JEDDAH – The majority of Saudi husbands at a two-day focus group here blamed Saudi wives for the high divorce rate in the country.
Most of the 50 participants in the National Committee for Marriage Facilitation (NCMF) initiative, said wives are not properly trained for domestic life, spend extravagantly and have more time for friends and relatives than their husbands and children.
The group met twice a day on the Prince Sultan College for Business and Tourism Jeddah (PSCJ) campus and were divided into five groups of 10 participants.
Many with only two to three years’ experience of wedlock, explored disappointments regarding pre-marriage expectations and post-marriage realities.
The main points of agreement were that Saudi females come into marriage ill-prepared and are not willing to do the daily chores of cooking meals, laundry, ironing clothes, caring for sick children and assisting them with their homework. Females from well-to-do families expect a husband to maintain similar standards to that of their families. They also insist on domestic workers and drivers even if this puts a dent in the family’s budget, say the participants.
Saudi wives also allegedly spend too much on cosmetics and perfume, hairdressing and party gowns even to the point of maxing-out a credit card. In addition, they insist on maintaining pre-marriage, time-consuming obligations with family, relatives and female friends at the expense of quality time with their husbands.
Ziyad Bagabas, a participant, said there is an over-emphasis on female education at the expense of fundamental skills necessary to maintain family life.“The first eight months of marriage were spent at my family’s house and at my in-laws because my wife could easily burn water in a kettle. I think we are pushing formal higher education too far which creates an imbalance in a female’s home-skills.”
Similar views were expressed by other participants. Husain Bahuthailah, Fahad Alelayani and Sameer Nutto, all architects, said that mothers should teach their daughters to manage a household. Alelayani said that while six years of home economics is part of the curriculum for females, his wife either had a “poor memory” or was “falsely promoted” because she cannot “grate a carrot safely”.
During group interaction some participants suggested that there should be domestic tests drawn up for wives-to-be and if they fail they should be forced to undergo training.
“Look, family-helpers recruited overseas are trained to carry out domestic chores prior to their arrival, particularly to Saudi Arabia. A family with a daughter of marriageable age should seriously look at her daughter’s lack of domestic skill. More than 85 percent of participants blamed wives’ alleged lavish spending for marriage disputes. Almost all agreed that this behavior was widely prevalent whatever the level of education. Fawaz Addakheel, a 24-year-old radiologist, who is engaged and will marry in six months, said this type of spending is a sign of the creeping consumerism in Saudi society.
Sami Jawahirj, a 27-year-old independent gold and jewelry merchant, said wives from well-to-do families pressure husbands to maintain a standard of living to which they are accustomed. “Those less well-to-do want to mimic the lives of those people they see in their favorite television series.”
Abdulla Kuno, a 22-year-old graduate of PSCJ and currently pursuing a career in bank management, said the “bleeding” of males begin long before marriage, with engagement gifts, dinner invitations and furnishing of the residence. “I’m engaged to be married in six months but more than 50 percent of my relatives and friends who married four to five years ago are still paying off their marriage debts.”
Dr. Hussain Alattas, the chief moderator of the focus group, said the initiative went off well. “I’ve been doing group moderation for over 10 years. In terms of transparency, this PSCJ research group ranks among the best.”