Who is to blame for the high number of divorces among Emiratis?

According to the latest National Bureau of Statistics, the number of divorces among Emiratis increased by 38 per cent between 2013 an 2014. The UAE has one of the highest divorce rates in the world.
This could be happening for many reasons. One is that girls grow up fantasising about marriage. They often imagine the day of their marriage as a day when they will be free from the clutches of their parents.
However, when that time comes, they realise that there is a big difference between perception and reality, and that marriage does not mean freedom but commitment and obligation.
Secondly, it’s possible that progress and development are taking a toll on marriages. It’s worth remembering that a man’s self-esteem can be hurt by his wife’s success.

That’s perhaps because a woman’s success challenges the gender stereotype that the man should be more competent, strong and intelligent than his partner. Traditionally, men expect their wives to look after the household. When these expectations are not met, trouble is inevitable. In other words, misogyny can cut short the life of a marriage. Men who seek undivided attention also tend to feel neglected when their wives devote time to their professions. Friction takes place when women point their fingers at their husband for not paying them as much respect as they receive from their male colleagues at work.

Emirati women’s lives have undergone tremendous change over the years. Aided by the Government’s commitment to empower women and provide them with equal opportunities, the status of women in this country has flourished in parallel with the country’s growth since the union was established in 1971.

It is evident that women today constitute a vital part of the workforce and actively contribute to the economy.
Under the constitution, women enjoy the same legal status, claim to titles, access to education, health care and social welfare and the same right to practise professions as men. They are also guaranteed the same access to employment.

Today Emirati women account for a significant number of the national labour force in fields as diverse as science, technology, engineering, health care, media, law, commerce, politics, aviation and education. This has benefited women in another way – their independence enables them to leave bad marriages.
However, the rising rate of divorce cannot be blamed solely on women’s new-found independence.

Moreover, despite women’s ability to leave a failed marriage, divorce is frowned upon in society.Women are also taught from an early age that if a marriage does not work initially, they need to be patient and allow time to work out the differences.

One bright spot in the entire issue is that the number of marriages in people’s late teens and early twenties is plummeting. Emirati women are wising up to the fact that marriage takes work and having a university degree can be useful in overcoming fears and doubts.

Individuality and financial security allow women to avoid living with dreadful patience or the fear of being a burden on their parents if their marriages do not work out. Divorce is increasingly becoming an acceptable option also because it is financially feasible.

I am not campaigning for divorce, but I would always prefer peace of mind than marrying for the sake of it. Following the endurance narrative in a marriage can waste years, especially if there are children involved.
As the comedian Louis CK said: “No good marriage has ever ended in divorce.”

My article was originally published at the National Newspaper.  

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Is a wandering mind destined to be an unhappy one?

Whether we are sipping our morning coffee and dreaming about our ideal job or spacing out during a meeting and thinking about a new life abroad, we are all guilty of indulging in idle fantasy. A 2010 Harvard study found that people spend 46.9 per cent of their waking hours daydreaming.The finding came about after psychologists Matt Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert undertook a research project called “Track Your Happiness”, collecting the thoughts, feelings and behaviours of 2,255 participants as they carried on with their lives.

Exactly how a daydream begins is hard to pinpoint. Vividly imagining a scenario and staying in that train of thought long enough to categorise the genre of the fantasy can be the emotional equivalent of awakening from simple surgery to find your entire hand missing.

Fighting back thoughts takes a disciplined person, especially when those thoughts can creep up on you. You could very well be focusing on the matter at hand, ignoring the voices inside your head and suddenly they close in.

All it takes is a split second for you to turn around to find this full-length feature with you as the obligatory dominant lead.
It’s well-known that negative daydreaming can bring you down and could lead to or be an indicator of depression.

However, negative day dreaming is not always bad.

Author Todd Kashdan mentions in his book Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredients to a Fulfilling Life that “prehistoric men and women who worried a lot were more likely to survive than their carefree, positive-thinking peers. Thinking negatively served as an early warning system.” Negativity could scare the day dreamer into working harder to avoid the worst case scenario.

