8 Ways to Stay Together

Maximise your marriage and learn how to stay together forever (without going insane)
Saturday , 16 July 2011
8 Ways to Stay Together
8 Ways to Stay Together

Stats from the Dubai Statistics Centre showed that marriage went up last year(2010) by eight per cent, but other studies found that the divorce rate in the UAE is 46 per cent – the highest in the GCC. Don’t want to become part of that statistic? Here’s how to maximise your marriage power and stick together through thick and thin.

1. Beware of success: “It’s neither the husband or wife who more usually instigates a divorce; rather, it’s the more successful person in the relationship,” says Cassandra Lobo, a legal consultant with 13 years of experience at Al Shamsi & Partners in Dubai. And, of course, success is big business here. “People arrive from around the world and see the UAE as a ‘land of dreams’. You have the sunshine, the wonderful house, nice car and luxurious lifestyle. For many couples – especially in relationships where one person doesn’t work – it causes huge problems. Suddenly the partner who is employed comes home and their other half doesn’t fit into their shiny new life anymore – they’re not as exciting. Unbalanced success is the biggest reason for the divorces I deal with.”

2. Stop leaving your clothes on the floor: “Eighty percent of the couples I see cite unreasonable behaviour (any behaviour by the other party that you find intolerable to live with) as their main reason for divorce,” says Tribe. “I always ask them to give me five examples of this and, more often than not, it’s the trivialities that they mention. For example, ‘She’s always leaving her clothes on the floor’ or ‘He never takes out the bin bags’. A client recently said to me, ‘She always cooks spicy food and she knows I don’t like it!’ It just goes to show how big the little things in a relationship can become. It’s important not to sweat the small stuff and to look at what’s actually important and what should be argued about. Some things just aren’t worth it.”

3. Love is... just being nice: “I’m amazed at the amount of unkindness that goes on between couples,” says Tribe, who says the average age of couples she sees is around 30. “I dealt with one where the husband had stood on his wife’s feet so that she physically couldn’t move. It saddens me to think that at one point these were two people who were crazy about one another. I also hear complaints about a lack of communication and thought. The husband says, ‘Does she realise how hard I work?’ and the wife says ‘I’ve been so busy!’ Both partners may have had a hellish day and they return home and voice their frustrations – and the fun is lost. Every marriage is a mixture of ups and downs, but it’s important to set time aside to talk to one another about your days – not just about the mundane things, but the fun, light hearted stuff too.”

4. Go camping: “Many of the jobs that women did in their home countries don’t exist here [in the UAE] and, on a social level, it’s very geared to the husband’s socialising out of work hours,” says Lobo. “If you’re at home, whether you’re looking after children or not, it’s important to get into the habit of doing things together to stay connected. If your husband likes camping, go camping! If he’s a party animal, join him on the dance floor! Dubai is a great place for sports, so even if you hate sports, arrange to do something together. It will give you a common focus and provide something to do together and stop you from slipping apart.”

5. Don’t ditch your day job: “The lure of the tax-free salary in the Middle East prompts many female expats to give up their former careers,” explains Lobo. “Many men encourage this and I see a lot who do [give up their jobs] and then find themselves at a loss. The husband will be thinking, ‘My wife can play tennis or meet friends, what’s she complaining about?’ and resentment between the couple builds up. As much as the woman can, if children aren’t involved, I’d advise her to keep her career going. It’s important not to lose your sense of self, because that’s when couples start to lose their common bond. You have to stay interesting to one another, as well as interested in one another’s lives.”

6. Go get cosy on a couch: “The first thing I say when I meet a couple is, ‘Are you sure you want this?’ says Lobo. “The initiator always says yes; the other person is usually not quite there yet. I then ask, ‘What have you done to make this work?’ and at this point I will always recommend counselling. Sometimes we need an impartial outsider to help us see our relationships from a different perspective, to see that maybe it could still work. Most of my older clients who have been married for 10 to15 years will give counselling a try, however, the younger ones who have been together for three years [or less] won’t bother. Their attitude to marriage is much more casual, but I would say counselling is always worth a shot and a divorce lawyer should be your last port of call.”

7. Whip on your LBD: “For most professionals, socialising after work hours is essential and, for a marriage to succeed, you have to support one another in this,” warns Lobo. “Whether you like it or not, go along to those social functions with your partner, and make sure he does the same for you. Couples, especially women, often complain to me, ‘But he never takes me out anymore!’ but the reality is that this tends to start with the wife not wanting to go out in the first place. I say, put on your little black dress and go! A couple needs to share the good times together. It may sound old-fashioned, but sometimes you can forget to be a wife – rather you’re being the mum or the housewife or too wrapped up in yourself – but you must always remember to be there for your partner.”

8. Stop, and look for a second: “One couple used to call me every day,” says Tribe. “They were in the middle of divorcing and arguing constantly. He’d call to say his wife had broken a bottle over him; she’d call me to complain that he’d stolen her passport; he’d then instruct me to send her a barrage of letters – something was always happening. After months of this, they suddenly went quiet on me for about a week until the husband rang and said, ‘Please don’t get mad, but we’re back together!’ They even invited me out to celebrate with them! They really were the loveliest couple, but they had simply got themselves into a terrible rut. When they actually stopped and looked at their arguing habits and how badly they were treating one another, they realised how much they still had going for them. They’re still together and happier than ever!”