As the number of divorces in Qatar inches upwards, some marital experts say more counselling services for couples could help reverse the trend.
Some 122 men and women ended their marriage in January, up 15 percent from a year earlier, according to figures from the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics.
Hadia Baker, senior family counselor at the Family Consulting Center, told Doha News that Qatari and non-Qatari couples generally cite similar reasons for wanting a divorce, although some expats have the added stress of feeling isolated, far away from home and their support network of friends and families.
Baker said she most commonly hears complaints about infidelity, financial problems, over-involved parents and partners who are insensitive to the needs of their spouse.
“(These can) create big problems and a big gap between the woman and man,” she said.
The good news, Baker said, is that many of these issues can be resolved if couples take the time to sit down with professionals to understand more about themselves, as well as what a marriage entails.
She said she believes pre-marriage counselling should be mandatory for couples in Qatar.
Marriage is one of the most important commitments in a person’s life and it needs preparation and education, Baker added.
The Family Consulting Center offers free premarital courses for expat and Qatari couples planning to tie the knot.
The main topics include the psychology of the opposite sex, effective communication, health-related topics, including sexual education, and and financial planning. The religious and legal aspects of marriage are also covered.
In addition to in-person sessions, the center offers services over the phone, via email and through Facebook.
The legal age for marriage in Qatar is 18 for males and 16 for females. A court may allow a marriage below the minimum age, but it requires the consent of the legal guardian and two other witnesses.
Baker said some families pressure their children to get married too quickly and without giving adequate consideration to who they will marry and how they feel about them.
They then discover after the marriage that this is not the partner with whom they want to spend the rest of their lives, she added.
In other cases, Baker said parents may negatively interfere in their children’s marriages, dictating their behavior and they interact with their spouse.
Baker says that there is one essential ingredient for a happy and successful marriage.
”Marriage can survive anything and get over all obstacles, if we understand that marriage is the only way for fulfilling the needs that we carry from our childhood,” she said.
She explains that all people carry baggage from their childhood into their marriages and unconsciously hope their spouse will resolve the emotional pain they felt while growing up.
“Some couples put (very high) expectations in their marriage and become very disappointed when these expectations are not met,” she said. “They feel they’ve been deceived by this marriage.”
She added that once the couples realize this and communicate it to each other in a positive way, they start to let go of the resentment and anger they have towards each other.
“Every soul and every person on this earth looks for wholeness; to be complete in their feelings, in their way of thinking, in their way of seeing the world around (them),” She said. “Wholeness does not happen, because on earth here, there is no such thing as perfection.”
The affiliated with Qatar’s legal system, which refers divorce cases to the organization in the hope that couples can reconcile their differences before ending their marriage.
The center has around a 57 percent success rate in these cases, an official sad.
The center also assists the court in reaching financial settlements in divorce cases and aiding couples to reach amicable agreements on the custody of their children and other financial issues.
Baker said that divorce in itself doesn’t harm children. However, the way parents handle the divorce can cause a child to suffer.
”If they see their parents fighting, they lose their security and show many behavioral and psychological problems,” she said.
She added that the problems start when the spouses try to use the children as leverage against each other or as a means of “revenge.”
She says she witnessed many “healthy divorces,” where the couples continue to respect and value each other, which reflects positively on the children.
The Family Consulting Center offers free consulting and therapy sessions for children who suffer from behavioral or psychological problems including children of divorce and their parents.
Baker advises residents to take responsibility in their relationships and seek professional help when needed.
She added that disconnection between couples happens through stages in the marriage.
“Do not come (to seek professional help) when it’s too late,” she said, adding that early professional intervention can make a big difference and even save marriages.