Envisioning a better future was what was supposed to help us get through whatever abrasive fate life throws our way.
However, the recent study by Gabriele Oettingen, Doris Mayer and Sam Portnow, published in the journal Psychological Science, puts positive fantasies in the spotlight.
Against most common knowledge, the research suggests that positive thinking can have an immediate positive effect, but it can cause depression in the long run when vision isn’t met by reality.

The mantra of “imagine positive outcomes and the universe will conspire to bring it to you” turned out to be a scheme. The universe doesn’t have the time to run through hoops to hand deliver a dream to your doorstep. Between the present reality and the imagined future is a long list of hard work and realistic expectations.

Most times the root of all mental pain is the amount of emotional attachment and time one wastes in one’s own fantasy bubble.

Realising the distance between reality and factoring in a hefty load of expectations and feelings of premature achievements can be devastating.

Oettingen and her co-authors noted that “inducing positive fantasies may indeed produce depressive symptoms by encouraging people to enjoy their success prematurely in their minds, thus lowering energy and effort”.

There are two sides to this coin: excessive mind wandering can lead to depression whether what is being imagined is positive or negative, unless the wandering party remains realistic when it comes to how realistically it will all unfold in the future.

You can’t live your days tilting your head against the window and enjoying farfetched dreams and abruptly going back to reality when the car stops.

Instead, harness the energy to realise your dreams by pursuing your goals. Don’t hinge your happiness and limit it to a few minutes of escapism.
Originally published in the national newspaper

Every failed attempt is an opportunity to try again

Fear of failure stems from an early age, rooted possibly by parents who were not supportive when their kids needed help carrying some of the weight off of them when they got thrown down by the hefty load of failure.Some were mocked at class by their teachers for raising their hand and daring to ask a question. Some were called stupid or were told that they will never amount to anything. Some were told they couldn’t do anything alone. Some were laughed at by their friends.

When a child brain is still developing and is being raised by parents who expect too much or offer them love according to their achievements and performances it can have a substantially negative impact on child emotional and mental growth.

How a child’s parent or teacher chose to view a failure will leave an imprint in the child psyche it can either motivate him/her to learn from their mistakes or view it as an irreparable disaster in that case a child approach to learning can have a negative effect. Parents and teachers need to deliver a delicate feedback when need be to evaluate a child skill.

Dr. Michou said in a study published in British Psychological Society (BPS) that “teachers and parents have to be more sensitive to the rational they provide to children to adopt a goal or engage in an activity. Suggesting children to improve their skills for their own enjoyment and development is much more beneficial than suggesting them to improve their skills in order to prove themselves.”

Short cuts or easy way outs are quite common with kids and adolescences who were most effected by their failures. Unconsciously their purpose is to protect their ego whether by avoiding taking risks or cheating to get to where they want to be. Realising missteps and obstacles are not fatal and believing that time and effort using effective strategies will help them develop their skills without feeling like failures or frauds is pleasurably fulfilling.

According to author David Putwain “Teachers are desperately keen to motivate their students in the best possible way but may not be aware of how messages they communicate to students around the importance of performing well in exams can be interpreted in different ways,” carefully wording the motivational speech to prepare them for future shouldn’t be negatively packed. Offer them realistic expectations without letting them look down the edge, helping their shaken confidence to believe they can make it and shut off their grown internalised fear.

Adopting a more compassionate approach and offering a positive safe house atmosphere to be vulnerable can shield kids when they fall. Believing in them and their aspiration at an early age will help them set goals without backing out of them for fearing that they might get ridiculed and end up to feel like losers.

Perfectionists whether it was inherited or if it came about from disappointing or not meeting our parents’ expectation, have a fear of flaws. Failing to perfect at everything might feed into their doubts that they are not competent.

Excitement and motivation is healthy, almost necessary for the task to reach it desired goals. However, if we weren’t prepared for an undesired outcome then the doubt comes to work and plays into insecurity of being not good enough.

The mantra of shame and guilt starts hamming until you realise that failure is the gateway to growth and innovation.

Originally my piece was published at the column page at the Khaleej times newspaper