Love, marriage and expert tips for working through the hard times

It is almost impossible for a couple not to fight. (Shutterstock)
Updated 04 October 2017

Love, marriage and expert tips for working through the hard times

JEDDAH: Although marriage can be beautiful and fulfilling, many couples face pitfalls when it comes to resolving the more stressful issues in marital life. In light of the Gulf region’s soaring divorce rates and headline-grabbing, bizarre tales of marital break down, Arab News spoke to a relationship therapist to understand how to attain marital bliss and work with your partner toward a healthy relationship.
In August, a bizarre divorce case reported by Al Watan newspaper saw a Saudi man allegedly separate from his wife because she forgot to add a sheep’s head to a dish served to dinner guests. The woman, who spoke to the newspaper on condition of anonymity, said that her husband had been angry at the slip up as he believed serving a sheep’s head was a sign of generosity.
It is not the only eyebrow-raising reason given for a divorce. From a WhatsApp status that seemed to paint the husband in a bad light to a man whose wife supposedly ate her peas in a manner that irritated him, there have been some strange divorce cases across the Gulf region.
According to a July 2016 report by Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Statistics, divorce in the Kingdom happens at the rate of 127 cases per day, or about five cases every hour.
According to the report, more than 157,000 marriages were recorded in the courts between the summer of 2015-2016, while over 46,000 divorce cases were recorded during the same period.
The report stated, however, that the number of divorces recorded a decline from the year before, which saw more than 54,000 cases of divorce.
Arab News spoke to Dr. Nisreen Yacoub, associate professor at King Abdulaziz University and founder of the Dr. Nisreen office For Counselling and Psychotherapy, to learn more about practical tips married couples can follow to work through difficult situations.
It takes two to build a successful, happy marriage, she told Arab News, adding that young couples should not enter a marriage believing it will be free from stress, fights and other marital woes. There are key things to remember when it comes to marriage, Yacoub believes.
Be realistic
Getting into a marriage under false assumptions fosters high expectations. Living a meaningful life is the goal couples should strive toward, Yacoub believes. Any person who is ready to get into a marriage needs to understand that it is going to be tough and they should be prepared to dive in and work it out. There will be growing pains and tough times when you least expect it, but giving up is the last resort. Flaws should be accepted, idealism should be forgotten and acceptance is always the best way forward, but only if it is mutual.
Take other people’s opinions with a pinch of salt
Yacoub maintains that “outside influencers” are not the right people to turn to for advice. These may include friends and family and sidelining their opinions can be difficult for many due to how close-knit Middle Eastern societies typically are. Each person will base their opinion on their personal experiences, making for advice that may not be relatable to one’s own experience. Yacoub advises that it is not wrong to seek help, but it is best to reach out to a professional family counselor or therapist. These professionals will give their unbiased opinions and help to clear any misgivings in the marriage where possible.
“We can’t fix a society, we can only help the mindset of the individual. When he or she is willing to listen, that change happens. This happens when the individual comes to a realization that there is a problem that needs to be solved. Society plays a major role in all divorce cases and the change will happen gradually,” Yacoub said.
When you fight, fight fair
It is almost impossible for a couple not to fight, but when you do there are various tips you can use to ensure there is no lasting emotional damage and that the argument is resolved in a calm, kind manner.
The key to any disagreement is knowing when to make an exit, even if you have not resolved the issue. Taking a deep breath and leaving the room can go a long way in creating a foundation for resolution. It is also crucial to agree with your partner that neither of you should “win” or “lose” a fight. Both parties to the marriage should understand that the concept of winning and losing will build resentment and, ultimately, hurt the relationship. While negotiation and compromise are essential, it is also important to understand that the process cannot be rushed — sometimes you may need to cool off before you can handle the situation and that is perfectly fine. However, walking away from an argument should not be seen as a ticket to better times. Couples should pin down a time and place to ensure that the issue is discussed and resolved, seeking professional help if necessary.
Share quality time together
Every moment of disclosure — being real, fragile, kind and passionate — can further a couple’s understanding of each other and, therefore, help the marriage succeed. That is why spending time together is so important. Couples can get weighed down in the day-to-day hubbub of life, but setting aside time to spend with your partner alone, doing something you both enjoy, is important for a happy marriage. Sharing a hobby or volunteering together will go a long way in ensuring you remain friends as well as husband and wife or mother and father.

