Why women marry late |
Gulf Daily News - 05 July, 2012
Author: Reem Antoon
Twenty years ago Newsweek made an ominous claim.
It said in the US, a 40-year-old single woman was more likely to be killed by a terrorist than to ever marry.
Today, thankfully, the situation looks much brighter. Those odds-she'll-marry statistics turned out to be too pessimistic.
It appears that about 90 per cent of baby-boomer men and women either have married or will marry, a ratio that is well in line with historical averages.
And the days when half of all women would marry by 20, as they did in 1960, only look more anachronistic. At least 14pc of women born between 1955 and 1964 married after the age of 30.
In the papers this week, I came across an article on a "single women crisis" in the UAE.
Apparently, if you are a 30-year-old Emirati woman and still single, you've missed the marriage boat. By UAE standards, you would be considered to be an old maid.
The problem, authorities say, is that more and more women fall into this category - some 60pc, according to the latest statistics. This has raised concerns among officials and sparked online debates as to why.
Seemingly, the issue has been the focus of discussions for weeks at the Federal National Council, the country's appointed consultative body, where members are scrambling to find a solution to what they believe could be a serious demographic problem.
UAE Planning Ministry statistics show that in 1995, only 20pc of women over 30 were unmarried. By 2008, that figure reached 50pc.
Some evidence suggests that excessively high dowries are preventing men without the means from choosing a spouse.
The latest survey by the UAE Marriage Fund, a government institution that provides financial assistance to those who want to marry but cannot afford to, showed that 87pc of respondents blamed high dowries for low marriage rates among Emirati women.
In answer to this, the UAE government has now imposed a $ 14,000 (BD5,278) ceiling on dowries, but many families still demand much more - in some cases more than $ 135,000.
To address the rising costs of marriage, it has also ordered that each Emirati man who wants to marry be given $ 19,000, but on condition that it is his first marriage.
As any single woman knows, a decent, kind, solvent man does not come round very often!
So could it be that women are struggling to settle down because they are just being a bit too picky for their own good?
Well, British psychologist Mairead Molloy - who specialises in relationship issues - says many women stay single for longer these days because they often have unrealistic expectations about relationships.
"We've become a society of perfectionists," she says.
"In the past we were happy to fall in love, get married and then do our best with that relationship, for better or for worse.
"These days, women will complain that they can't meet anyone and then when they do they are not up to their standards."
Statistics show that the average age of marriage for men and women is generally rising, and more Arab women are staying single longer or not marrying at all.
While these trends are part of a general global phenomenon, they are also introducing new issues into Arab societies - issues that can confront deeply rooted cultural values and raise legal and policy challenges.
More-educated women also generally marry later than their less-educated counterparts.
An increasing number of Arab women are single, forcing their societies to battle with a "new" category of women.
Successful career women are more likely to escape from the traditional stereotype and find opportunities for self-fulfillment beyond the roles of mother and wife. These women are no longer necessarily portrayed by their family members and society as failures for being unable to secure a partner. Indeed, they are increasingly characterised either as having made a choice to remain single or, at the very least, as good women unable to find a partner because of a limited pool of suitable candidates. In any case, experts claim people who marry later have less chance of divorce. Presumably, this is because they are more mature in their thinking and behaviour and less likely to be swayed by simple emotion. Of course, this is not always the case. Some people may not be mature enough and ready for marriage at 30, 40 or even 50!