Recently a couple of girls I know had to go through the really horrible experience of divorce. I am not going into the details of the divorces or why the marriages failed, but my real question is what do they do next? Divorce is a traumatizing experience. With any traumatic experience the divorcee needs plenty of support and help after the experience, but in our Middle Eastern culture seldom does she get it. Therapy or psychological help is still frowned upon in our communities which is a very sad and bad thing. Carrying emotional baggage like that is frightening and must be very heavy on the girls. I wonder why there are no centers or support groups to help women handle it. A woman needs legal advice first to set her affairs in order. If she has kids she needs to figure out how she will support them and how she will get the financial settlement in order too. Even after all of that where does she go to deal with her own issues and then her children. Marriage is becoming increasingly difficult in our countries especially Egypt, parents are pressuring their daughters to settle for any marriage that comes along, so they are even harder on their daughters who want out and are usually even harder on them when they do get divorces. Some women even stay in bad marriages longer than they should because of that parental and social pressure. In a religious society like ours what role does the mosque or the imam play in such cases, nearly non-existent. In the past imams did play a role in these issues because they also usually used to be judges and they new the rules really well. What can we do to help? I have been thinking about this for a long time and I think we need the following:
- A change in mentality. It is ok to get out of a bad marriage. I chose “bad” because I think bad starts from an unhappy marriage to the extreme of an abusive relationship, with everything in between. Understanding what a bad marriage is important. Many women will accept husbands who cheat and will turn a blind eye to it just because they do not want to carry the stigma of a divorced women. I think, if, as a community we stopped looking at the woman as the wrong doer or even trying to point a finger at who the guilty party is and focused more on fixing the situation it would be better to all of us. We should stop judging and trying to analyze why someone’s marriage failed and instead help the person move on.
- Educating women. I have always thought that our basic education should include a “Marriage 101″ course. From the process of accepting a marriage proposal, making a marriage work, knowing what your rights and your obligations are and how and when to get out of a bad marriage if God forbid you were unlucky to get into one. Since our educational system is not that sophisticated, parents should educate themselves and their sons and daughters. Where are our writers and journalists? Why isn’t there a “Marriage for Dummies in the Arab World” book, anything to help guide our generations in the right direction. The rules in the non-Arab world are different, we need our own rules and we need to teach them to our daughters.
- Support. There is nothing wrong with seeking proffessional help. Sometimes just talking to someone who is not involved in the situation enables us to move forward because a non-judgemental, honest and caring opinion can help clear what we saw as muddled or jumbled up. Does your local mosque have an educated and caring Imam? He should be playing his part in society, try and get him involved. Are you part of a club or social scene where you can set up sessions and talks to the younger generation, then why are you not doing that? D is for Divorced, not for Dead, is a great blog offering advice, written by two ladies who went through it. I wish more women had the guts and courage to do the same. It is nothing to be ashamed of, what really is shameful is that we make an already bad situation worse.