Five Arab films that have won international acclaim

Updated 06 December 2019

Five Arab films that have won international acclaim

  • Saudi director Haifaa Al-Mansour’s 'The Perfect Candidate' is in the shortlist for an Oscar
  • A number of Arab productions are in the race for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar

CAIRO: The Oscars are just around the corner, and in January the shortlist for the coveted Best Foreign Language Film award will be confirmed.

Several titles from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have been submitted for consideration, including Saudi director Haifaa Al-Mansour’s “The Perfect Candidate.”

The entry, which tells the story of a Saudi doctor who takes on her country’s patriarchal system by running in municipal elections, is particularly significant as it is the Kingdom’s first Academy Award submission following the ban on theaters being lifted in 2017.

It is also the first to be supported by the Saudi Film Council, an organization launched at Cannes Film Festival in 2018.

Here is a look at other recent Arab titles that have achieved international acclaim, and why they are worth watching.


1. WADJDA — Saudi Arabia

“The Perfect Candidate” is not the first of Al-Mansour’s films to be submitted to the Oscars. Her critically acclaimed drama “Wadjda” became the first title to be submitted by the Kingdom in 2013 for the 86th Academy Awards. It marked the debut of a Saudi female filmmaker, with the film shot entirely in the Kingdom.

The story of a 10-year-old Wadjda, and her desire to buy a bicycle to race against a male friend, sheds light on traditions and women’s rights.

In an article for The Guardian newspaper, film critic Henry Barnes described “Wadjda” as a message that Al-Mansour wrapped “inside a love letter to her people.”


2. ESHTEBAK — Egypt

The Egyptian film industry has a good track record when it comes to titles receiving global acclaim, one of the most recent being “Eshtebak” (“Clash”), by director Mohamed Diab.

Set in a police van during a period of street protests and unrest in 2013, the film chronicles a time of political and social instability in the country, where a clash of ideologies and personalities unfolds between communities.

 Egyptian director Mohamed Diab's “Eshtebak” (“Clash”). (Supplied)

The resulting tensions and dilemmas are acted out by the people trapped in the van.

“Eshtebak” was selected as the opening film for the Un Certain Regard section at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, and screened internationally across Europe, and in Brazil and China.

The film was publicly endorsed by actor Tom Hanks in a letter to the director: “Your film will go to great lengths to enlighten many. Audiences will see that humanity is a fragile community, but we are all in ‘this’ together.”


3. AL-JANNA AL-AAN — Palestine

A Golden Globe winner for Best Foreign Language Film — and nominated in the same category at the 78th Academy Awards — “Paradise Now” was described by its Palestinian director, Hany Abu-Assad, as “an artistic point of view of the political issue.”

The film digs deep into the human aspects of the Palestinian conflict, following the fictional story of two friends recruited by a terrorist group to become suicide bombers in Tel Aviv.

Palestinan director Hany Abu-Assad's “Al-Janna Al-Aan" (Supplied)

Armed with explosives, they attempt to cross into Israel, but are pursued by border guards and separated.

When they are reunited, one character decides against carrying out the bombing, and tries to convince his friend to quit as well.

“Paradise Now” was not Abu-Assad’s only Academy Award nomination. His film “Omar,” which won the Muhr awards for Best Film and Best Director at the 2013 Dubai International Film Festival, was also shortlisted for the same category at the 2014 Oscars.



4. CAFARNAUM — Lebanon

Directed by celebrated Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki, “Capernaum” depicts the complicated life of undocumented migrants, refugees and workers in Lebanon through the story of 12-year old Zain, who lives in the slums of Beirut.

The film generated $68 million at the box office worldwide, more than 17 times its production budget, becoming the highest-grossing Middle Eastern and Arabic movie of all time.

Lebanese director Nadine Labaki's “Cafarnaum" (Supplied)

“Capernaum” won the Jury Prize at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival — it received a solid 15-minute standing ovation after its screening there — and was shortlisted for Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards.

Labaki’s other productions include “Caramel” and “Where Do We Go Now?”


5. THEEB — Jordan

This drama by Naji Abu Nowar starred non-professional Bedouin actors and focuses on events unfolding in the Wadi Rum desert in southern Jordan during World War I.

Jordanian director Naji Abu Nowar's “Theeb" (Supplied)

In 2016, “Theeb” won internationally recognition by becoming the first Jordanian nomination to make it to the shortlist for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards.

It was also nominated for Best Film Not in the English Language at the 69th British Academy Film Awards, and won the Best Director award at the 71st Venice International Film Festival.


• This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.