choose the option that feels the most comfortable mentally and emotionally."
Zeina (23) was married for three months; one night, she got a call from a hospital telling her that her husband has been in an accident. Being the dutiful wife she was, she hurried to the hospital only to be told that her husband was involved in a homosexual "gathering" that obviously went sour – they beat him up, raped him, and threw him in the street. Zeina does not want to get married again.
Sally (22) was the victim of a sadist; "he used to whip me when I was late, burn me when I asked questions, sodomize me in return for money, and stick a needle in sensitive parts of my body for every mistake he said I made. He told me that this was because he loved me and he wanted me to be a better person. I could not tell anyone what was happening behind our closed doors." Sally submitted to his sick needs and desires for six months until, one day she fainted in the street and the passer-bys took her to the hospital. There the doctors were horrified and they called her husband and her family. She got her divorce on that same day. Sally told me that her conservative family did not allow her to get to know the man she was getting married to. Her mother told her on her wedding night that a respectful wife obeyed her husband and kept him satisfied – otherwise he would leave her. Sally blamed her family for her disaster of a marriage."
Dr. Manawy sympathizes with Egyptian girls who "have to learn the hard way in such a closed community. Too much protection is just as bad as too little. Sexual education is not "haram" – forbidden. Awareness and knowledge is the only way they can actually choose from right and wrong."