Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1381, (15 - 21 February 2018)
Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Issue 1381, (15 - 21 February 2018)

Ahram Weekly

After tying the knot

Valentine’s Day falls this week, presenting a special challenge for some married couples, writes Ameera Fouad

“I was washing the dishes one by one while trying to hurry up so I could feed my one-year-old child Taleen. My husband was pacing up and down behind me. ‘Have you seen my socks,” he snarled. Just a couple of months before this, I would have turned off the tap and joined in the hunt while trying to soothe my husband. But now I just focused on the dishes, trying to soothe myself, and not saying a word.”

Aisha, not her real name, is one of many married couples who have not yet fallen out of love. But the chores she has to do around the house, childcare and perhaps her changing hormones have made her the woman she was scared to be just a year ago. “I always told myself before I got married that I did not want to be a bored housewife living from day to day without love or excitement. But I confess marriage is one thing, and love is something else,” she said.  

Aisha has confessed her feelings on “Confessions of a Married Woman”, a Facebook group. It now has almost 100,000 members, including many in Egypt and the Arab world. Aisha, like many others, finds it difficult to talk openly about her married life or even about her problems in marriage to friends or family. It has been for this reason that she has found in the group a special solace.

“The group’s strength is its anonymity. No one wants to share private problems in public. But on the group I feel we are all family, but a family whose members do not know one another. That is the best part,” Aisha added. “I feel love has vanished from my home, and this is my main problem. This is why I post on the group, looking for tips on how to revive it. I have received loads of advice from married and single women,” Aisha told Al-Ahram Weekly

“Such groups help people to share their problems. A problem shared is a problem half-solved,” Mohamed Serageddin, a psychologist and marriage counsellor said. However, even if such groups have a role to play, he always advises people who share their stories on social media to seek specialist help as well, especially if there is a particular problem or particularly complicated relationship. 

“Do not take all the comments on the group for granted either. People should choose what to take and what to leave when they read the comments on the group. Moreover, love does not disappear in marriage. It takes on different forms and other shapes. It’s a question of respect and of understanding. It is crowned by ‘mercy and compassion’, as God tells us,” he said. 

Zeinab Al-Ashri, who was herself a newlywed when she created the Facebook group, started facing various situations, good and bad, after she got married. As she chatted with co-workers, she found out what the reality of marriage could be. “We found that we all faced the same problems. Yet no one knew about them. Everyone was trapped inside a horrible thought — that it’s just me who has these problems,” she said.

“The surprise was to find out that most married couples face the same sort of problems. What we need to do is to talk about them, making it easier to understand what they are about,” she told the Weekly. 

It was for this reason that Al-Ashri created the group, as a support group in which everyone could share concerns that they may not be able to share face-to-face with others. Other women, and some men, would share their experiences, with the added value that no one would know their true identities. 

Noha Fahmi, 65, says that love is not really a biological need before marriage and that it stops after marriage. Like any other relationship, it needs trust and care, she said. “I used to see my father and mother dancing until they were well into their 70s. I watched them kissing each other until the last day of their lives. Theirs was the golden age of marriage perhaps. Nowadays, it can be difficult to stay in love, but it is not impossible,” she said.

“After 40 years of marriage, I am in love with my husband more than ever. It is a great time for both of us. Now that we are retired we have more time to travel and to find new ways to nourish our relationship,” she told the Weekly. 

Some people may fall out of love and get divorced. Some may get separated. Some may struggle to regain their original love. Many married couples spend their lives trying to regain love that has been lost. But marriage counsellors who have been baffled by the skyrocketing rise of divorce rates worldwide say that love is not everything in marriage. Marriage should be about trust, communication and respect, they say.

Many people who have experienced marriage and who have written about it on social media say that friendship is the glue that holds a marriage together. 

According to US author Andrew G Marshall, author of Love You, But I’m Not in Love with You, a married couple should nurture their relationship and their deep connection to each other. He says that too many married couples fall out of love because they neglect their physical intimacy or do not accept each other’s differences.

The voices of the women and men who share their stories on Facebook may provoke compassion, outrage, laughter or tears. More than anything else, they are in search of warm feelings and advice, including from friends or even strangers on social media.

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